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Nepal courts Indian gurus to improve image abroad

Indo-Asian News Service, India
Oct. 28, 2004 • Friday October 29, 2004

Kathmandu, Oct 28 : After renowned mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler, Nepal is now courting Indian spiritual gurus to portray the Himalayan kingdom as a safe destination.

Nepal is hoping that the arrival of Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose Art of Living Foundation teaches how to deal with negative emotions through breathing control techniques, will reinforce the image of Nepal as a safe destination for tourists, especially from India.

“Ravi Shankar has disciples all over India and we hope his visit will build confidence among Indian tourists and promote religious tourism,” said Tek Bahadur Dangi, CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), the nodal government agency for promoting tourism in Nepal.

Earlier this month Messner and Habeler, the first men to climb Mt Everest without bottled oxygen, were in Kathmandu to attend the golden jubilee of the first ascent of Mt Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world.

Both declared Nepal a safe destination, despite the dragging Maoist insurgency and a spate of violence in August following the killing of 12 Nepalese workers by militants in Iraq.

During his three-day visit to Nepal from Oct 30, the 48-year-old guru will speak on attaining world peace through spiritualism and visit the Pashupatinath temple here.

Last year, the NTB and the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), which promotes Pashupatinath temple, one of the prime religious sites for Hindus, launched a special Pashupati Darshan Package in India to attract Indian tourists.

Another Indian religious leader, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in Tami Nadu, inaugurated the package.

Another Indian spiritual leader, Sathya Sai Baba, based in Puttaparthy in Andhra Pradesh, has a sizeable fan following in Nepal. So have the late Bhagwan Rajneesh, also known as Osho, and the late Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurthy.

Dangi said the NTB would look at the possibility of future cooperation with leaders of these organisations to promote Nepal as a spiritual destination.

“Nepal is known abroad as the home of the Himalayas,” said Basanta Chaudhuri, member-secretary of the PADT. “Now our focus is on making people aware that it is also the home of spiritualism.”

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