Religious Train as Money Spinner for Indian Railways

Indian Railways has flagged off a new deluxe train for Buddhist pilgrims, called the Buddhist Circuit Tourist Train. It will traverse through the Buddhism sites in India such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir (Nalanda), Varanasi (Sarnath), Lumbini, Kushinagar and Sravasti, before ending with a tour of Taj Mahal ,Times of India has reported.

This comes a few months after the Railways launched the Shri Ramayana Express which covers destinations associated with the life of Lord Rama in a 16-day package. The ‘Shri Ramayana Yatra-Sri Lanka’ pilgrimage has two components — one each in India and Sri Lanka. The train running from Delhi makes its first stop in Ayodhya, followed by Hanuman Garhi Ramkot and Kanak Bhawan temple. It then covers Nandigram, Sitamarhi, Janakpur, Varanasi, Prayag, Shringverpur, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Hampi and Rameshwaram.

Before this, there was the senior citizen Tirtha Yatra Yojana train, which lets senior citizens travel to Shirdi, Nasik and Trimbakeshwar on a seven-day tour.

The IRCTC used to provide a Buddhist tourism package, but travellers who avail of it take the regular Rajdhani trains. But considering the growing foreign tourist arrivals in India, especially from destinations like Japan, China, Thailand and Sri Lanka, Railways have now introduced a dedicated train.

The Buddhist Circuit train comprises 12 high-speed and shock-resistant Linke-Hofmann-Busch (LHB) coaches — 4 first-tier and 2 second-tier AC coaches, 1 kitchen car, 2 dining cars, 1 staff car and 2 power cars. The first AC coaches provide facilities such as individual locker and shower with geyser.

The coaches have increased water capacity, digital lockers for each passenger in AC I coaches, Venetian windows, decorative lighting, separate pantry for vegetarian and non-vegetarian passengers and bio-toilets with vacuum evacuation. The dining car is provided with plate dispenser, microwave oven, coffee machine, bottle chiller, and a dish wash machine.

Tickets for a full tour starts at $945 (nearly Rs 67,000).The Ramayana Express, however, is priced much lower — the Rs 15,120-tour package covers travel, food and accommodation. As a result, one travels in a ‘passenger-class’ train “stripped to the basics of Indian Railway travel”.

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