It may sound strange, nevertheless it is a statistical fact that the number of pilgrims - both foreign and domestic- visiting the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya, has nearly doubled, post 2013 serial bomb blasts on the temple complex.
After the terror attack, it was apprehended that the inflow of tourists, particularly the foreigners, would sharply dwindle and it would take years to instill confidence in the pilgrims coming from far off places.
However, the data provided by the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) suggests that altogether 18,43,327 tourists visited the temple complex in 2014 against 10,40,956 tourists in 2013, when the explosions rocked the temple.
The tourists’ flow has continued to swell even in the current fiscal, as 7,56,837 people, including 1,06,902 foreigners, visited the temple till July 15. And if statistics are any indication, the number of pilgrims would break its past records by the end of 2015.
Confirming the significant increase in the number of visitors post the serial bomb blasts, member secretary of the BTMC Nangzey Dorjee told HT that the horrific incident failed to deter the pilgrims from coming to the holy place to pay abeyance to Lord Buddha. “They come here out of sheer devotion,” he said.
“In fact, after the incident, an even greater number of pilgrims have come purposely to offer prayers for warding off chances of such ugly occurrences in future,” said Dorjee
The member secretary said data about people visiting the holy temple was based on the free entry tickets issued to the tourists. “In November 2013, we introduced a system under which each visitor is required to take a free ticket for entry into the temple premises. It was done to count the number of tourists on yearly basis,” he said.
“Earlier, our statistics pertaining to the visitors was based on the information provided by state tourism department,” he added.
Dorjee said the donations given by pilgrims in the drop boxes also indicated an increase in the number of pilgrims in comparison to earlier years. “In the last couple of years, the collection has substantially gone up,” he said.
Dorjee said the BTMC was expecting a turnout of over four lakh people during the Kalachakra initiation programme beginning January 14, 2016, at Bodh Gaya. In 2012, three lakh people had come for the sacred event. Kalachakra is addressed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.