Regional News

Coronavirus: Prominent Buddhist sites in Kushinagar closed till March 31

Prominent Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Kushinagar district of eastern Uttar Pradesh have been closed till March 31 owing to the coronavirus outbreak, an official said.

Kushinagar is an important pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, who arrive here in large numbers especially to visit the Mahaparinirvan sthal or the place where the Buddha breathed his last.

Regional tourism officer (RTO) Ravindra Mishra said, “All prominent Buddhist sites in Kushinagar have been closed as visa is not being issued in the wake of the coronovirus outbreak.”

The prominent Buddhist temples that have been shut include the Mahaparinirvan temple, which houses a 1.6-metre-long reclining statue of Buddha. The two others are the Matha Kunwar temple with a 3.05-metre tall statue of Buddha and Ramabhar Stupa or Mukti Bandhan, the place where the mortal remains of Buddha were believed to have been cremated after his death in 483BC.

“(Normally), thousands of tourists and pilgrims from Buddhist countries visit temples here every day. This is the peak season for Buddhist pilgrims and the closure has hit the tourism industry,” the regional tourism officer added.

Kushinagar usually receives the maximum tourist footfall between July and April. The pilgrims include travellers from Myanmar, Japan, China and South Korea, according to the tourism department.

The Mahaparinirvana temple was built in 1956 to commemorate 2500 years of Buddha’s death and is surrounded by ruins of ancient buildings.

At this temple, the reclining Buddha statue resting on a stone couch is revered by devotees who offer prayers and meditate.

The Matha Kunwar shrine depicts Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree.

In the neighboring Siddharthnagar district, the stupas housing the relics of Buddha at Kapilwastilu were also closed to visitors.

HOTEL BUSINESS HIT

Around 100 hotels in Kushinagar district were hit due to the reduced footfall of foreign tourists, a hotelier said, adding that the hotel industry had suffered a loss of nearly Rs 200 crore since the coronavirus outbreak.

IMMIGRATION OFFICE WEARS DESERTED LOOK

The immigration department office at Sonauli on the India-Nepal border in Maharajganj, UP, has been wearing a deserted look following restrictions on foreign visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The immigration department office was set up in 1950 to check the papers of travellers.

“The office of the immigration department at the India-Nepal border is one of the oldest. Due to restrictions on foreign tourists, there is no arrival and departure of visa holders,” said immigration officer Griraj Khanal.

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