New Delhi: In a “first-of-its-kind Buddhist pilgrimage in India”, 108 Koreans will undertake a month-long journey, covering over 1,100 kms on foot across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and parts of Nepal (Lumbini), coinciding with 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and South Korea.
The Information and Broadcasting ministry and South Korean embassy conducted a joint press conference Monday to announce the religious march, which will take off on 11 February from Sarnath and conclude at Shravasti on 20 March.
“We know Buddhism spread from India to the world, we are welcoming the world to India, to experience the life of Buddha first hand, through his teachings and through our rare monuments, which have been refurbished by the Ministry of Culture,” said I&B secretary Apurva Chandra, adding that it was one of the visions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Buddhist circuit should be taken to the world.
Talking about the pilgrim’s walk, South Korean ambassador to India, Chang Jae Bok, said, “This is being organised by the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism — the biggest and most-representative Korean Buddhist organisation — and more specifically, by the Sangwol Society, a non-profit organistion in Korea”.
The Jogye order “wants to revitalise Buddhism in Korea” and also in other regions, including India, the ambassador added.
As the ‘Korean wave’ — a phrase used to refer to the growing global interest in Korean popular culture — continues to hold sway, one of the purposes of the pilgrimage is “to expand the culture of the Korean wave through the globalisation of Korean Buddhism”, claimed information shared with the media.
Chang, however, dismissed a direct link between the two.
“Generally speaking, the Korean wave might impact other aspects of culture of Korea, but however, it’s very difficult to say it’s directly linked between Korean Buddhism and the Korean wave (sic),” he said.
Interestingly, Buddhist sect surfaced in the K-pop universe last month, as a controversy erupted after RM, the leader of popular K-pop band BTS, visited a Buddhist temple linked to the Jogye order.
Also read: Beyond K-Pop, watch Single’s Inferno to truly understand Korea’s dark beauty standards
Focusing on Buddhist ties
The route taken by the Buddhist pilgrims will cover eight sacred Buddhist sites in India and Nepal, linked to Gautam Buddha’s life — from the time he was born to the time he attained Nirvana.
Emphasising “the common Buddhist ties between” the two countries, ambassador Chang recalled how PM Modi had presented a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree to a South Korean mayor during his visit to Korea in 2019.
“What could be a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries than to nurture this vibrational civilisational link,” he said, adding that the programme will go a long way in further “deepening the people-to-people contact” in the two countires.
The pilgrimage will be covered by state broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which will bring to the audience the places covered in the route and the experiences of the Korean pilgrims.
“This yatra is part of the activities that the Prasar Bharti and national broadcasters in Korea are doing together,” said Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO, Prasar Bharati.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Also read: Kimchi and parathas – There’s a winner in Korea’s soft power game in India