Patna: The fourth International Buddhist Conclave was inaugurated Saturday in Bodh Gaya by union Tourism Minister Shripad Naik and Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Over a year after series of blasts occurred in Bodh Gaya, this will the first step to boost tourism and send a strong message that normalcy has returned. The Buddhist pilgrims and foreign tourists should not be afraid of anything, Manjhi said in his inaugural address.
The central government would help to develop Buddhist circuits including Bodh Gaya to attract more tourists and pilgrims, Naik said.
A souvenir was also released on the occasion by Manjhi and Naik.
Gaya District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal said at least 131 foreign delegates representing 33 countries including the USA, France, Britain and Japan are participating in the conclave jointly organised by the union tourism ministry and the state tourism department.
Most of the foreign delegates Friday arrived in Bodh Gaya. They visited the Mahabodhi temple, considered as the holiest Buddhist shrine, where a special prayer was also offered for peace and prosperity.
They also visited the 80-feet-tall Buddha statue, one of the four places targeted by the terrorists July 7, 2013 during the blasts.
The International Buddhist Conclaves have earlier been organised in New Delhi and Bodh Gaya (February 2004); Nalanda and Bodh Gaya (February 2010) and Varanasi and Bodh Gaya (September 2012).
"The conclave will include presentations, panel discussion, and business meetings between the international and domestic tour operators," officials said.
"An exhibition highlighting the Buddhist attractions in India will also be showcased," an official said.