(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – The delegation from Sri Lanka 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 which travelled on the inaugural international flight to Kushinagar returned from India after a successful two-day, multi-city visit on 21 October 2021. It may be recalled that the delegation consisted of 4 State Ministers and other officials in addition to close to 100 senior Buddhist monks belonging to different sects and prominent temples of Sri Lanka.
The delegation was seen off at Bandaranaike International Airport by Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism and High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on the auspicious Vap Poya Day on 20 October 2021. They were received at the Kushinagar International Airport by Shri. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Ministers of the Union Cabinet – Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia , Shri Kiren Rijiju and Shri G. Kishan Reddy – and Ministers of State – Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal and Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi.
The Sri Lankan delegation attended Abhidhamma Day event in Kushinagar on 20 October 2021 which had Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi as the Chief Guest. Speaking at the event, Prime Minister recalled that Arhat Mahinda returned to India to inform his father, Emperor Ashoka regarding the acceptance of Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka on a Vap Poya Day. He underlined that Buddha is the inspiration for the Constitution of India and highlighted that Dhamma Chakra on the Indian flag gives momentum to the country. Minister Namal Rajapaksa noted that Buddhism is the greatest gift ever from India to Sri Lanka and the people to people relations between the two countries have been growing ever since its arrival in Sri Lanka.
Minister Rajapaksa called on Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the event. He also handed over the first copy of the tri-lingual – Sinhala, Tamil and English – translations of the holy Bhagwad Gita. Prime Minister lauded H.E Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the initiative and expressed happiness at meeting Minister Namal Rajapaksa. Leader of the Sri Lankan delegation also had a tete-a-tete with Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
The delegation from Sri Lanka paid their respects at Parinirvan Stupa and Ramabhar Stupa in Kushinagar before proceeding to Varanansi, Parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on the same day. They sought blessings of The Buddha at Mulagandha Kutti Vihara in Saranath as well. The delegation also undertook a boat ride in the holy river Ganga during which they also saw the famous ‘Ghats’ of Varanasi (erstwhile Banaras).
Abiding people-to-people bonds have been central to India-Sri Lanka relationship. Cultural, linguistic and spiritual linkages between the people of the two countries over millennia have been a strong binding force. The inaugural flight to Kushinagar is a modern-day manifestation of this centuries-old connect and an important stepping stone to take these ties to new heights.