Maniabandha village in Athagarh sub-division, around 100 km from here, will soon get a tourism facelift. The Tourism Department is implementing a special project in the village that boasts of centuries old textiles legacy.
There are hundreds of weavers, including 19 master weavers in Maniabandha Weavers’ Cooperative Society and Dalai Lama Weavers’ Cooperative Society in the village. Apart from the elegant silk and cotton sarees that the weavers in Maniabandha produce, this small village, one of the few in the State, is also known for living Buddhism. It attracts a lot of Buddhist pilgrims.
The Tourism Department is undertaking various projects in the village in two phases. The first phase focuses on art and craft display centre and an open air theatre that are nearing completion. In the second phase, construction of an interpretation centre, parking space and tourist amenities will be taken up. Even as a large number of tourists, particularly Buddhists, visit this village annually, there are no substantial amenities.
An amount of Rs 70 lakh has been spent in the first phase of works and the Centre has sanctioned Rs 1 crore for the second phase.
Officials said tenders for the interpretation centre, parking lot and other amenities have already been floated and work will start in a month.
J K Das, a senior engineer with the OTDC engaged in implementing the works, said after completion, the projects will be handed over to the locals for maintenance. “Besides using the interpretation centre for preparation and display of the sarees for the tourists, locals have decided to hold prayer sessions as there is no prayer hall for them in the village,” Das said. Sources said that a survey was undertaken in 2007-08 to ascertain the tourism potential of the village to develop it.
Legend has it that when the famous Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang visited the village in the 7th century AD, he was moved to receive a gift of a saree that could be cased in a thin hollow bamboo.
“The place has immense potential for textiles, Buddhism and rural tourism,” said secretary of the Odishan Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies Sunil Patnaik, who is associated with conservation of Buddhist sites across Odisha.
Maniabandha houses five Buddhist temples built in the Kalinga style of temple architecture. Hindu deities too find a place in these shrines symbolising communal harmony.