"There is certainly no restriction on Chinese people's belief in Buddha. I had to squeeze in the crowds of believers to get into some of the temples," said Sunita Dwivedi, an Indian journalist and photographer who had traveled to almost every Buddhist temple in China.
Since 2000, she had traveled the entire ancient Silk Road starting from Xi'an to Xinjiang and Tibet. "I was amazed at the good quality of the 4-lane road in the Gobi desert where no one lives, while villages in northeast India still lack access to proper road and power supply." she said. Seeing good roads, power supply and cheap food in villages of Xinjiang, she concluded "Froman Indian perspective, it shows that common people lead a satisfying life since villagers' basic needs are met."
The good quality infrastructures are also indicators of a proper protection of Buddhist heritage sites, she said. "I found China very different from what I had learnt from the media, one has to go there to see what it really is."
During the journey, she met people living along the ancient route, gathered oral histories, and examined ancient manuscripts. She felt there is need to reopen the great Asian Highway that ran between India, China, through Myanmar and extended to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia in order to promote greater economic integration of the entire region. This link in Asia was recognized by no less a person than Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.
Born in Kushinagar of northern India where the Buddha attains Mahaparinirvana, Sunita was inspired by the "Dying Buddha" in the Mahaparinirvana temple and the enigmatic Ramabhar Stupa that lay just behind her house, to learn about the great Sage and his path to Salvation. She said that even though she is a Hindu, the Buddha was seen as one of incarnations of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. The dream of following the Buddha has taken her to Buddhist sites all over India, Japan, and China with a self-guided goal of researching and pilgrim.