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Last updated: December 13, 2002

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Buddha mahotsava: Will past mistakes be repeated again? ABDUL QADIR (The Times of India) TUESDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2002 GAYA: With Buddha Mahotsava preparations picking up, the question uppermost in the minds of the Bodh Gaya watchers is whether the 5th Mahotsava would be any different from the previous ones. The experience of the last four years has not been very encouraging as the festival starting with much fanfare in October 1998 has so far not achieved the basic objective.
The Mahotsava was conceived as the marketing strategy to attract foreign tourists, particularly those from the Buddhist countries to visit the land of enlightenment in large numbers.
Last year, the Mahotsava schedule was changed to make it coincide with the Kalchakra Pooja, the mega Buddhist prayer conducted by his holinesss the Dalai Lama.
Thousands of Dalai Lama followers from different parts of the world congregate to participate in the Kalchakra prayers.
The Kalchakra prayer had to be ultimately abandoned last year on account of the serious illness of the Tibetan spiritual leader who had to be flown to Mumbai for immediate hospitalisation.
The Mahotsava menu, a crude mix of Bollywood style cultural show and ill-conceived exhibitions has, in the past years come in for criticism as, there appeared to be little in the Mahotsava to attract foreigners.
If the menu mess was not enough, the services of the same Patna-based anchor have been requisitioned year after year.
The anchor, known more for his proximity to the ruling party politicians and almost unabashed flattery of those in authority, has done little to bring life to the show.
Through frequent indulgence in name dropping and stale repetition of his own cultural adventures, the anchor person, according to Shree Bhagwan Bhaskar, a well-known activist of the Magadh division, continues to hold on to the stage much to the boredom of the audience.
This year too, the Mahotsava schedule is designed to coincide with the prayers.
Late Noor Fatima, too, had some bitter memories of the Mahotsava.
One of the very few, if not the only quality programme was, in fact presented by the cultural activist of the Gandhi film fame.
Noor Fatima, would in fact be missed very much in the 5th Buddha Mahotsava as she had been a regular performer in the Mahotsava.
Though a souvenir too, is published on the occasion of the Mahotsava, there is much room for improvement in its layout and contents to make it acceptable as a memorable work on the life and message of Buddha.
The souvenir has come to be regarded as a writer's asylum where some of the chronic rejects of the literary world are given the chance to settle score with the readers.
Last year an effort was made to invite cultural troupes from the Buddhist countries to add to the Mahotsava attraction.
But the response was not positive as the move was thought to be too little too late.
During his meeting with the Mahotsava officials, the Magadh division commissioner, Hem Chand Sirohi, once again favoured the inclusion of cultural troupes from the Buddhist countries.
The response will be watched with interest.

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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.