Kushinagar International Airport to be inaugurated by India PM Modi. Inaugural flight from Sri Lanka landed

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Sri Lankan delegation including Buddhist monks arrived at the Kushinagar International Airport
Sri Lankan delegation including Buddhist monks arrived at the Kushinagar International Airport

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the International Airport in Kushinagar on October 20 on the auspicious Vap Full Moon Poya Day with the inaugural international flight operating from Colombo to Kushinagar. Kushinagar has a pre-eminent position given that The Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana here. It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced during the Virtual Bilateral Summit with Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 26 September 2020 that the first international flight to Kushinagar will be for a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims.

Sri Lankan delegation arrived at the Kushinagar International Airport
Sri Lankan delegation arrived at the Kushinagar International Airport

The delegation from Sri Lanka on the inaugural flight shall be led by Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports, Minister of Development Co-ordination and Monitoring and State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development. It shall also consist of 4 State Ministers and one MP in addition to close to 100 senior Buddhist monks, belonging to different sects and prominent temples, spread across Sri Lanka. Senior officials from Sri Lanka also form a part of the delegation.

Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa meets a delegation of Buddhist monks who will leave for Kushinagar on the inaugural flight from Colombo to Kushinagar Airport
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa meets a delegation of Buddhist monks who will leave for Kushinagar on the inaugural flight from Colombo to Kushinagar Airport

Kushinagar is considered to be a focal point of the Buddhist Circuit in India and the new international airport is likely to strengthen people to people interactions between India and Sri Lanka substantially. The inaugural flight not only underscores the deep people to people linkages but also millennia old civilizational ties between the two neighbouring countries. Buddhism is central to the abiding cultural, spiritual and linguistic bonds in this bilateral relationship.

The Sri Lankan delegation will also visit Varanasi during their stay in India. Special prayers shall be held at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple for the delegation on 20 October 2021. They will also have a Ganga Darshan before they return to Colombo on the afternoon of 21 October 2021.

Adding to the significance of the occasion, the sacred Kapilavastu Buddha relics from the Rajaguru Sri Subhuthi Maha Vihara of Waskaduwa will also travel on the inaugural flight on Vap Poya Day. The sacred relics are being ceremonially brought on board the first international flight to Kushinagar by Most Ven. Waskaduwe Mahindawamsa Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Rajaguru Sri Subhuthi Maha Vihara who is the present custodian of the relics.

The sacred relics will be received with due reverence at the new international airport in Kushinagar on arrival and will be accorded full State honours by Government of India. Exposition of the relics will be held in several Indian cities including Kushinagar and Sarnath.

The sacred Piprahwa relics which are the only documented authentic relics of The Buddha in Sri Lanka were discovered in the late 19th century in India and form a part of the Kapilavastu relics.  They were brought to Sri Lanka by the Most Ven. Waskaduwe Rajaguru Sri Subhuthi Nayaka Thero and are currently kept at the Waskaduwa Viharaya in Kalutara. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a special mention about this temple in his virtual address delivered on Buddha Purnima in May 2020.

The relics travelled to India in October 2015 as well. It may also be recalled that the venerated Kapilvastu relics in India, which have been taken out of India only 6 times in the past, were sent to Sri Lanka in 1978 and in 2012.

Both the inaugural flight to Kushinagar and exposition of the relics attest to the commonalities shared by the people of India and Sri Lanka.

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