New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday inaugurate the Kushinagar International Airport at the site of Lord Buddha’s Parinirvana in Uttar Pradesh. The move is aimed at boosting tourism on the Buddhist circuit on the back of three markers for economic development – trade, tourism, and technology. The inauguration event today is expected to be attended by the ambassadors of at least 10-15 countries where Buddhism is practised and preached. More than 100 priests and eight high priests from Sri Lanka, led by the country’s prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Namal, will also be present.
The Kushinagar airport has been built at an estimated cost of ₹260 crore; it will serve the nearby districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and is being looked at as an important step in boosting investment and employment opportunities in the region. The airport will facilitate domestic and international pilgrims to visit the ‘Mahaparinirvana’ site of Lord Buddha and is an endeavour to connect the Buddhist pilgrimage holy sites around the world, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The PMO said that Modi will visit the Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar to participate in an event marking Abhidhamma Day before he moves on to attend the public function and the subsequent inauguration of the airport. At the temple, the Prime Minister will pay his respects to the reclining statue of Lord Buddha and will also plant a Bodhi tree sapling. Later on, Prime Minister Modi will be laying the foundation for several other developmental projects, including the Rajkiya Medical College, which will be built at a cost of over ₹280 crore, and 12 other developmental projects worth over ₹180 crore.
The city of Kushinagar is being linked with other Buddhist sites by dedicated trains for Indians and foreigners interested in pilgrimage or religious tourism. Uttar Pradesh chief minister will be present at the event and is also expected to address a rally afterwards in the region along with the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, a flight carrying the Sri Lankan delegation of over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries – including the 12-member holy relic entourage bringing holy Buddha relics for exposition – will land at the Kushinagar airport shortly after its inauguration to mark the successful operation of the runways. The delegation comprises anunayakas (deputy heads) of all four nikatas (orders) of Buddhism in Sri Lanka; Asgiriya, Amarapura, Ramanya, Malwatta as well as five ministers of the Lankan government led by cabinet minister Namal Rajapakshe.
Other eminent Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Nepal, Bhutan and Cambodia, as well as ambassadors of various countries, will also be attending the event.