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PRIME MINISTER OPENS PILGRIMS' REST IN SANCHI


The Sanchi Vandana Niketana in the Sanchi Sacred Area in Bhopal, India, was opened by the Prime Minister, Hon Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, on the invitation of Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development, on 31st October 2009.

This three-storey pilgrims’ rest was constructed at a cost of Rs 84 million by the National Physical Planning Department of the Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development. The Emperor Asoka, who gifted the Buddha Dhamma to the people of Sri Lanka, laid the foundation for this endowment in the Caityagiri sacred area in Sanchi, in the region of Avanti, one of the 16 Janapadas (settlements) of ancient India. It was from Sanchi that his son, the Ven Mahinda thero, was able to bring pure Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

Pilgrims face various hardships when visiting Sanchi, an underdeveloped area in Bhopal in the modern state of Madhya Pradesh. Its biggest drawback has been the lack of a pilgrims rest or lodging facilities for pilgrims coming to this spot, far from the traditional pilgrimage route to Dambadiva. The plans for a pilgrims’ rest in Sanchi were made three years ago by the Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development on the directions of Hon Dinesh Gunawardena Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development, under the guidance of President HE Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Vandana Niketana established in Sanchi by the National Physical Planning Department of the Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development is a three-storeyed pilgrims’ rest containing an image house, sermon rooms, bedrooms for pilgrims, open living rooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and sanitary facilities.

The Indian Government, the Government of Madhya Pradesh, the Public Works Department of Madhya Pradesh, the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka which gifted the Land and the Chief Incumbent of Sanchi Ven Banagala Upatissa thero all collaborated in this effort.

The Chief Incumbent of Sanchi Ven Banagala Upatissa thero, representatives of the Indian people led by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Hon. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Mrs Sumedha Jayasena, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Development, Dr Prathap Ramanujam, Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development and many clergy and laity from Sri Lanka and overseas participated on this occasion.