Goa to lure Japanese pilgrims

by Andrew Pereira, TNN, Aug 2, 2010

PANAJI, India -- Spiritual soul-searching Japanese Buddhists may soon join the mosaic of colours, cultures and languages that dress up the streets of coastal Goa from the 2011-12 tourism season onwards.

Goa tourism has zeroed in on the land of the rising sun and is looking to tap Japan’s affinity with Buddhism. With the religion's roots in India and a number of holy sites spread across the country, Goa seeks to lure the Japanese Buddhist pilgrim for a relaxing sea-side holiday after a pilgrimage on the Buddhist trail.

"Japan has high-end tourists and are a part of the south-east Asia market. Though, we will be at an international travel mart in Singapore towards the end of 2010, we are also going to Japan for a travel fair,” tourism director Swapnil Naik told TOI.

"There is already a Buddhist circuit in place and a large number of Japanese visit India on pilgrimages. We are going to tell them that they can look forward to a short holiday and relax in Goa at the end of the pilgrimage," he added.

While Bodh Gaya, Ajanta and Ellora are known Buddhists centres, Goa too has sites the department could add to the Buddhist trail.

Says history lecturer Prajal Sakhardande, "In ancient times Rivona was a seat of Buddhism. Local folklore is that Buddhist monk Purma resided in a cave at Rivona and on the banks of the Kushawati river in Zambaulim. There are three Buddhist caves at Rivona including one which was an underground monastery."

Sakhardande informs that a statue of Buddha was also excavated at Mushira vaddo, Colvale by Fr Henry Heras and points out that Goan great Dharmanand Kosambi was a Pali Buddhist scholar who preached in Sri Lanka.

Historians also say there are two rock-cut caves in Lamgao near Bicholim and their structural appearance is similar to that found in Buddhist caves in the Deccan.