Despite the fact that Lumbini is the sacred nativity site of the Buddha and is a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists and others from all over the world, the place has not been developed as expected. The reason is the politicization and corruption in the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) over the past decades.

Now that Buddhist monk Sudarshan Mahasthavir has taken over leadership of the LDT, he has been working at some changes. After it was proposed that there should be a fee for entry into the Mayadevi Temple sanctum, Sudarshan vehemently opposed it. It was finally agreed that only foreign tourists would be charged Rs200 each and Nepalis could enter for free.

More than 1.5 million tourists that visited Lumbini last year – with more than 80% of them from Nepal. Many popular Buddhist pilgrimage sites around the world have no entry fee, including Bodhgaya in India. Scrapping the fees even for foreigners would probably increase the flow of pilgrims, and benefit the local economy indirectly in many ways. It is clear that fees alone should not be seen as a revenue-earner for holy sites such as Lumbini.  

Recently, a fake ticket was found on a Thai tourist entering Mayadevi Temple, raising suspicions that some employees of the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) are selling counterfeit tickets. Some employees of the trust have been taken into police custody for

Questioning. Vice-chair Awadhesh Kumar Tripathi said it could be the doing of drivers  bringing in tourists, thus absolving LDT employees from blame.

There have also been complaints about rude and uncouth behavior, even drunkenness among LDT staff. This is a desecration of a holy site and send a very poor impression about Nepal’s management of what is an international pilgrimage destination.

Basanta Maharjan  

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