After years of waiting, inter-state special Buddhist train Mahaparinirvan Express, run by IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd), a subsidiary of the Indian Railways finally reached Odisha on Tuesday.
The Buddhist train carried about 83 passengers, including 14 from Thailand and one each from France and Indonesia. The travelers also included tour operators, travel agents, writers and journalists, said MR Patnaik, General Manager, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC).
He said, the passengers were welcomed traditionally by the tourism department and villagers on reaching Haridaspur station in Jajpur district. They were then taken to the Udayagiri, Lalitgari and Ratnagiri to see the Buddhist remnants.
The interstate train that connects to Buddhist sites like Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Nalanda, Rajgir, Kushinagar was scheduled to arrive at 8.30 am at Haridaspur, but it was delayed by about three hours.
The Buddhist train had missed its first date with the state in December last year.
After visit to the Buddhist sites, the visitors were taken by road to Bhubaneswar.
Earlier this month, the state government had organised road shows in Bangkok and Cambodia to attract the Buddhist tourists to Odisha.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had, last year, urged the Centre to extend the route of the special Buddhist train to Odisha.
The inclusion of Odisha in the itinerary of the inter-state special train, Mahaparinirvan Express, is likely to give a boost to the tourism sector in the state that has taken a back seat after the government imposed restrictions on visit by foreigners to areas inhabited by vulnerable tribal groups, such as Bondas and Dongaria Kondhs, particularly in the aftermath of abductions of the two Italian nationals by naxalites earlier year.