Notwithstanding the dispute over the existence of Ram Sethu, Sri Lankan Tourism has come out with a novel idea of identifying some 50 sacred places as cited in Valmiki Ramayana, to attract more Indian tourists to the Island nation.
Unveiling an ambitious thematic programme Following the Trails of Ramayana aimed at about 1.2 lakh arrivals from India this year, Tourism Board Director General S Kalaiselvam said on Thursday that the epic Ramayana has a very special role in the bondage Sri Lanka has with India.
"Ramayana has brought together both the neighbours through the exploration of the great story backdrop, which is Ayodhya (India) and Lankapura (Sri Lanka)," he said.
Kalaiselvam said based on the research findings carried out by various professionals, there are more than 50 sites in Sri Lanka connected to the epic where names of Lord Rama, Sita Devi and King Ravana, who ruled Lankapura, find resonance. It also include special temples built in the areas where Ravana had held Sita Devi captive.
These sites include names associated with Ramayana such as Seethaeliya, Tam Bodha Ussangoda and Roomassala.
Sri Lanka's former cricket captains Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva, who have been appointed brand ambassadors of the country's tourism, said they were "happy" with the new venture.
"The two neighbouring countries have also a close association in the field of cricket," they added.
The Island nation's tourism board has allocated a budget of $1 million for the promotion in India market.
The Sri Lankan Airlines is operating nearly 100 flights a week to 10 destinations in India.