Speech delivered by Mr.Rahul Chhabra, Deputy Chief of Mission at the promotional event for the Mahaparinirvan Express - Beijing, 21 Nov 2011
Good evening to all!
I heartily welcome all of you - esteemed members of Buddhist temples in China, senior officials from travel agencies and media representatives. I also extend a very warm welcome to Mr. Rakesh Tandon, Managing Director, IRCTC, and his team who are here today to invite the people of China, to undertake a spiritual journey on the Buddhist circuit special train, called the Mahaparinirvan Express.
India is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Several important places associated with Lord Buddha, his place of birth and death, where he attained enlightenment, places where he gave sermons are located in and around India. It is the dream of every devout Buddhist to visit these places, associated with the spiritual journey of Lord Buddha, at least once in his life time. Even though I am not a Buddhist, this is my dream too!
The year 2006-07 was celebrated as Mahaparinirvan year to commemorate 2550 years of enlightment of Lord Buddha. Realising this desire of the 400 million Buddhists worldwide, the Maharparinirvan Express was launched.
This special train has been operating on the Buddhist circuit, covering places of interest such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Lumbini, and ends with a visit to Agra. Over the last four years, the train has been providing a safe, reliable and convenient package for pilgrims on the Buddhist circuit.
There are strong historical and cultural ties between India and China. Chinese monk, FaXian (Fa-Hsien, AD 399-414), visited India in AD 402, stayed for 10 years, and after his return translated many Sanskrit, Buddhist texts into Chinese. His record of journeys Fo Guo Ji (Record of Buddhist Kingdoms) is an important historical source. Xuan Zang (Hiuen Tsang) visited India during Harsha Vardhana's reign in the 7th Century AD, in search of Buddhist scriptures. His journey became part of traditional Chinese lore when narrated in a later period book called "A Journey to the West".
Among several other places in China, Luoyang and Dunhuang have many imprints of Buddhism from India.
Given the vast interest in Buddhism in China, I hope the Chinese people will visit India and make use of the convenience of Mahaparinirvan Express. We depend upon all of you present in this room today to ensure that this initiative is a success and translates into actual "boots on the ground".