Research on Cultural Trails

buddhist conference

The 18th SAARC Summit held in November 2014 in Kathmandu proposed to create a SAARC Heritage List with the Operational Guidelines and to develop cultural trails linking major Buddhist historical sites in the Region.  The “South Asian Cultural Trails” was approved at the 18th Summit of the SAARC.  commencing with Buddhist Cultural Trails for 2017 and planning to develop cultural trails linking the holy sites of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and other major religions of South Asia in the future.

The SAARC Region is bound together through the shared cultural traits which has evolved through the centuries.  Buddhism is one of the shared cultural characteristics in the region, with the art and architecture portraying “unity within diversity” in the evolving styles and the embracing of new characteristics through the ages.  This diversity was a result of the trading routes combining east and west Asia, South and Central Asia, disseminating merchandize, knowledge, concepts, designs, religions, technology and other sundry of objects and ideas.  It is the transfer of ideas which resulted in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and other religious ideas as well as art and architecture associated with these different ideologies changing the cultures.  The circulation of knowledge through these routes are best reflected in the use of Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts in the South Asia and beyond to Central Asia.  The ancient trade routes can no longer be called trade routes as it is the disseminated knowledge, ideas, religions and the diffusion of culture which reflect the existence of the trade routes.  These routes can be aptly named “Cultural Trails” and changed the face of cultures across borders and regions.

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 programmes which aims at renewal of cultural ties in the modern era through a walk into the shared past of our ancestors, 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 for better understanding of our past, to enhance our present and to be economically sustainable through tourism in the future on the other.

This will be the first in the series of “Cultural Trails” proposed by the 18th SAARC Summit.