Roshan Wijesekera

Feb 15 2016.

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Showing Buddhist pilgrims the way - Roshan Wijesekera 

A veteran in the field of organizing tours to Buddhist heritage tours to India, Roshan Wijesekera is a Sri Lankan domiciled in India. Wijesekera has over 28 years of experience in the aviation and tourism industry in India. He has worked with Malaysian Airlines, Air Lanka, Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Gulf Air and Religare, performing many different roles in Finance, Admin, Sales and Marketing, PR, HR, Legal, Flight Planning, Ground Handling, aircraft sales, aircraft repair & management, and managing high profile delegation visits to India. 

During his tenure as the Country Manager – India for Mihin Lanka, he made a significant contribution in increasing the inbound traffic for the Buddhist Heritage tourism of India. Presently he is associated with Siddhartha International & Toshali Resort International, an IATO approved tour operator and hotel group in India, and he is also the Vice President of the Kalinga Lanka Foundation. 

Having spent more than half his life in this field, he estimates that he has facilitated travel for over 20,000 Buddhist pilgrims in addition to the pilgrims he handles through Siddhartha International which promotes Buddhist pilgrimage tours to India, Nepal and also outbound Buddhist pilgrimage travel to Sri Lanka. Wijesekera has a global clientele which tourists travelling to India through his company. 

Commenting on why he decided to pay attention to this particular aspect of travel, Wijesekera said "I spent some time in Bodhgaya handling charter flights. By seeing the number of devotees who were visiting the Buddhist sites from all over the world I thought of embarking on a mission of using my experience of the places and language to better facilitate their visits to these sites. My wife Mamta and friend Manoj who is from Bodhgaya formed Siddhartha International in 1993 to give the ultimate experience to those who want to undertake the Buddhist tours in this sector." 

Keen to ensure that his travellers get the best of everything Wijesekera has gone one step further and opened several hotels for pilgrims. The Sravasti Residency in Sravasti, The Vaishali Residency in At Vaishali, Bihar and The Rajgir Residency in Rajgir. 

In a mission to give visitors a value additional experience Wijesekera is also set to embark on adding the Buddhist heritage sites in the state of Odisha formerly known as Orissa to his tour itinerary. Joining forces with Toshali Resort International a large chain of hotels operating primarily in Odisha, who have solicited Wijesekera's expertise in this field, plans are underfoot to show these historical sites which have remained largely off the beaten path to Sri Lankans. 

Speaking passionately on plans to add the sites in Odisha to the pilgrims' tour itinerary, Wijesekera says "There are so many culturally important Buddhist sites in Odisha which pilgrims really should see. Ratnagiri, lalitgiri and Udayagiri have some fantastic ruins with beautiful statues. In addition the battlefields of Kalinga are also important historical places that people must visit. By partnering with Toshali Resort International who have properties in these remote areas we are now placed to add these places to itineraries. I want to add to the pilgrims' experience and therefore am keen to encourage our pilgrims to travel, through Odisha and tread the path of Buddhism's journey to Sri Lanka from Kalinga to Lanka. Odisha has a lot to offer in addition to Buddhist sites, there are great wildlife life parks and excellent air, rail and road links to Odisha." 

Keen to offer value for money combined with luxury and comfort, Wijesekera elaborates "I have seen many who have saved money all their lives and come on a pilgrimage where they have negative experiences where accommodation especially is concerned, therefore we pay special attention to that requirement and offer them the very best in addition to multilingual guides and of course our own personal knowledge and experience in these areas," 

"I gain an inner peace and happiness by assisting pilgrims from all over the world who visit these sites and going beyond what is committed in their itineraries using my experience and contacts by showing them Lord Buddhas's Path which for all of these people result in a lifetime of memories. To know that I have helped them in some way to achieve their lifelong dream of visiting Buddha's sites is a great feeling that I can not describe," Wijesekera said. 

By Tina Edward Gunawardhana



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