Buddha caves to draw tourists

TNN, Feb 9, 2011

RAJKOT, India -- In order to give new impetus to Gujarat branding itself as the latest Buddhist pilgrimage destination. The state government has chalked out a plan to develop tourist infrastructure at sites associated with Buddhism and has prepared a comprehensive plan to market these sites to tourist.

Rajkot district collectorate will develop ancient Buddha caves at Khambhalida village near Gondal in Rajkot district as a tourist des-tionation.

Khambhalida is about 7 km off national highway no 8B near Virpur. There are total 15 caves of 4th-5th century AD are scooped out in the local limestone rock located on both sides of a small rivulet, sur-rounded by hillocks. The main cave is a chaitya with a worn out stupa. the entrance of the chaitya is flanked by two large size sculp-ture of the bodhisatvas padmapani on right and vajrapani on left. each bodhisatva is surrounded by attendants. there are depictions of buddhist railing and foliages.

According to H S Patel, collector, Rajkot district, the project coast is estimated about Rs 5.5 crore and is expected to complete within a year.

"The site which we are going to develop is near Buddhist caves at Kmbhalida village. It is an archeological site. This is an ideal tourists place as it is near to pilgrimage place-Virpur and close to national highway. There is a natural water stream on back side of the site and if a small check dam can be constructed over the rivulet, a small pond can be created near the proposed site which would add to the natural beauty of the site," said Patel. Patel said that site will be de-veloped according to Buddhist architectural and its principals.

"The site development includes up gradation of village road from national highway to Buddha caves, approach roads, a meditation center, construction of rooms, dormitories for people to stay, din-ning hall, cafeteria, kitchen, library, museum of Buddha literature and articles among other ancillaries," said Rikhav Sanghvi of Star Architects which is carrying out the project.

"The beautiful landscaping would be carried out and civil amenities like toilets, water supply, drainage, electrification and other infra-structural facilities will be created," Patel added.

In Saurashtra, Buddha caves are found near Junagadh, Ashoka edicts, Talaja and Khambhalida.

"We have identified various tourist destinations in the district and we are developing it. These are Ghela Somnath near Jasdan, Minal Devi Step well near Virpur, Osam mountain near Upleta and Ish-wariya Park in the outskirts of Rajkot," Patel added.