Visit Lumbini Year from Jan 14

The government is all set to launch the Visit Lumbini Year 2012 on January 14 in a bid to spread Gautam Buddha’s message of peace across the world and develop the Buddha’s birthplace as a peace city and a global Buddhist center.

According to the Ministry of Federal Affairs, Constituent Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs and Culture, the Cabinet had decided to mark 2012 as the Visit Lumbini Year about two months ago.

The government will launch the Lumbini year at the concluding ceremony of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 on January 14, Rishi Kesh Niraula, undersecretary at the ministry, said.

So far in 2011, the country has received more than eight lakh foreign visitors against the NTY target of one million visitors, according to government sources. In 2010, some 600,000 foreigners had visited the country.

The Lumbini Development Trust, which is organising the event in coordination with the culture ministry, estimates that Rs 130 million will be required for celebrations. The LDT will bear Rs 110 million and has asked the government to provide the rest of the sum, Niraula said. The ministry and the LDT plan to publish postage stamps, organise cultural and peace-related programmes, develop the concept of peace city, inscribe some information about Lumbini in different international languages and display notice boards depicting Lumbini in major cities and highway intersections across the country.

The LDT will also form a 108-member main organising committee with Prime Minister Bhattarai as patron and Culture Minister Kirati as coordinator, and another 13-member executing committee to make the event successful. “Nepali singer and nun Aani Chhoying Dolma, Chinese actor Jackie Chan, Indian superstar Shahrukh Khan and Indian actor Rekha are likely to be nominated as peace ambassadors for the Visit Lumbini Year 2012 on the occasion of the inauguration ceremony,” officials said.

More than six lakh people — about five lakh Nepalis and the rest foreigners — visited Lumbini, one of the country’s 10 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2010. LDT officials expressed hope that Lumbini will receive 1.4 lakh foreign visitors this year.