Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Available options for improvements

One readily available option is to move the vendors and the parking lot to the old bus stand area on the north-east corner of the Ancient Nalanda Remains. This bus stand is approximately 50 mt X 50 mt stretch of open space. This shift needs to be coupled with the idea of separate gates for the entrance and exit to the ruins complex. The tourist path is to be devised in a manner which provides an opportunity for tourist-visitors interaction. In this case an exit from the Teliya Bhandar (north side) is suitable. With a drop off location at the main entrance and about a 300 meter walk from exit to the parking lot will add to the vendor-visitor interaction without causing any inconvenience; and the fact that this spot is away from the main road and helps reduce the traffic congestion is an added benefit.
The above mentioned solution is a readily available one but it is not a long term viable option. The available space at the bus stand might not be sufficient to accommodate the vendors and the parking lot requirements of average peak day at Nalanda. So far Nalanda has seen a growth of about 10% annual increase in foreign visitors and around 5% annual increase in domestic visitors and if it continues at the same pace then this new arrangement will not work. The vendors will likely grow in same proportion of those of tourists and the chaos will reemerge.

Nalanda is already in the tentative list of world heritage site and future planning has to be done keeping that in view. We know from past experience that the world heritage status will bring new tourists with increased set of expectations; and this will provide lot more opportunity for the over all economic growth of the area. Also in that situation we will have WHS norms and guidelines to take into account. For a good heritage site management plan and for its conservation we need to have buffer zones as an added layer of protection.

A more suitable option will be to consider the west side of the Nalanda remains to explore for the possibilities. On the east side the space is limited and on the north and south side there is dense habitation besides the little space is available is pregnant with the past heritage.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Summary of Improvements required...

Tourist flow and traffic From all the discussions so far we infer that the present carrying capacity of the infrastructure has reached its designed limits. The situation is further aggravated because of lack of effective management at the popular visitor site. There are about 70 vendors who have swarmed both sides of the already narrow road adding to the congestion. To add to the misery the place has around 70 odd horse-carts besides the regular traffic of motorized vehicles that ferry between 25 odd villages that have this single road as a major link to main road.

On an average peak day, there are about 300 foreign and close to 2000 domestic tourists visiting the place. At times there are more than 150 big and small vehicles occupying the parking lot which is designed to handle only a fraction of such traffic. This officially allotted space is also used by Jain tourists who generally travel in big numbers and use this spot for meeting and taking horse-carts to go further to Nandawart. And of course the tourists interested in buying the souvenirs also spend their time in same limited road space. All together this 150 mt stretch of road has seen what it means to be brimmed with people and parked vehicles.

The present system of single gate for entry and exit confines the movement of people to very limited space. There is a need to diversify and allocate spaces based on assets. The logical approach is a detailed study taking into context the local issues that identifies the enlarged scope of the interpretation and tourist engagement at the site.

Scope of Interaction with the Community
The tourists based on an official survey would like more interaction with the community. They seek a greater experience than just a visit to a historic site. We have the assets that can be developed into a better experience for the visitors while generating employment for the locals.

The present setup offers very little opportunity for the community- visitor interaction. There is just this 150 meter stretch of road where the souvenirs are sold. The road is subjected to loud traffic noises and congestion from it and standing amidst it all for a one to one conversation with the vendor and trying to get an insight into local culture isn’t an appealing pursuit. Therefore whatever little opportunity for community to benefit might exists is diluted by the presence of these inappropriate extenuating circumstances. Such ambience is not conducive for the development of the art and craft of the area where the older population and families with young kids might avoid such a venture altogether.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nalanda Master-Plan

Excavated remains at Nalanda is nominated for World heritage site under Cultural category criteria III & IV, a proposal for same is submitted by Archaeological Survey of India on 9th Jan 2009.


(iii) Bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which has disappeared

(IV) Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas or beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal value.

The operational guidelines for the implementation of the world heritage convention require that the nominated properties should have management frameworks. The guidelines issued by UNESCO emphasize the importance of a management plan and the necessity for the proper conservation of the site and the provision of an adequate buffer zone between the heritage and urban development.

The long term success of conservation attempts of the heritage largely depends on its connection with the economic condition of the community. Involvement of the local community in the management of the world heritage site is a fundamental theme of this site management plan under the guidelines issued by UNESCO.

The presentation, interpretation and use of heritage in the local economy are limited by the legal framework within which archaeology and heritage protection functions. The long-term sustainability of any such effort depends on coexistence of the Heritage conservation and the communities. The two need to be intrinsically connected and a good strategy would be to have solutions for income generation, so that the community sees a direct benefit in protecting these assets and minimize exploitation by outside parties. One of the biggest failures of past revival schemes were that they did not include the long term interests of the local population and hence failed to generate any support for the placed system. The new strategy that involves the people from the very beginning reduces any such detriments in later decision making and would evolve with the growing and ever changing needs of the society.

Our approach for preparing the Master Plan for Nalanda is based on participatory approach, to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between heritage preservation (Law) and the community (sustainable livelihoods). The team had a series of meetings with the stakeholders, discussing the concerns and available options with preservation of the heritage at the centre of its core and making sure that the local interest is not sacrificed.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

History about operations at Xuanzang Memorial Museum

1- Pundit Nehru sent a delegation of three top officials to identify suitable land for the Museum. The Education Secretary, Government of Bihar Shri K. Abraham was also with the delegation. All the ponds were shown to the team and finally the present site was identified as the suitable site for the museum.

2- Pundit Nehru visited Nalanda and laid the foundation of Xuanzang memorial Museum in1961. Later he addressed a big gathering at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara. Big crowd gathered from the surrounding villages

3- The place of memorial was earlier a play field

4- The Tanks around the Xuanzang were full of Lotus. And the leaves were used by the people of locality during marriages and other community function for serving food.

5- In 1967 famine the roots of the lotus called Kamalgatta was an important source of food for poor

6- In 70’s to mid 90’s the place was in dilapidated condition and was used by cattle grazers

7- For last 10 years the ponds are being allotted to fishermen for fisheries and since then the lotus have vanished from the local ponds.

Tourist Guide
1- In the beginning days the staff of the campus and the guards used to guide the tourists about the site.

2- Then in 60’s, one official guide was appointed by the ASI

3- In 50’s and 60’s some local people took the initiative and started guiding tourists but this was considered an unauthorized effort.

4- In 1971 the first guide training took place which made an effort to train people other than ASI staff for guiding purposes.

5- In 1975, a 2nd of such effort for Guide training took place.

1- In the 1960’s, there were only three shops around the Nalanda ruins area meant to cater to tourist needs.– One tea stall (Motilal), Pan shop (Lala), Handicraft and Flowers (Chandu)

2- The present entrance was not gated at the time and a souvenir shop by the inside gate was established in 1970.

3- The main entrance as it stands today got very crowded with unorganized vendors in mid 80’s

4- Ravindra Pawar (district Magistrate) in 1992 ordered removal of all such vendors but they slowly crept back.

5- Some attempts were made to provide parking for horse cart and buses in the 1090’s but this arrangement lacked long term planning and didn’t sustain.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

History of Nalanda monastic site

The heritage of the Nalanda is more than just the physical assets of the place, besides the archeological remnants of the glorious past there are a myriad of intangible assets that need conservation and a bit of grooming so that they can become part of main stream tourism.

The non-written history, local traditions, dying arts and sports, popular festivals, each played an important role in the cultural development of the area for centuries together. This PRA tool helps in documenting key events, history of the places and oral traditions. Such a list would help with the identification the popular trends, events, past problems and accomplishments. To be able to learn from the past success, we need to have a baseline about the local and national events that affect the community lifestyle and play a role in its economy.
A good exercise to gather this information was to initiate a conversation with the elders of the community and jog there memories to recollect the past events. The discussion with these key people gave us a valuable insight that took us back many a generations. This perspective is hard to find through any other medium but a direct conversation with the people themselves, it provided us with an opportunity to ask elders from all walks of life about previous events and retorts; and discuss possible solutions to solving current problems. The occurrences listed shall help in devising future programmes specially when designing the broader master plan.

Nalanda monastic site
1- In early 20th century (1905-07) the excavation work started at the site and lots of the plots were not public land but were ploughed by local farmers. Local farmers were raiyat of landlord Jahoor Chaudhry from Islampur. British people first facilitated the smooth transfer of land from the landlord to the farmers and then they bought the lands from them by 1907. Local farmers also participated in the excavation work. Before the excavations the land was used for agriculture and grazing. The mounds were covered with trees and bushes.

2- Site was open to the tourists in 1922, without any formal inauguration. And the excavation continued till 1935.
3- The earth removed from the excavation site was dumped in farmers land and they were paid Rs, 1 per Katha for dumping the earth.
4- There was no boundary around the excavated site and a barb wire fencing was built much later in the mid 1940’s
5- There were reported incidences of brick removal from Bargaon devisthan Mound and Muzzafarpur mound by few musclemen in 1940. The incidence was reported to ASI by the community and the then DG, ASI, Shri Srivastav personally visited the place and inspected the place and suspended the Guards.
6- Nalanda Museum was opened in 1956
7- The approach road was not convenient and means of local travel were also not there till 1960’s
8- Sarai Mound and the surrounding area was purchased from the community and the present boundary was also made at the same time
9- Till 70’s people used to leave their animals inside the campus for grazing
10- Shooting of film “Johny mera Naam” happened here in 1968, a big crowd came to see the shooting.
11- There was a youth hostel at the place were we have cafeteria now. The tourist information centre was shifted from Mohanpur (Nalanda Turning) in 1985
12- There were incidences were museum people were involved in removing the Sculpture from Museum and local Villages in 1980’s
13- The present brick boundary around the remains was made in 2005

Facilities for tourist
1- Bus Stand and the Rest House were made in 1950’s
2- The Guesthouse was very functional place to stay till the 80”s, many important guests preferred staying here as compared to other available options.
3- Bus stand was operational for only for a few years till 1987

Entry fee at Nalanda excavated site

1- 1922--- 1 Ana
2- 1940---2 Ana
3- 1950---20 Paise
4- 1968---50 Paise
5- 1980----Rs 2,
6- 2000----Rs 5
7- Local people were allowed to visit Nalanda remains for free till 1960”s

Monday, December 21, 2009

Proposed Tourist circuits at Juafardih and Rukmanisthan (Jagdishpur)


In 2007, ASI carried out an excavation in Juafardih. During the course of excavation some evidence were found suggesting this could be Kulika the birth place of Maha Moggallana as per the travelogues of Xuanzang. This is an important site and will attract many Buddhist pilgrims if it is appropriately staged and managed. The site is in the centre of the village and is in bad shape. It needs suitable conservation and restoration measures. A community participation plan is envisioned for the conservation of this site. We had a couple of meetings with the community in the village, people from all section of society participated in the discussion and it was decided to have a tourism development committee in village. More meetings with the community is planned for future to frame the bye-laws and objectives of the body.

Rukmanisthan (Jagdishpur)
Rukmanisthan is an ASI protected site and is 1Km south-east of Jagdishpur village. The site is around 10 Acres of land, circular in shape. At the centre of the site is a 10 Ft, black stone, Pala period Buddha statue. The statue is an attraction among visitors from many South-east Asian countries. The approach to the site is not good. The site is protected and a part of land at centre is owned by community. There is prohibition on any agriculture activity and community is not allowed to till the land. There is an ASI guard, who is at site for few hours on weekdays.

There is no development planned for this site by the ASI as yet and would need some considerable efforts to make it a rewarding journey. Dr. U. Panyalinkara, Head Abbot, Chinese Buddhist Temple has shown considerable interest in its potential. With his efforts a link road is under construction. Another problem is that the site is popular for animal grazing by the local people and the plantation efforts made by ASI in last couple of years has seized to alleviate the problem.

We gathered a lot of information from the community; the community shared with us the oral history of the Rukmanisthan and that it revolves around King Bhimika of Kundalpur (Bargaon), His daughter Rukmani and Mythical Lord Krishna of epic Mahabharata. They believe Lord Krishna when eloped with Rukmani; he stayed for some time at this place. Hence the place derived its name Rukmanisthan. Unmarried gals form this vicinity worship at a temple housing Lord Buddha statue at Rukmanisthan. The place had many statues some 50 years ago; a few of them have been removed by ASI but lots many idols have gone missing in last 20 years.

In the meetings it was discussed that a community organization comprising of people from all section need to be formed and that more youths should be involved in it. There are few students from Nava Nalanda Mahavihar in the village and they took special interest in all the meetings. We had few more meetings to discuss a suitable action plan for community participation in its development and how the community can benefit from tourism. It was agreed that the tree plantation was the first necessary step and also the necessity to safeguard the plantation from animal grazing.

The next meeting place was recommended on the opposite corner of the village so that the people from that side are not excluded for the discussion. We had a meeting with the communities there and we got positive response when we shared the objectives of the plantation and how it will help in tourism and hence livelihoods. It was also decided to work closely with stakeholders in future and meet regularly to discuss future course of action.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Proposed Tourist circuits at Bargaon

There are many potential tourist interest places in the close vicinity of Nalanda and they need to be linked to the existing tourist routes. We did PRA with communities of these villages to share their views and prepare a suitable tourism development action plan for the sites. Sun temple Bargaon, which was a popular destination among the visitors few decades back has seen a downturn lately, we did PRA with the panda community to identify the bottlenecks and solutions.

The place finds mention in ancient texts and is most significant place for sun worship in whole of Bihar. The Sun temple at the heart of village is very old and has idols of sun god from Gupta and Pala period. At the North-west end of the village is famous Suraj Pokhar which accommodates more than one lac pilgrims who come to present offerings to sun God on Chath festival twice a year.

The temple at the heart of the village was at the north-western side of the Suraj Pokhar and was shifted inside the village in late 17th century to protect it from mogul invasion.
The Suraj Pokhar has medicinal value and till recently people from Bengal and different corner of Bihar came to take dip in the pond and benefit. Till 1950’s this was also popular destination for Pind-daan a part of Shradh ritual. People after performing Pind –Daan at Gaya also performed the ritual here at Suraj Pokhar offering Pind to Lord Yama, Son of Sun god.

In recent past the number of visitors has gone down and the income generated by the Committee has also dipped. We had a series of meeting with the committee members, though the participation level was very low. Members had almost no faith in the committee. We had some constructive discussion on what we can do make the place beautiful and attractive to visitors.

Summary of the discussion

1- Committee to be strengthened

2- Daily Mahaarti at the Sun temple

3- Renovation plan for the temple and pond

4- A waste management plan for the temple complex

5- Development of tourism promotion plan, special visiting hours for tourists

The Hindu circuit
The sun temple of Bargaon is associated with Jarasandha, Lord Krishna and his great-grandson Sambha. According to the mythology Jarasandha was killed in a duel with Bhima a suryavanshi. The duel between the two continued for 14days before Jarasandha was tore apart in two halves. A tradition “ANKHUT” to celebrate the victory of good over the bad is continued till date. The site of the duel is still popular destination. Other places associated with Jarasandha are Gridhav Dwar at the Ghoda Katora which was the eastern entry point to the mountain fortress. The Krishna and his army entered Grihvjra (Rajgir) from this eastern gate. Jarasandha was cremated at Ghoda katora on Kartik Poornima after he was killed in the duel. An annual ritual called Kartik snan daan is still held at the place every year. Ghoda katora is also the place where the army of Lord Krishna camped before finding a suitable place to enter the Grihvjra. Jara Devi temple on Gaya Highway is associated with the birth of Jarasandha. Two big stone platforms on the ghoda katora hill and Vaibhara hills are associated with legend of Jarasandha.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The intangible heritage

1. Potter There are 15 potter families in the area actively pursuing the art of pottery. This is a poor community and is fighting for its survival. The situation of potters is not good; the sale is limited to festivals and religious purpose. And they say such religious demands are seasonal and have nothing to do with quality of the product. This has lead to deterioration of the quality over a period of time. The cost and availability of raw material is also problem, firewood and cow dung cakes are not easily available. We shared with them purpose of the discussion i.e. development of terracotta souvenirs for tourists. They shared with us few such terracotta work they did in past. On being asked if they would like to start a unit at Sanskritik Gram, few of them agreed. They also added the earth at Xuanzang memorial is very suited for making terracotta items.

2. Ironsmith
Bargaon has 7 Iron foundries. Ironsmiths used to be well off some 10 years ago; but since most of their work is associated with repair of agriculture equipments and with coming of new machines they are getting very few repair opportunities, the economic situation is not as healthy as it used to be. With good transport links to Bihar Sharif lots of people prefer going to Bihar Sharif for repair works. We looked for an ironsmith who could make souvenirs by metal casting and met Om prakash viswkarma an ironsmith who had done lots of casting work before. He showed us a metal bush used in pump sets which he made by casting in his foundry. We discussed with him if he ever thought of making some cast based souvenirs. He said he had this in mind but he never actually tried it. He asked us if we can get him a dye prepared he can try to prepare the cast.

3. Stone work – Patthar katti
Stone based small souvenirs are very popular with the tourists in the Buddhist circuit. To involve some sculptor interested in participating at Sanskritik gram we visited Patharkatti, the village which has cluster of traditional artisans. The first village on way to Patharkatti is khukari; this village has as many as 3000 people engaged with the sculpture making work. Traditionally the work was limited to the Gaud Brahmins who migrated from Rajasthan on invitation of Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Some 400 years ago the 1300 Gaud Brahmins built the famous Vishnupad Temple. Most of the families stayed back and continued the sculpture making from local stones. In last 20 years most of the gaud Brahmins have moved back to other places and only 4 families are left at Patharkatti. This craft was limited to the Gaud Brahmins till recently when in 1950’s Upendar Maharathi started a training centre to involve people from other communities. Since its inception many local people have taken training and the craft at its peak was spread in as many 10 villages. Presently the craft is limited to four villages and the biggest clusters are at khukari, Patharkatti and Tenbigha. There are few smaller clusters at Niyampur and Banwariganj all the villages in same vicinity.

The craft is not in much demand these days. Till about 15 years ago a lots of tourists frequented the place but now the number has gone down. Sculptures made are sold at various places through the middlemen and agents who have showrooms at Gaya, Rajgir and other tourist destinations. Few of the artisans also have showrooms at Bodh Gaya. Sale is generally low except for the tourist season.

Stone quarries have been exploited to maximum and most of the quarries are not left with good stone in reach. Lots of quarries require cleaning by removing earth from around it. Artisans now bring stones from other places like Dumka in Jharkhand, Sabja green stone and red sandstone from Chunar, Uttar Pradesh. Paliya stone from Jhansi region is particularly in demand because it’s a soft stone and suitable for making small idols. Children of age 8 to 10 are specialized in making small idols and make up to 10 to 12 piece a day. They sell it for Rs 10/ piece.

Marble made sculptor is very much in demand generally. They bring Marble from Rajasthan. There are many varieties of stones found in local mines; Patharkatti has around 27 varieties of stones available in its mines.
Some efforts were made to make a cooperative of artisans, but some anti-social elements murdered the key organizer and since then no another effort has been made to revive the cooperative. Local mines are suitable for large sculptures. Large sculpture takes lots of time to make and are costly hence hard to sell. Foreigners generally prefer small sculptures.

When asked why you don’t make small sculpture from local stone they said the stones are not suitable. They said Baijana mines on Murli hill have suitable stones for making small sculptures up to 2 inches but they require some earth clearing work. Mines at Dhanmahua are good for small sculpture but are now illegally occupied by some people who don’t allow them to quarry stones. Another mine they said is Pir mines which has good black stone suitable for 5 to 6 inch small sculptures. The popular varieties of stones mined locally are motiya granite, tambala, reda, hansraj, jhingpathar and parajitiya.

Another problem is electricity most of the work now is done with generator sets.

Ms Rajbala Verma DM, Gaya in 1993 visited the place and facilitated credit facility to many Artisans. She also provided marketing outlet to interested artisans at Bodh Gaya. She also sanctioned Rs, 1 Lac for clearing earth from one of the mines, though the amount was not sufficient and work is still unfinished.

4. Lac crafts (also Lacquer, Lahti)
Lac crafts are traditionally very predominant in Bihar. At NNMSG we plan to develop some souvenirs based on Lac. Lac, the raw material is easily available locally and the products are easy make. We visited Village Chandasi in Noor Sarai Block; the village has some 70 odd women’s group who has taken training on making Lahti bangles. A few women got interested in providing know-how to our cooperative members. In coming months we will organize a small workshop for basic training for crafts based on Lac. We will need help of product designers for development of range of suitable souvenirs made from Lac.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Discussions with Cultural groups

Almost all the villages in vicinity have a Nautnki group. These groups perform Nautnki during durga puja and lakshmi puja. Such functions are funded by community contributions. Bargaon has been a popular religious centre for many centuries and the place was always a hub of cultural activities. Bargaon always had an active Nautnki and cultural group. In 1940’s village had the very popular Nalanda Natya Parisad which was very active till 2000. With efforts of Nehru Yuva Kendra such cultural clubs were initiated in many villages. Navnadan Yuva Kendra was formed in mid 80”s at Bargaon. Presently one such body called Nalanda Musical Group is active which has around 20 odd members from all neighboring villages.

In meetings we had a discussion on preparing a calendar of all religious function and events that can serve as resource basket of cultural experience. This resource basket will help in designing suitable cultural experiences for tourist. It was also decided to revive all the traditional musical instruments; this could be done only by preparing list of all traditional musical instruments prevalent here. A list of all such instruments was prepared and possible efforts were made to take pictures of all traditional instruments and identification of people who could play these musical instruments.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Engaging youths through the Sports clubs

A meeting with members of sports club was organized at Chinese temple, Kapatiya. More than 20 participants of 5 different sports club participated in the discussion. All the sports clubs were formed under the Nehru Yuva Kendra in early nineties. Most of the sports clubs are now defunct and now exists only on paper.

There was a discussion on what kind of sports can interest tourists and how we can organize it for better participation of tourists. Lots of suggestion came, few suggested cricket, and few said football is a better option. On being asked what is so unique about these sports and why a tourist should be interested in watching us play cricket. Participants agreed tourist will not get interested in watching us play cricket or football. We asked participants to think something traditional, unique to place and participative sport, which could involve the visitors. Lots of suggestion came regarding traditional sports like kabbadi, Kho-Kho etc. After some discussion on various possibilities all of us agreed to start with Buddhiya Kabbadi this year and experiment with other sports later.

They shared their experience of difficulties they faced while working with Nehru Yuva Kendra and how they sustained their clubs. Next few meetings revolved around how the clubs can be maintained and the logistics of playing the sports. We discussed on possible sponsorships and other methods of generating revenues.
A summary of the discussion is given below,

1- Sports Clubs and teams need to be reoriented for the tourism purposes.

2- A revenue model to be developed for sustenance of the clubs and sports

3- A start should to be done this tourist season by organizing a few Buddhiya kabbadi matches

4- A marketing plan and discussion with tour operators and stakeholders about promoting such endeavors.

There have been some considerable development in achieving the goals set for a youth sports activity and we'll the sharing the latest and the greatest in upcoming weeks...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thinking outside the box

Looking beyond the set pattern
We had a few more meetings with the youth to explore the possibilities and making a suitable action plan. We initiated a discussion by asking the participants to contribute to the pool of ideas about what can be offered to the tourists from the available resources. We asked if anybody has heard about home stays, bed and breakfast initiatives and Meal at local homes. Almost all of them responded with a positive nod and that these are experiences that they have either seen it themselves or heard from friends about its popularity at many tourist destinations.

The answer to our next question wasn’t surprising; we asked if we can do it here at Nalanda.

“Yes”, said a few participants. They felt Nalanda has potential and lack of any other place to stay in the vicinity adds to its suitability. A summary of the discussion is given below,

1- There are many houses in Surajpur and surrounding villages owners of which don’t stay here. Some suitable houses can be taken on lease and suitably modified for home stays and meal and homes facilities

2- This will require some legislation on guidelines, specifications , facilities and requirements for such initiative based on bottom-up approach

3- This should be given status of economic activity and loan facilities should be made available

4- Capacity building of interested people and gathering information on how to manage and run such an enterprise,

Guiding, Cultural experience, packaged tours and Tour operations
In follow-up meetings more local youth participated in discussions. The youth participants felt the present tourism is limited to few sites and the vicinity has lot more to offer. Other places should be included in the tourist circuit and this will also require a new breed of tourist guides who are well equipped to take challenges the sector offers. Few youth who had some exposure in tour operation said they want to start such initiative but the fear of failure and loss of capital investment prevents them from taking such initiative. We shared with the participants the idea of organizing some traditional sports and performing arts during tourism season and elicited their reaction and suggestions. We also discussed on why and how to start the tour operation from Nalanda.

Summary of discussion,

1- Organized tourism at Nalanda is managed by tour operators at other distant places. This is a big hindrance in the growth of tourism at place.

2- Lack of communication and constructive partnerships among the stakeholders on tourism development in and around Nalanda

3- All the villages have sports club, it was decided to organize a separate meeting with the sports clubs on possibility of organizing annual sports events to attract tourists.

4- Many youth participants were ex-students of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara; they felt Mahavihar is best suited for starting job oriented course in tourism sector. Courses on foreign language, tourist guides and tour operation will benefit youth of the locality.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Findings of our discussions

The awareness of the youth is considerable high as was evident from the map that they developed. The negative and positive impact map was very revealing. Unlike the elders, youth didn’t consider land acquisition to be a bad impact and later in the discussion they told it’s very nice that development is taking place. Rather they showed interest in the timeline of ongoing projects and wondered what more is being planned for the area.

The positive impact map again showed the indirect benefits they are drawing from Nalanda, electricity, road and other infrastructure. Bad impact map described in detail, the traffic congestion at key places, the poor disposal of waste and littering and lack of basic amenities at all the tourist destinations especially around the Ancient Nalanda Remains. Beggary at tourist places seemed to emerge as a social concern among both women and youth group discussion.
These Exercises were followed by discussion; at all the places the participants shared their experiences with the tourists and tourism. Few of them shared how in past a few times they have offered a place to stay to the stranded tourists. A few of them even volunteered as guides to tourists and took them around. The discussion revolved around opportunities from tourism and it was gathered that youth had sufficient awareness on the opportunities that can be further explored. Many of the local youth are employed in the sector, many have done foreign language course and are working with different travel agencies. When asked about why no effort is being made at Nalanda by experienced youth, we were told about a few people who have taken such initiatives at local level but the scale of operation is very small and the area of impact very minimal.

The major bottlenecks as they emerged from the discussion are,

1- Lots of initial capital investment is required

2- Big players have established themselves at Bodh Gaya, Varanasi and other destinations and they are not opening any branches or office locally here but prefer to operate from these key locations.

3- Guide licensing and training is almost unheard of; there has not been any such effort in last 20 years or so.

4- Place is already much unorganized and too crowded for any new initiatives to take place. Besides there is no system in place where guidance could be offered on a community basis for a start up.

The discussion on bottleneck was followed by a positive discussion about what we can do collectively and what is the problem and what are the possible solutions.

Summary of the positive discussions

1- Place is too congested because of lack of capacity. The place needs a Master Plan which can manage the tourist rush and take care of community interests.

2- In the current scenario the tourist spends very little quality time at Nalanda, this setup offers very little or no opportunity for interaction with the community

3- The place needs effort for positive communication among the stakeholders ASI, Tourism department, district administration and the local community

4- Nava Nalanda Mahavihar should a play a bigger role in providing tourism related educational courses.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Activities with Youth

In the previous many posts we focused of women in the community as we feel that they need to be empowered not just financially but by giving them avenues so that they can find a path for themselves. Youth of the area is another group that needs a lot of structure and attention. They are a potential source of energy and we need to tap into their enthusiasm to channel proper growth. In the discussions that follow we’ll be mainly addressing the interactions and outcomes that we gained from them.

We informally met the youth groups of Bargaon, Surajpur, Muzzafarpur and Nirmal Bigha. Youth at all the villages were very positive about any such discussion and the ways the community can benefit from tourism. The dates and the place for the PRA were fixed.

We had separate meetings with Girls and the Boys. The PRA exercise consisted of the Resource map making followed by a group discussion.
The focus of the resource mapping was to learn the awareness level of the youth about the resources as they perceive it; and the discussion was more about sharing their personal experience with regards to tourism sector.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Action plan Visioning and Exposure trip

Subsequent meetings with the groups focused on development of group coherence and action plan visioning. Discussions revolved around the institution and skill development. The team proposed an exposure trip to Nepura the site of Endogenous Tourism Project (ETP).

In 2007, under ETP, a women’s Self Help Group was formed to revive the craft traditions of Sujuni stitch and Khatwa appliqué which were hitherto restricted to items made by individual women at household level. Under this project the Anchala women’s cooperative was formed and the women took it to new levels gusto and enthusiasm. Sewing machines were purchased from project funds; the women took an office on rent, organized themselves according to skill and experience and actively took up the craft, learning from one another. At first they started collecting and documenting traditional designs.

Since Nepura village is on the Buddhist circuit, with the help of NGO partner, the women started collecting depictions of Buddha’s life and stories as well as Buddhist motifs which were then transferred onto the cushion covers, wall hangings etc. These are becoming very popular among tourists as they make for attractive souvenirs.

Under the ETP project, the Anchala Women’s cooperative members have attended the following craft melas:

Toshali National Crafts Mela, Bhubaneswar (Feb ’08) where a total of 18 ETP sites participated

Incredible !ndia’s international event “India@60” in Singapore (Apr ’08) – a total of 4 ETP sites participated

Explore Rural India Craft Mela at Dilli Haat (Oct ’08) – where a total of 27 ETP sites participated

Incredible! India’s international event “India Calling@60” at Los Angeles, USA (Sep ’09)

This site also received the CNBC travel award of the year 2009 under the category 'Tourism site best demonstrating women’s empowerment'. Besides the prestigious awards and national and international exhibitions, the local as well as national media has showered much attention on their success; and there ‘dreams come true’ story has been covered by the ‘India Today’ magazine and national television ‘Doordarshan’ among others.

All the members of each newly formed groups visited Nepura. The new Groups had interaction with the members of “Anchala Mahila Swablambhi Sahkari Samiti”. The members of Nepura cooperative generously shared their experience with the visitors.
A meeting was held with the groups after their Nepura visit. We asked them what they learned and sought their feedback. The group members were very motivated and shared their learning; they were most impressed by the transparent system of record keeping at Nepura.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Post Exercise and follow up discussion

Post Exercise discussion
PRA exercises were followed by a long discussion. Participants wanted to know the outcome of exercise and how we are going to use the information. On being asked how they found the exercise, there was a mixed response, while few participants found it interesting many participants said they want to know how they will benefit from this exercise.

We shared with them the broader objective of the project; of linking the community to the growing tourism, the exercise was explained as the first step towards Bottom-Up approach. We explained them the difference between the Top-down and Bottom-up approach and how such exercises will help us in learning the awareness level and what the community thinks about the resources.
Community members were eager to share their views, and wanted to know more. Most of the participants said “we are illiterate, how can we benefit from tourism”. The meeting ended with a promise from both side to meet again to discuss,

I. How can we benefit from the heritage
II. Does tourism provides opportunity only to literates and educated

We thanked them for the hospitality, cooperation, active participation and anticipated such participation in follow-up meetings.

Follow up discussion
The team completed the “Resource map”, the first part of the PRA with all identified groups in the target villages. This was followed by the follow-up process with respective groups. The team was surprised to find more participants in the follow-up meetings. Team began the discussion from where we left last, “how we can benefit from tourism”.

The team shared the findings of the first exercise; on the basis of the resource map the team could infer that the women in the vicinity had very little or no direct livelihood link with the tourism. All the positive impact they mentioned reflected the indirect benefits. Few of the participants said “we are illiterate”, how we can benefit from tourism. Few women in the meeting said, “When we pass by the Nalanda remains we find that we can make some of those souvenirs too”. The participants shared more such items; few of them were trained in making children toys etc. Few women took initiative in mentioning other women from village who had such skills but were not the part of the discussion. Team was interested in knowing if they ever tried to market the products. We received a variety of answers, some said they never thought in those lines, a few said they want to market product but don’t know how to do that, some members felt the quality is not up to mark. In all participants were vocal about there thoughts shared what they felt.

Gradually the focus of the discussion was sifting towards finding suitable solution. It was felt by all the participants that a collective approach is required. Few members cited about programs that they watched on TV about Self Help Groups, few members mentioned about such Groups they have seen at other places.

We had few more such meetings and eventually everyone agreed to start a small group that shall work closely to build on available skills. The team and the participants discussed some rules so that group gradually gets more involved and disciplined.

Some basic rules were framed,

1- Team shall meet once a week at a predetermined place

2- Each member will contribute Rs,1 every week

3- Team leader will be decided on rotation basis

4- Proceedings of the meeting will be documented in a copy

The team could facilitate 5 small groups in 4 villages. In later months, few women took the lead and many more women joined the group. Though many women faced objections from their families, few women took lead and discussed matter with their families and tried to solve misunderstanding.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Concerns and Expectations of women

Women in villages around Nalanda remains are aware about the tourist destinations in the vicinity. This awareness has very little to do with the literacy. When asked, why they consider these places as tourist places they said that all identified places are part of their mobility zone. Many a place is either a worshiping place or are close to one which they frequent very often. Many places are visible from their rooftops and agriculture fields, which makes it possible for them to see big rush of vehicles to the places. Few of the groups mentioned about the recently opened Multi media centre as tourist destination. It was very unusual identification and when asked the basis of this, they said the place was previously used by them as rest house for the marriages. After the multi media centre was opened they could no longer use the facility, they were told that this place is now meant for tourists. Broadly, the places where women have seen lots of visitor and vehicles are tourist destinations to them.

Positive and Negative Impact
It was very significant to know that the people of the area take great pride in their heritage. Most of the women mentioned about the beauty and importance of the place. They proudly take their relatives and visitors to all the tourist attraction when they visit them. Most of them said it is their luck that they live close to such an important place which receives visitors from around the world. They feel very proud for the attention they receive at their maternal places, when people enquire about the place. Because of the heritage the place is well connected by rail and road. Electricity and other amenities are better than other villages they know.

Among the negative impacts, eve teasing was the most prominent, maximum groups complained about the incidents of eve teasing and chain snatching at Nalanda Remains and sun temple, Bargaon. They said the Liquor shop at the Kapatia turning is an important factor contributing to such nuisance. Another major grouse was the open defecation by the thousands of visitors during the Chath Pooja around sun temple. Beggary and traffic congestion at Jain temple and Nalanda remains was also mentioned by few participants.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Providing women with a platform to voice their thoughts

There was a mixed response among the women of different communities about the PRA; many families didn’t allow women from their families to participate in PRA. They said they have participated in many such discussion in past but eventually nothing happens. Another issue was identifying a suitable place for meeting, not everyone was willing to go to the house of other women. Some women preferred some common place like temple or school, etc for the meeting. Best part of all the villages was women from all the communities participated in the meeting. All the participants were eager to know what is going to happen in the meeting. We shared with them the objectives of the workshop and NNSG project.

