In a bid to promote tourism at Buddhist historical sites spread across South East Asia, including India, the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (Natmo) is coming up with a detailed map along with loads of information on such hotspots located in 11 nations.
“This is probably for the first time that such an initiative has been taken in the world. It is a joint initiative of the Indian and Thai governments and is being funded by the Centre’s science and technology department. Work on the map started after green light was received from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” said Baisakhi Sarkar, deputy director of Natmo in Kolkata.
While the project kicked off only a month ago, it would have to be completed within two years.
The map would not only contain Buddhist archaeological sites but also detailed information which tourists usually seek - accessibility, time to visit, accommodation, historical perspective among others.
“It would not only have a mention of the popular and oft-quoted archaeological sites but even the lesser-known ones spread across South East Asia,” she added.
Some of the sites which could be mapped include Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Sanchi, Ajanta in India, Lumbini in Nepal, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, Ayutthaya in Thailand, Ankor Thom in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia, Nara in Japan and Lung-men caves in China.
At least 30 such sites would be covered in India.
Apart from this, each of the 11 nations would contribute with at least 8-10 sites in the project.
Countries such as Bangladesh, where there are not many sites, have assured to identify 2-3 sites.
“While eight countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar have already joined the league, others would join in soon. The issue is being discussed at the government level with those countries,” Sarkar said.
To prepare the map, experts are taking the help of satellite images from Cartosat - an Indian earth observation satellite.
“Even though we are now including only the existing archaeological sites, in future, new sites which are being excavated and discovered by archaeologists would be included in the map,” the official said.
There are more than 400 million Buddhists across the world with a significant number of them living in South East Asian countries.