SAARC RESEARCH PROJECT ON BUDDHIST CULTURAL TRAILS: Journey Through Time & Space, of Merchants, Monks and Pilgrims


26th – 27th August 2017, Sri Lanka.

Call For Papers (CFP)
Selection of Abstracts and informing Participants – 25th July 2017


The SAARC Region is bound together through the shared cultural traits which have evolved through the centuries.  Buddhism is one of the shared cultural characteristics in the region, with art and architecture portraying “unity within diversity” as seen in the evolving styles and the embracing of new characteristics through the ages.  This diversity was a result of interactions that took place along the trading routes criss-crossing east and west Asia, South and Central Asia, along with the exchange of merchandise, knowledge, concepts, designs, religions, technology and other sundry of objects and ideas were also exchanged.  It is the transfer of ideas which resulted in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and other religious beliefs as well as art and architecture associated with these different ideologies.  The circulation of knowledge through these routes is best reflected in the use of Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts in South Asia and beyond to Central Asia.  Although the ancient trade routes have long been abandoned the legacy of those who travelled these routes can be found in the disseminated knowledge, ideas, religions and the diffusion of culture which still persists.  These routes can be aptly named “Cultural Trails”.

The “Cultural Trails” display the material culture (Tangible Heritage) of our ancestors, their beliefs and ideologies, their life and culture.  The Buddhist Cultural Trails (BCT) will be the first in a series of research fora which aim at strengthening cultural ties in the region through a walk into the shared past of our ancestors, empowering us to work together as the custodians of a shared heritage.  This will be an opportunity for the SAARC countries to revive a dialogue about inherited space through time.  A dialogue which will address the issues of conserving and preserving the Cultural Trails on one hand and how we can utilize this space to better understand of our past, to enhance our present and to be economically sustainable through tourism in the future.


There are many routes which are a part of Cultural Trails linking South Asia internally and externally.  There are the routes pilgrims took to visit the important Buddhist sites associated with Sakyamuni Buddha, routes taken by monks in search of Buddhist texts and information, as well as the construction of Buddhist temples due to the prosperity of trade routes, etc.  There are many yet to be identified Buddhist Cultural Trails within Member States.

  1. The paths of the Buddha – India & Nepal
  2. Sites of Relics of the Buddha – Nepal & India
  3. The way of Arahat Mahinda –India & Sri Lanka.
  4. The path of Theri Sanghamitta – India & Sri Lanka.
  5. The Fa Xian (Fa Hsien) Route – P.R. of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, & Sri Lanka.
  6. The Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) Route – P.R. of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, frontiers of Persia and Uzbekistan.
  7. The Cave Caravan Routes of the Western Ghats –India.
  8. The pilgrimage route of King Nissankamalla to Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint) –Sri Lanka.
  9. Sixteen sacred places of Sri Lanka –Sri Lanka.
  10. Footsteps of Guru Rimpoche – Bhutan.
  11. Buddhist Cultural Trails – Maldives
  12. Buddhist Cultural Trails – Bangladesh
  13. Traditional Centres of learning – Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka.
  14. Buddhist Manuscript Trails –Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuche, P.R. of China.
  15. New Buddhist Cultural Trails for Tourism promotion and pilgrims – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Please refer to Annexure 1 for a detailed list of BCT locations.


The participants for the Research Seminar will be selected from amongst diverse disciplines among Academics and Policy Makers.  Priority will be given to mid to senior level professionals involved in heritage management, policy makers and persons associated with the World Heritage Sites in the Region.

Academics and Scholars will include but not limited to:

  • Archaeologists,
  • Art Historians,
  • Conservators,
  • Curators
  • Museologists,
  • Anthropologists,
  • Sociologists,
  • Heritage Site Managers,
  • Persons working with national and local authorities with experience in the fields of Conservation, Preservation,
  • Tangible and Intangible Heritage Experts,
  • Ancient Trade and Technology Experts and
  • Managers, planners and staff of heritage sites.

Policy Makers will include but not limited to:

  • Ministries of Culture (Culture & Information, Cultural Affairs, etc.)
  • Ministries of Education (Education, Higher Education, etc.)
  • Ministries of Tourism (Tourism, Art and Culture, etc.)
  • Departments of Culture
  • Departments of Archaeology, Archaeological Surveys, etc.
  • Departments of Museums


