New Delhi: A special train was today flagged off from here with over 80 passengers for an eight-day long journey to various Buddhist heritage sites across India.
Buddha Heritage tour, a joint initiative of the Odisha government and the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, was kicked off as `Mahaparinirvan Express` left for Gaya from Safdurjung railway station here.
The train will travel through various states and cultural centres including the Bodhgaya temples and Nalanda in Bihar, Lalitgiri and Udaigiri in Odisha and the historic Sarnath temple in Uttar Pradesh.
The train was flagged off in the presence of Odisha Resident Commissioner A P Padhi and other state government and IRCTC officials.
Traditional "Daskathiya" (Ballad) was also performed at the station by a number of folk artistes dressed in pink dhotis.
"We are very happy the tour is finally commencing from here. We had been waiting for this moment for past 10 years. We are very hopeful of getting a good response," Odisha Tourism Director Shankar Upadhyay told PTI.
IRCTC`s Group General Manager (Tourism) Sanjay Goel described Buddha Heritage tour as a milestone trip and said it will spread awareness about the religion.
"This is a milestone trip, it is to make the tourists not just from the country but also from abroad, especially from countries with strong Buddhist links, aware of the rich and vast Buddhist cultural circuit of Odisha," he said.
"In future, we (Odisha government and IRCTC) will be meeting time and again to discuss ways to organise this more extensively and comprehensively," Goel added.
The heritage trip has managed to gain attention from foreign tourists as well with a number of tourists from several countries including Thailand and Malaysia, he said.
A day long visit to Nepal and Taj Mahal in Agra also forms part of this unique cultural journey.