Apart from saying ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ how many worthful initiatives have we taken to promote the birthplace of Gautam Buddha?
Gautam Buddha was not born in Nepal as there was no Nepal as such at the time when he was born 2500 years ago, but Lumbini definitely is the birthplace of Buddha and today we are proud to have it within our country. But apart from saying ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ how many worthful initiatives have we taken to promote the birthplace of Gautam Buddha? Ironically, we are living in a metaphor of Buddha and Lumbini, despite Buddhism being popular all over the world, very few people are aware of Lumbini.
When it comes to promoting Lumbini as tourist destination, our leaders give big talks of tourism strategic plan, greater promotional objectives and visit Lumbini Year, but have these talks achieved anything good? Although Buddhism originated from Nepal and spread to other countries, we have not been able to take advantage of divine birthplace. Instead of indulging in same old cliché, why don’t we think some out-of-the-box and practical tourism initiations? We can promote Lumbini as pre-birth tourism zone with the slogan ‘let your baby take first breath in the land of peace.’ Our target should be early first trimester mothers because, after 5-6 weeks of pregnancy, the umbilical cord develops to deliver oxygen directly to the developing fetus through mother’s body.
For those parents who believe in spiritual values of Buddhism, Nepal can establish Lumbini as a religious destination of pre-birth tourism with child’s spiritual development purpose. Constructing yoga/meditation centers and offering advance pre-pregnancy yoga to expecting mothers will obviously attract more people to visit Lumbini. Additionally, setting some religious Buddhist ritual and promoting it as a spiritual procedure for both expecting mother and child can be another approach to brand the place. Lumbini Yoga and Meditation center shall offer two-weeks of pre-pregnancy yoga/meditation as well as spiritual rituals for the wellbeing of both mother and child. Loaded with spiritual undertone and health benefit from yoga/meditation, this strategy will surely attract millions of Buddhism followers from around the globe. According to different health research, pre-pregnancy meditation benefits the health of mother, developing baby, their birth outcomes, and their emotional health.
These days birth tourism is trending as system of traveling to another country for the purpose of giving birth in that country. Till date, the main reason for birth tourism is to obtain citizenship for the child, access to public schooling, healthcare, and sponsorship for the parents in the future. However, we can brand the spiritual value of Lumbini pre-pregnancy yoga and meditation center in such a way that it will also thrive as birth tourism. Our target should be all those religious Buddhist followers around the world. With this strategy, the birthplace of Buddha can be developed like a Mecca in Saudi Arabia or like Vatican City in Rome, Italy, where pilgrims travel annually in millions from around the world. It’s possible because Lumbini is one of the possible major tourist destinations for the world. It’s a sacred land for more than 535 million Buddhists, and our neighbor China alone has 244 million of those potential religious pilgrims. If we could attract just one percent of this population to Nepal, it will yield major tourism gain for the country.
Over the past few decades, the Eastern movement of yoga has become increasingly popular in the Western world. Approximately 36 million Americans, more than five million Britons and 10 million Chinese are estimated to incorporate some form of this practice into their lives. The development of proper pre-pregnancy meditation center with advance health care facilities and its promotion at the international level could guarantee this tourism dream to come true very soon. Similarly, for those expecting mothers in the yoga center, we can establish some kind of religious rituals like blessing ceremony. It will increase tourist engagement hours in destination and also promote the religious importance of Buddhism at the same time. In today’s time where developed countries have achieved all kinds of material gain, their interest is slowly tilting toward spiritual domain. We can attract their interest force within our religious belief circle and ultimately brand Lumbini in new ways. In the world where ‘invisible paintings’ are sold in millions, why can’t Lumbini Yoga and meditation center work?
With the evolution of time, transformation has taken place in purpose of pilgrimage visit. Given the wake of meditation age, every parent wants their offspring to be spiritually rich and visiting spiritual land before pregnancy can be a good start. Spiritual tourism with different purpose is on rise, as people are increasingly looking to develop their own spirituality and to discover new ways for self-enlightenment. Men and women during middle age used to take pilgrimage to ensure safe pregnancies and births, for child health as well as ensuring good personality traits in their offspring. Spiritual tourism is on the rise, with around 330 million people traveling to religious attractions around the world annually. According to USA Today, the industry now generates $100 billion every year. As the research finds, spiritual tourism is based on different motivations, ranging from traditional religious tourism to alternative medication, and soon a new realm can be added to it if Nepal takes the right initiative.
Till date we have just promoted the place with ‘visit Lumbini year.’ Why should they visit Lumbini? What more than abstract religious belief, have we offered to tourists? We need to give them solid purpose for visiting and staying in the place. We can brand Lumbini as a place to take first breath. And this can be the best visiting purpose any parents could have, because parents can go any extent for the wellbeing of their children.
These days, people are restlessly waiting to try new things. This innovative idea just needs convincing branding, advance Yoga service, and effective marketing. Now at the time when construction of Gautam Buddha international airport is in progress, the idea of Lumbini Yoga center should also be considered. While we have the Prime Minister emphasizing innovative development ideas, this concept should not be left as afterthought. It’s now or never. Instead of boasting about big projects like Lumbini satellite city for tourism, let’s experiment with this small and very practical idea. Let’s promote upcoming days as ‘Lumbini Maternity Year’ and wait for the result.
The author is Perusing Master’s Degree in International Relation and Diplomacy from Tribhuvan University