3.1    Themes for the Research Seminar

  1. Buddhist Cultural Trails – The paths of the Buddha, Sites of Relics of the Buddha, The way of Arahat Mahinda, The path of Theri Sanghamitta, The Fa Xian (Fa Hsien) Route, The Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) Route, The Cave Caravan Routes of the Western Ghats, The pilgrimage route of King Nissankamalla to Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint), Sixteen sacred places of Sri Lanka, Footsteps of Guru Rimpoche, Buddhist Cultural Trails in Maldives, Buddhist Cultural Trails in Bangladesh, Centres of learning, New Buddhist Cultural Trails for Tourism promotion and pilgrims, Buddhist Manuscript Trails, etc.  (Refer to Annexure 1 for Details)
  2. Art and Architecture of BCT.
  3. Archaeology of BCT.
  4. Intangible Heritage of BCT (Music, dance, folk art, folk stories, traditional healing, handicrafts, etc.)
  5. Trade and Commerce of BCT.
  6. Buddhist Manuscripts, texts and inscriptions, languages and scripts (Gandhari, Prakrit, Sanskrit, etc., languages and Brahmi, Kharosthi, Greek Bactrian, etc. scripts) of BCT.
  7. Technology of BCT (Irrigation, engineering, agriculture, etc.)
  8. Cultural Diffusion
  9. Heritage Management of BCT sites
  10. Tourism promotion of BCT

3.2    Dates and Venues
26th August 2017 – Research Seminar Day 1 (Colombo)
27th August 2017 – Research Seminar Day 2 (Colombo)
28th August 2017 – One Day Post Seminar Tour to Dambulla World Heritage Site and Arankele Meditation Monastery


4.1 Official Nominees from the Member States
The Official Nominees will be selected by the respective Member States.

4.2 Accompanying Persons
Accompanying Persons of the Official Nominees of the SAARC Member States will pay a Registration Fee as described in 3.4 of this document.

4.3 Other Participants
Category A – The SAARC Cultural Centre would also accept the participation of other Experts from the Member States (other than the Official Nominees of the respective SAARC Member States).  Air Travel and Seminar Registration fee to be borne by the participant and SCC will provide accommodation at a subsidized rate, Seminar kit and the cultural tour.

Category B – Participants from Member States who are residing outside the SAARC Region, provided they can meet their travel and accommodation expenses to attend the seminar and pay the registration fee.  However, to facilitate their stay during the Seminar, the SAARC Cultural Centre would assist them in securing accommodation in Guest Houses / Hostels at economic / subsidized rates.  These participants will be provided with the Seminar kit and the cultural tour.

Category C – Participants from the Host Country where the Seminar is held can participate provided they can pay the Registration Fee of the Seminar.

  • Other Participants (Category C) from the Host country will not be provided with accommodation.

The Seminar facilities (delegate kit, tea, working lunch) as well as invitations to special events and the field trip would be extended to all registered participants and the accompanying persons.

4.4    Registration Fees
Official Nominees of the SAARC Member States:      Free of Charge
Accompanying persons of the Official Nominees:     US $ 300/=
Other Participants
Category A:      US $ 50/=
Category B:      US $ 100/=
Category C:      LKR 2,500/=

All payments are to be made in favour of the SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo, either through e-payment OR in cash at the Registration Counter at the Seminar.

For E-payment
Name on Bank Account:        SAARC Cultural Centre
Name of Bank:                         Bank of Ceylon
Address:                                    Independence Square Branch, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Rupee A/c:            0009773920
US $ A/c:                                   9825298
SWIFT Code:                            BCEYLKLX

4.5 Important Information

  • The Language of the Seminar will be English.
  • The SAARC Cultural Centre reserves the right to select the Other Participants for the Seminar.
  • All Other Participants (Category A) should submit their Abstract Submission Forms, Registration Forms and other information through the respective Foreign Ministries of their country to the SAARC Secretariat.
  • The last date for sending the Official Nominations / Other Participants is 30th June 2017.

4.6 Application Process
All Participants should include:

  1. Full Name and Affiliation of the Person and other details requested in the Registration Form attached herewith.  (Registration Form – Annexure 2)
  2. Detailed CV of the participant.
  3. Scanned Copy of Passport
  4. An Abstract (c. 300 words) of the proposed paper / presentations.  The Abstract should be submitted in the Country Submission Form attached herewith.  (Format for the Submission of Country Papers/ Abstracts – Annexure 3)

The participants are requested to submit their full papers before the Seminar if possible and make a short presentation at the Seminar.

4.7 Format for Submission of Country Papers / Abstracts
The Format for the Submission of Country Papers are attached as a separate document (Annexure 3).

4.8 Time Schedule for the Seminar Paper Submissions
Call for Papers, Poster Presentations                                               24th May 2017
Deadline for accepting Nominees & Participants                           30th June 2017
Selection of Abstracts & informing participants                             25th July 2017
If submitting full papers to be published before the seminar       31st July 2017
Seminar                                                                                                  26th – 27th August 2017
Cultural Tour                                                                                          28th August 2017