Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport....

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Kushinagar, India  I  October 20, 2021  I  04.32 PM –

India, Kushinagar is one of the major pilgrimage centres for Buddhism followers from all over the world. Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport on October 20, 2021. The inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport will facilitate the pilgrims from across different parts of the world by providing seamless connectivity to various Buddhist sites in the region in India. The airport built at an estimated cost of ₹ 260 crore. The inaugurated Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh with a special flight from Sri Lanka (Srilankan Airlines) becoming the first to touch down at the new Kushinagar international airport with Sri Lanka Buddhist Monks. On the occasion addressing Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Narendra Modi said, “In order to develop the places associated with Lord Buddha, for better connectivity, special attention is being given by India today on the creation of facilities for the devotees.

The development of Kushinagar is in the priorities of the UP government and the central government,” Shri. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Ministers of the Union Cabinet, Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Shri Kiren Rijiju, Shri Kishan Reddy Gangapuram and Ministers of State Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal and Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi and other dignitaries were also present at the ceremony. The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka His Excellency Gopal Baglay also involved to success this ceremony.

Most Venerable Dr. Dhammapiya Thero, The Secretary General of International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), The Founder and Chairman of the Bahujana Hitaya Educational Trust & Dhamma Dipa Foundation provided special article about this grand occasion.

Buddha, meaning ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’ was the title first given to Lord Buddha. It was about 2500 years ago when Prince Siddhartha Gautam left all the worldly pleasures to attain the reality of life and became the Buddha – the enlightened one. It was a state in which the Buddha gained an insight into the deepest workings of life and therefore into the cause of human suffering, the problem that had set Him on his spiritual quest in the first place. Buddhism offers four major sites of pilgrimage: the Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini, the site where he attained Enlightenment Bodh Gaya, where he first preached at Benaras, and where he achieved Parinirvana at Kusinagar. Kushinagar is located about 53 km from Gorakhpur and is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha attained ‘Maharparinivana’- the highest stage of salvation. After the excavation in 1861 many stupas related to Buddha resurfaced in Kushinagar and today they are amongst the major tourist attractions here. The Ramabhar Stupa is one of the major attractions; this stupa is about 50 feet tall and situated where Lord Buddha was cremated. Mahanirvana Temple, where a six meters long Buddha statue in reclining position is kept; Mathakuar Temple, where a black stone image of the Buddha and inscriptions dating back to 10th-11th century are kept; Watt Thai Temple; Japanese Temple, where ‘Eight Metals’ statue of Lord Buddha is kept and the Chinese Temple, which is predominantly constructed in a Chinese architectural style are the other places to see in Kushinagar.

The main stupa as well as the shrine in front are built on a single platform which measures 2.74m in height. The statue of the reclining Buddha recovered from this site measures 6.1m in length. It is a monolithic sculpture carved out of a single block of sandstone. The image of reclining Buddha is found resting on his right side with his face towards the west probably indicating the sunset of his life. The right hand is placed under his head possibly as a cushion. The image is mounted on a pedestal with three human figures embedded on the western side of the pedestal. An inscription recovered from the site ascribes the statue as a religious gift from Haribal. The image of reclining Buddha is enshrined in the Mahanirvana Temple.  On October 20, 2021 is the another most important function held at Kushinagar. Indian Prime Minister His Excellency Narendra Modi inaugurated the “Kushinagar International Airport” in Uttar Pradesh, which will help connect key Buddhist pilgrimage sites. After the Airport inaugurated, Indian Prime Minister attended as the Chief Guest of “Abhidhamma Day” held at Mahanirvana Temple premises and His Excellency Narendra Modi worshiped Gautama Buddha at the Temple.

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 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 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.

Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Sri Lanka for a 3-day Official visit from 02-05 October 2021. This was his first visit to Sri Lanka in his current capacity. During the visit, Foreign Secretary mentioned that India-Sri Lanka relations are underpinned by vibrant people-to-people ties which would be further strengthened with signing of the Inter-Governmental MoU for the USD 15 million Buddhism grant. Recalling India’s strong cultural & civilizational links with Jaffna, Foreign Secretary informed that India would extend support to the Government of Sri Lanka for the maintenance of the Jaffna Cultural Centre built with Indian grant assistance. Foreign Secretary further mentioned that the Government of India looked forward to welcoming the inaugural flight from Sri Lanka to Kushinagar which would further bolster cultural links between the two countries.  Excavations under the supervision of A.C.L. Carlleyle in 1876-77 yielded the remains of the main Mahanirvana Stupa and the statue of the reclining Buddha. The main stupa as well as the shrine in front are built on a single platform which measures 2.74m in height. The statue of the reclining Buddha recovered from this site measures 6.1m in length. It is a monolithic sculpture carved out of a single block of sandstone. The image of reclining Buddha is found resting on his right side with his face towards the west probably indicating the sunset of his life. The right hand is placed under his head possibly as a cushion. The image is mounted on a pedestal with three human figures embedded on the western side of the pedestal. An inscription recovered from the site ascribes the statue as a religious gift from Haribal. The image of reclining Buddha is enshrined in the Mahanirvana Temple. The main stupa that stands next to the Mahanirvana Temple was also excavated by Carlleyle in 1876 CE. Further excavations in 1910 revealed copper coins of Jai Gupta and a copper vessel with a copper plate. There was another vessel containing silver coins of Kumar Gupta. The mains stupa is raised on a circular base and crowned with a dome on the top. The stupa measures 19.81m in height. The temple and the stupa assumed their present form in 1956 during the 2500th anniversary of Buddha Jayanti.

