Gangtok Feb 27:
pushing its envelope with a combination of nature and spirituality
to preserve the of its Himalayan heritage and make a statement of
sustainable growth in this age of manic concretization of the fragile hill
Sample this: Laid out across 23 acres of lush slopes against a startling backdrop of the icy Kanchenjunga and the Maenam hills range in southern Sikkim's Rabongla district shines the state's newest tourism address - the Tathagata Tsal or the Buddha Park, nearly 65 km from Gangtok.
At the center of the park perches a shrine with a towering 140 ft statue of Lord Buddha with its face coated in 3.5 kg of pure in the Dharma Chakra Mantra tradition. The icon and the park built at a cost of almost Rs.400 million ($7 million) over the last seven years is expected to boost the state's economic fortunes on the strength of the Buddha relics from nine countries. These were installed at the sanctum by
Hope for tourism, one of
Major Buddhist centers like the old Rumtek Monastery, Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, Pal Zurmang Kagyud monastery, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, a giant statue of guru Padmasambhava and one of Tathagata, together with a handful of holy lakes, including Changu at 12,400 ft above sea level, keep the state's Buddhist circuit busy.
The countryside is dotted with smaller monasteries like the Phadong monastery, Phensang monastery, Tholung monastery and the Doling monastery that one stumbles along the way.
"We have been pushing tourism as a new profession and major economic activity. We want our children to work in the tourism service sector. We are training youngsters and building capacities," Chamling said, adding that the "state is exploring new frontiers in eco-tourism to add variety".
The focus on eco-tourism has become more creative and infrastructure-oriented since
Citing examples, Dhungel said nature getaways like the Singlila trek, the Dzongri trek, the
"One may wonder why six per cent... It is a small figure," the official added.
Tourism revenue in
"The economic determinants for tourism are skewed under the current government policy. Even as a couple of travel components do not benefit tourism directly, the nature of tourism is still centred around urban destinations like Lachen, Rabongla, and Namchi. The state government has realized that the economic benefits from tourism were not reaching the common man because of its urban drift," the tourism secretary said.
As a pro-people alternative, the government is encouraging home stay in villages, Topgay said. At least 720 new village are going to open their doors to tourists this year. The homestay owners have been trained in hospitality and quality control at the Institute of Hotel Management and State Institute of Capacity building in Gangtok.