Ritual of empowerment

Print edition : January 13, 2006

The Andhra Pradesh government hopes to use Kalachakra 2006, the major Buddhist religious event scheduled to be held in January at Amaravati, to put the place on the world tourist map.

RAMESH SUSARLA in Guntur

A Dhyana Buddha statue constructed at Amaravati for Kalachakra 2006.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

THE 30th Kalachakra Empowerment to be offered by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama at Amaravati in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh from January 5 to 16 is an international event being looked forward to by 390 million Buddhists the world over.

Kalachakra is a Buddhist tantric practice belonging to the highest yoga tantras, the empowerment for which has traditionally been given in Tibet to large gatherings of people. Amaravati has the unique significance of being the place from where the Buddha first taught Kalachakra mantras soon after attaining Enlightenment. Kalachakra is practised by believers in the Vajrayana sect of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. Importantly, the Mahayana school has its roots in Vengidesam, today's Andhra Pradesh.

Sponsored by the Busshokai Centre of Kanazawa in Japan and organised by the India-based Norbulingka Institute, Kalachakra 2006 will attract more than a lakh of people from India and over 10,000 foreigners from 48 countries. A host of Hollywood actors, such as Richard Gere, have already registered for the 12-day ritual. Trisur Kalsang Yeshi, former Tibetan Prime Minister and Chairman of the organising committee, confirmed that a number of Very Important Persons are scheduled to attend. However, their names have been kept a closely guarded secret. About 500 mediapersons are expected to cover the event. The last Kalachakra was organised at Bodhgaya in 1985. It was held on a massive scale and was attended by over two lakh devotees.

Close to the Mahastupa, built on the relic of the Buddha during Emperor Ashoka's time (third century B.C.), the Dalai Lama will hold the Kalachakra Empowerment during the 12 days. The place in those days was called Sri Dhanyakataka (Palden Drepung in Tibetan) and is today known as Dharanikota and forms a part of Amaravati.

Tents constructed for pilgrims on the banks of the Krishna.-P.V. SIVAKUMAR

The Dalai Lama will arrive at Nagarjunakonda in Guntur district on January 4 before moving to Amaravati. He will begin preparatory rituals on January 5 at Amaravati and the final four-day empowerment session will conclude on January 16.

Guntur District Collector G. Jayalakshmi said that the Andhra Pradesh government had identified Kalachakra as a religious tourism event that would put Amaravati on the world tourist map and bring it in the world Buddhist circuit. The government will spend more than Rs.50 crores to provide basic amenities and infrastructure for the visitors. This is the first time that the state machinery is being involved on such a large scale to organise a Kalachakra.

A temporary structure for a Tibetan temple has been built on a 10-acre (four-hectare) site. Tibetan Lamas consecrated the earth and lighted 1,001 candles on the Mahastupa at Amaravati before beginning the preparations for the Kalachakra. Accommodation for devotees was a major concern of the organisers. They hired 180 acres (72 ha) around the town to pitch tents of various types.

Tents are available to match the budget of each class of pilgrims who prefer to cook their own food. All the 5,000 hotel rooms of all classes available in Guntur and Vijayawada cities have been booked. Accommodation in the tents is available in the range of Rs.30 a day to Rs.60,000 for 12 days for each person. Many local people have made a fast buck by offering houses on rent at exorbitant rates - a three-bedroom house for Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh for 12 days.

Guntur District Collector G. Jayalakshmi.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

The Directorate of Indian Culture has promised a rich fare of cultural programmes. Prominent among those who would present such programmes are actor Hema Malini and dancers Raja Reddy and Radha Reddy. Pilgrims can visit the nearby Nagarjunakonda museum, exclusively dedicated to Buddhist relics and Buddhist artefacts and culture.

All approach roads to Amaravati from Hyderabad, Guntur and Vijayawada have been widened and strengthened in view of the event. Air taxies between Hyderabad and Gannavaram, the nearest airport, would be run so that some devotees can stay in Hyderabad and VIPs can make short trips.

The Tourism Department, in association with the district administration and the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC), will organise package tours during the 12-day period to facilitate pilgrims to have a look at the rich Buddhist heritage on both sides of the Krishna river. The experience gained by government officials in organising the Krishna Pushkaram in August-September 2004 had come in handy in organising facilities for the devotees, said Jayalakshmi.

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