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Indian Railways launches train to cover Buddhist circuit

This fully air-conditioned train launched by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) covers the Buddhist circuit across India and Nepal in its eight-day excursion, reports Ripu Daman Singh.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2007 16:47 IST

If the grandeur of travelling like a Maharaja in the Palace on Wheels does not lure you, then follow the Buddhist trail on Maha Parinirvan Special. A fully air-conditioned train launched by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), it covers the Buddhist circuit across India and Nepal in its eight-day excursion.

With 350 million Buddhists in the world, this religious tour aims to target international travellers from Thailand, Singapore and Japan. "In our country, 95 per cent of the people are Buddhists. It's an ideal package that clubs together diverse destinations like Bodhgaya in Bihar, Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh and Lumbini in Nepal," says Phairaj Rao, a travel agent from Bangkok. But there are some modifications that he feels should be made. "Since it's a long trip there should be laundry services on board,” he adds.

What's the deal? It comes a tad expensive at $140 a day in first AC, feel most travel agents. "I will have difficulty in selling this package back home due its price. I might have to negotiate," says Queenie Teo, a travel agent from Singapore. And it certainly comes as a damp squib when compared with Palace on Wheels and Deccan Odyssey. "There is no dining area, no shower facilities or a lounge to relax in," says Hedy Mok from Singapore. It's just a notch above the conventional Rajdhani trains.

If marketed well, the NRI market in the UK and US could well be tapped. "I got to know about this train through a friend. There were no ads and I didn't know how to get my booking done," says Venkateswara Rao Vadduy, a non-resident Indian from the US. Though not very satisfied with the hectic run of itinerary and accommodation at hotels, most vipasana meditation practitioners are willing to overlook flaws on a religious tour like this.

The loopholes in the first run could be amended. Says Nalin Shinghal, director IRCTC, "This is a product that is still being developed. We need to make certain changes."

The starting season offers trips from April 11, April 30 and May 26. The train starts from Safdarjung Railway Station and offers an added advantage for big groups: one person free with a group of 10 or more, only for direct bookings through IRCTC offices. Also, children below five years of age are free.