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Pakistan can become centre of attraction for Buddhists

By Faisal Kamal Pasha
December 17, 2016

Islamabad: Pakistan has the tremendous potential for becoming centre of attraction for Buddhists as most of the Budh artefacts and ancient sites are based in the ancient Ghandhara region comprising Taxila, Mardan, Swat and areas in Hazara division, said Yang Soo Kim, President of Interart Channel of South Korea in an exclusive interview with The News.

There are more than five hundred million followers of Budh religion around the world mostly in China, Korea, Japan and other far-eastern countries. These people bears a great reverence for these areas as a monk Maranantha from Chota Lahore near Swabi travelled via silk route to China and Korea in 384 AD and spread Budh religion in far-eastern countries.

Pakistan can receive millions of tourists annually if there may be peace and infrastructure in areas where these ancient sites and relics were located. If Pakistan government take the initiative, it could kick start a massive hospitality industry in the region earning billions of dollars foreign exchange annually.

Yang Soo Kim is the President of “Interart Channel” of South Korea who has been at a signing ceremony between the two countries under which agreement Interart Channel will be organising an exhibition of 68 art objects from Peshawar Museum in the Buddhist central museum that is a headquarter of Jogye the biggest Budh sect in Seoul, South Korea.

The agreement was signed on December 13 between National History and Literary Heritage Division Government of Pakistan and Korean Cultural Association. From Korean side Min Jeong president of said association signed the agreement. The exhibition will be held by the end of March 2017.

The exhibition of the artefacts from Peshawar Museum is an initiative of Interart Channel and Dr Esther Park secretary of Ghandhara art and culture association in Pakistan.

In discussion with Yang Soo Kim and Dr Esthar Park; they told this correspondent about the greatest significance of the ancient Ghandhara region for Budh community. They told that only few Buddhists who could travel to Pakistan and got a chance to visit these sites count themselves among the luckiest people, as this area is the birthplace of Budh religion. “Buddhists give great respect for this region. This region is sacred to Buddhists akin to Muslims who have great reverence for Makkah and Madina. Unfortunately there is no Budh Stupa in functional condition and if there may be a single one, Pakistan would be unable to cater the load of tourists that will hugely benefit the country’s economy.

Yang Soo Kim and Dr Esthar Park suggested that the way Pakistan is building economic corridor with China, similarly it could build a Korea-Pakistan Cultural Highway that millions of pilgrims will travel annually.

Kim further told this correspondent that through the above said scheduled exhibition they can also look for potential investor/developer to build a modern infrastructure to receive large number of tourists. Hence developing Ghandhara region as tourist hub in the world on the model of historical Kyung Ju city in Korea that receive 10 million visitors annually.

It is only due to lack of infrastructure that Ghandhara region don’t receive that much pilgrims or tourists, he added.

There are thousands of ‘Rock Carvings’ exist in this area those were very much sacred for the Budh followers. The ‘Fasting Buddha Sculpture’ in Lahore museum is more famous and precious than the ‘Monalisa’ painting in France.

Interart Channel of Yang Soo Kim is also planning to hold digital exhibition of Fasting Budha sculpture around the world. Dr Esthar Park who is a PhD in Ghandhara art, suggested that the smile on the face of Fasting Buddha sculpture is more precious than the smile of Monalisa because Monalisa has a worldly smile while Fasting Buddha’s smile is divine.

To a question that there may be many other Buddhist sites yet to be excavated, Yang Soo Kim told that the Korean government in future may request the Pakistani government to excavate some more areas where there may be more relics and stupas.

Both Yang Soo Kim and Dr Esthar Park suggested that the Pakistan government should construct boundary walls around the ancient sites. It could invite investors to construct hotels near these sites where Budh people could come and stay. Ghandhara Art & Culture Association is also starting Ghandhara Art School in University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Taxila for which all arrangements were complete and the association is waiting for Punjab Chief Minister Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony.