For the first time, India is hosting 108 Buddhist pilgrims from South Korea as the two countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties. The pilgrimage, organized by the Sangwol Society, will cover over 1,100 km and visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India, before moving on to Nepal.
The pilgrimage aims to increase friendship and collaboration between India and South Korea, as well as help the tourists experience the teachings of Lord Buddha and trace his footsteps during his lifetime. Announcing details of this, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Apurva Chandra, stated that it was the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote the Buddhist tourism circuit in India to the world.
Chang Jae-bok, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to India, said that 2023 is a special year for the bilateral relation between the two countries and that South Korea is committed to India’s success as the G20 President. He added that the Buddhist teachings align with the motto of India’s G20 presidency, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.
The religious ties between India and South Korea, the Ambassador said, evoke strong emotions and generate immense goodwill, fueling the bilateral relation. The walking pilgrimage will begin on 9th February and conclude on 23rd March, 2023. The pilgrims, which include monks, will pay homage to eight major Buddhist holy sites, experience Indian Buddhism and culture, and hold a bilateral meeting of religious leaders and a prayer assembly for world peace.
Buddhism as a source of Regional Connectivity in Asia
As of today globally, Asian countries make up almost 97 percent of the Buddhist population; around 14 countries have more than 50 percent of their populations preaching Buddhism; and seven out of these countries have 90 percent of their citizens practicing Buddhism as their primary religion.
The teaching of Buddhism has had quite an impact on several countries including Central Asia, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and some countries in the Nordic region too.
The most populous block where Buddhism dominates as their primary religion and culture is the Southeast Asia region where countries like South Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Japan, and others constitute a major Buddhist populated block.