Each meeting started with a brief introduction by all the participants including the facilitators, this was followed by sharing the objective of the meeting with participants. The community very inquisitive and anxious, we promoted discussion, answered their queries at the same time we made sure that we don’t raise their expectations. We then asked the participants to get arranged in small functional groups of 4 to 5 women in each group. Literacy level among the women’s in each group was very low. Each group could however manage to get at least one member who could prepare the map. Drawing sheets and Sketch pen were given to each group. The idea was to promote group activity, promote discussion among the members and reaching to some conclusion. The group activity was very participative except for a few participants everyone was contributing in the discussion and map making.

Summary of Resource Map

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Resource mapping

  1. What community thinks are the tourism resources
  2. What are the positive impacts of tourism
  3. What are the negative impacts of tourism on their lives and surroundings

The resource mapping exercise was done with Women and Youth of Bargaon, Surajpur, Nirmal Bigha and Sarilchak.

Method- Discussions and group work

Materials- Drawing Sheets, Pens, markers, adhesive tape etc,

Time- 1 to 2 Hrs


1. Introduction & Orientation- The meeting commenced with introductions. The participants and the facilitating team introduced themselves. The team oriented on how to conduct the exercise, its purpose and importance.
2. Exercise- The participants were asked to organize into small groups of 4-5 members each. The teams were given a drawing sheet each and asked to develop a tourism resource map based on the discussion among the members.
  • 1st Map- Participants were asked to make map of area showing all the places that they consider are the places of tourism interest
  • 2nd Map- After the 1st map, the participants were asked to make a Map of places of tourism interest with benefits/ positive impacts associated with each of them
  • 3rd Map- The participants were asked to make a map showing tourist places and the negative impacts of the places on their lives and surroundings

 3. After the map making exercise was complete the teams were asked to choose a leader from their group. The Group leader were asked to make a presentation on the group activities

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Breaking the Ice - Starting a dialog with community

The work started with an informal chat with the village communities to gauge the interests before actually beginning the organized PRA. A visible commitment on the part of the project was necessary for a healthy participation and support from the community. The acceptable response of the community at such early stage might be biased or misleading as it might be based on the success or failure of any such previous experience.

In recent past land acquisition activity has taken place in villages around Xuanzang Memorial Museum, the land acquired are used for cultivation and owned by the farming community. The economy of village still revolves around agriculture and the farming community is on the top of the social ladder in the villages. The farming community is also having a strong influence on the opinion of the villagers. Land acquisition is a very sensitive issue in the villages. We initiated a few discussions with the community on this issue, in one such meeting at Surajpur we discussed the purpose of the land acquired and the benefits the area can reap from the upcoming infrastructure.
Most of the youth (from the farming community), who are studying in colleges welcomed the move and were eager to participate in tourism sector. Old People (Farming Community) had mixed feelings, some have experienced the direct and indirect benefits from the tourism infrastructure while others felt the benefits are usually delayed and very few people are actually benefited in the entire process.
Most apprehensive were the people who are directly involved with farming and depended completely on agriculture for making a living. These people were from various age groups and felt that they were not educated enough or lacked skills to participate in any such development. They further expressed they should be given employment in the upcoming infrastructure on priority basis. The land acquisition also impacts the established status hierarchy in the village. The status in the village is primarily associated with the land owned by the family and the second factor is number of people in the family employed with government or private firms (Doctors and Engineers in family). Land acquisition tends to skew the social status and the families where none of the kin are employed in government jobs think they will loose the social status. Status is generally associated with number of workmen they employ and harvest at their doorsteps at the end of harvest season.
People who have received compensation against the land acquired feel the amount paid as one time compensation is big (Sufficient), but they say the money will eventually be spent and this hot money is not the true replacement of the assured livelihood. There are people who have an alternative view to the same situation too, they have other source of income are generally happy as the cost of the left over land has sky rocketed and some of them have some business plans for future.
There are many such rumors floating in each of the village regarding some land acquiring drive. We had a similar experience at Sarilchak where the community said they have heard about the Nalanda Museum planning to acquire some lands in their village. A similar story was told at Bargaon, the community said they have very little land left and that Archaeological Survey of India plans to acquire most of their lands.

Certain PRA methods, however sensitively employed, may themselves be misconstrued and harm the rapport. Exercises like area mapping and transects etc can create more anxieties about the projects intentions. Since these actions may have some superficial resemblance to the behavior of professionals like land surveyors; and people can get quite alarmed. Since such data was not very essential in the first phase of community participation we decided to conduct such exercises once the community participation reaches to a certain level and sufficient trust is built.
In first half of the January, we informally met different men and women groups, decision makers and PRI members and shared with them what we plan to do with the communities in coming 5 to 6 months. We asked for suitable time and places where we can sit together for 2 to 3 hrs at stretch. The community people were inquisitive and enquired the purpose and objective of such long meetings. A consensus was reached regarding suitable places for the PRA meetings and suitable time for respective groups. Decision for place and time was important, often wrong identification of place and times leads to poor, limited and discontinuous participation and hence Information gaps. These informal meetings were also an opportunity to assess the limits of local knowledge and awareness, and the constraints to existing community systems of problem solving.