Bhubaneswar : The former national speaker of the parliament of Bhutan and the former president of the Mahabodhi Society of India,  Dasho Passang Dorji,  along with two monks visited the Buddhist  sites of Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri and Udayagiri on Tuesday. He was accompanied by the Venerable Ugyen Tenzin, chief secretary of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan and Venerable Pema Dorji , personal secretary of the Chief Abbot, Karma Lhamo, a devout Buddhist too was in attendance.

They visited the museums at Lalitagiri and Ratnagiri and appreciated the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Government of Odisha for the upkeep and preservation of these important Buddhist vestiges. The relics that were uncovered at Lalitagiri are now kept in the Museum there under proper care and security.   Dorji lauded the efforts of the Government of India in promoting the ancient Buddhist sites and monuments all over the country. He said that proper research should be carried out on the relevance and spread of Buddhism from Odisha and the role of Guru Padmasambava and his origins from Odisha.

Bimalendu Mohanty, who is the Vice President of the Mahabodhi Society of India and an eminent historian is of the opinion that the   growth of Buddhism in Bhutan was first advanced by the great Uddiyana Guru Padmasambava in the 8th century C.E who laid the foundation of one of the most important and unifying forces that has sustained the Bhutanese people and contributed to the evolution of their unique cultural and religious tradition. Dr. Mohanty had  validated  the origins of Guru Padmasambava  being from Odisha in his book written a few years ago.

Anil Dhir, noted heritage expert and a member of INTACH,  who accompanied the team to the Buddhist Circuit, said that the scope of religious and cultural tourism of these  sites still remains untapped. If proper awareness and promotion is undertaken, these sites and the other Buddhist sites of the State will draw more than a million tourists annually. He said that he has guided many groups, both pilgrims and tourists to these spots, and seen the overwhelming   wonderment that they experience. Nowhere in India or the world are found such a sheer profusion and rich Buddhist artifacts and relics found.

Dorji also acknowledged the efforts of Dr. Sourendra Mohapatro of the Mahabodhi Society of India’s Odisha Centre for the good work they are doing to promote the teachings of the Buddha. He said that a research centre or a University Chair should be set up for cross cultural studies of Buddhism in Bhutan and India.