On the trail of the Buddha with Indian Railways

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 20, 2013 10:50 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) It's a train that will take you on a trail of the life of the Buddha. As a trial run this time, the Mahaparinirvana Express that set out from here Sunday on a week's journey will also feature sites in Odisha.

The Mahaparinirvana Express was flagged off from Safdarjung railway station by H.S. Upadhyay, director, tourism department, Odisha.

Until now, this train, which ran its first trip 2007, included in its route mostly well known sites in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh associated with the life of the Buddha.

The Odisha government, keen that tourists also experience the Buddhist circuit here, has entered into an arrangement with the Indian Railways to extend the run of the train into the state on a trial basis.

The train is named after the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, an account of the last few days of the life of the Buddha. It usually sees occupancy of about 60 percent.

A seat on the train, which runs with AC I, II and III classes, is priced between $700 and $1,120. At current rates of exchange, this would range between Rs.45,000 and Rs.60,000 per head. The cost includes meals and boarding and lodging at different spots where the train stops.

The Mahaparinirvana will chug through locations in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Tourists will also make a brief foray into Nepal, where Lumbini, the Buddha's birthplace, is located.

Besides Lumbini, significant stops of the train are Bodhgaya (in Bihar), where he attained enlightenment, and Kushinagar (in Uttar Pradesh), where he finally attained nirvana.

Bhubaneshwar where the Shanti Stupa contains relics of the Buddha, and Udaygiri and Khandagiri, where there are caves believed to have housed Jain monks, are also part of the circuit for the first time this year.

Since the bulk of passengers are foreigners, the train also makes a halt in Agra.

Pilgrims arrive from China, Japan and other East Asian nations, and increasingly from Sri Lanka, to trace the path of the Buddha each year.

The Buddha, born over 2,500 years ago, spread a message of compassion that has since found followers across the world.

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