At a distance of 3 km from Kushinagar Bus Station, Parinirvana Stupa & Temple is a Buddhist shrine located in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. Situated amidst ruins of various monasteries, it is one of the popular Buddhist Temples in India, and among the must include places in Kushinagar Tour Packages. The Mahaparinirvana Temple is said to be one of the most sacred shrines for Buddhists across the world. Built-in the traditional Buddhist architectural style, this temple houses a 6 m long reclining nirvana statue of Lord Buddha, that was excavated in the year 1876. The present temple was built by the Indian Government in 1956 as part of the commemoration of the 2,500th year of the Mahaparinivana. The statue of Buddha in the lying position was made with red sandstone of Chunar. It is said that this idol is a depiction of the position of Lord Buddha when he left his mortal body at the age of 80 and attained salvation. The structure of the sleeping Buddha is placed on a brick platform. There is an inscription on the platform stating that it was built by Swami Haribala, a disciple of the Buddha in the 5th century AD. The temple attracts huge crowds of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. The area around this temple is surrounded by stupas and ruins of as many as 8 monasteries.

The Nirvana Stupa is situated right behind the Mahaparinirvana Temple on the same platform and is said to be the death place of Gautama Buddha. Also known as the Nirvana Chaitya, the stupa is 2.74 m high and it also has a dome that is 15.81 m high. The stupa was excavated by an archeologist named General Cunningham in 1876 and was then restored to its original state that very year. The Brahmi inscription on the walls states that the cremated remains of Lord Buddha are deposited here. Further excavations in 1910 revealed copper coins of Jai Gupta and a copper vessel with a copper plate. The Airports Authority of India, in its continuous endeavour to upgrade airport infrastructure in the country, has developed the Kushinagar Airport with a new terminal building spread across 3600sqm, at an estimated cost of Rs 260 crore in association with Govt. of Uttar Pradesh considering the demand of the domestic and international visitors and pilgrimage. The new terminal is equipped to handle 300 passengers during peak hours. Kushinagar is an International Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre, where LordGautam Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. It is also the centre point of the Buddhist circuit, which consists of pilgrimage sites at Lumbini, Sarnath and Gaya.

The airport will help in attracting more followers of Buddhism from home and abroad to Kushinagar and will enhance the development of a Buddhist theme-based circuit. The journey of Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Rajgir, Sankisa and Vaishali of the Buddhist circuit will be covered in lesser time. Inauguration of the Kushinagar Airport will facilitate the pilgrims from across different parts of the world by providing seamless connectivity to various Buddhist sites in the region. Direct aviation connectivity with South Asian countries will make it easier for tourists arriving from Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore etc to reach Kushinagar and experience the rich heritage of the region. Tourism inflow is expected to rise by up to 20 per cent with the inauguration of the flight. The Kushinagar International Airport will not only put the pilgrimage site on International Aviation Map but also give a boost to the economic development of the region. It will have a multiplier effect on the hospitality industry by promoting hotel business, tourism agencies, restaurants etc. It will create employment for local people by opening an immense amount of opportunities in feeder transport services, local guide jobs etc. Local industry and products will get global recognition. It will promote cultural awareness and will also help to preserve local culture and traditions. The development of the airport at Kushinagar will help in developing Kushinagar as one of the four principal places of Buddhist Pilgrimage. It will help to impart Kushinagar the pre-eminence it deserves as part of the Buddhist Circuit. Further, it will lead to the development of India as the original Buddhist centre and the spread of principles of Buddhism across the world. The airport will serve a population of more than two crores since the airport has a hinterland of around10-15 Districts and will be a great support for the large migrant population of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western / Northern Part of Bihar. This will also boost the opportunities for the export of horticultural products like bananas, strawberries and mushrooms.

Buddhika Sanjeewa  I  After visit to Kushinagar, India