- October 19, 2021
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject – Art and Culture
Context – Kushinagar connect to Sri Lanka
- When Prime Minister Narendra Modi declares open the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh on October 20, a sizeable Sri Lankan contingent, led by a member of the first family, will be present.
- The PMO said the delegation also consists of anunayakas (deputy heads) of all four nikatas (orders) of Buddhism in the neighbour country; Amarapura, Asgiriya, Malwatta and Ramanya as well as five ministers of the Sri Lankan government led by Cabinet Minister NamalRajapakshe.
- The airport is expected to provide seamless connectivity to tourists from Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and so on.
- Kushinagar is the centre of the Buddhist circuit, which consists of pilgrimage sites at Lumbini, Sarnath and Gaya.
- Buddhist pilgrims consider Kushinagar a sacred site where, they believe, Gautama Buddha delivered his last sermon and attained ‘Mahaparinirvana’ or salvation.
- To mark the occasion, Sri Lanka will present to India photographs of two murals painted by renowned Sri Lankan artist SoliasMendis at the KelaniyaRajamahaVihara, a popular Buddhist temple near Colombo.
- One of the murals depicts ‘ArahatBhikkhu’ Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka delivering the message of the Buddha to King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka.
- The other shows the arrival of ‘TheriBhikkhuni’ Sanghamitta, the daughter of the Emperor, in Sri Lanka, bearing a sapling of the ‘sacred Bodhi tree’ under which Siddhārtha Gautama is believed to have obtained enlightenment.
- The PM will also visit the Mahaparinirvana Temple and he will pay his respects to Lord Buddha’s reclining statue.
- He will also plant a Bodhi tree sapling.
- Modi will also participate in an event, organised for the Buddhist monks to mark ‘abhidhamma’ day which symbolises the end of a three-month rainy retreat- ‘varshavaas’ or ‘vassa’.
- Moreover, PM Modi will lay the foundation stone of Rajkiya Medical College in Kushinagar which will be developed at a cost of over Rs 280 crore.
Its history –
- The present Kushinagar is identified with Kusavati (in the pre-Buddha period) and Kushinara (in the post-Buddha period).
- Kushinara was the capital of Mallas which was one of the sixteen mahajanpads of the 6th century BCE.
- Since then, it remained an integral part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Harsha, and Pala dynasties.
- In the medieval period, Kushinagar had passed under the suzerainty of Kultury Kings. Kushinara continued to be a living city till the 12th century CE and was thereafter lost into oblivion.
- However, modern Kushinagar came into prominence in the 19th century with archaeological excavations carried out by Alexander Cunningham, the first Archeological Surveyor of India and later followed by C.L. Carlleyle who exposed the main stupa and also discovered a 6.10 meters long statue of reclining Buddha in 1876.
- However, according to the MahāyānaMahāparinirvāṇaSūtra, the Buddha made his journey to Kushinagar, died there, and this is where he was cremated.
- Ashoka built a stupa and pilgrimage site to mark Buddha’s parinirvana in Kushinagara.
- The Hindu rulers of the Gupta Empire (fourth to seventh century) helped greatly enlarge the Nirvana stupa and Kushinagar site, building a temple with reclining Buddha.
- This site was abandoned by Buddhist monks around 1200 CE, who fled to escape the invading Muslim army, after which the site decayed during the Islamic rule in India that followed.
- The British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham rediscovered Kushinagara in the late 19th century, and his colleague A. C. L. Carlleyle unearthed the 1,500-year-old Buddha image.The site has since then become an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Sri Lanka Connect –
- The gesture comes at a time when Sri Lanka and India have agreed to strengthen ties through their shared Buddhist heritage.
- In a virtual bilateral summit with PM Mahinda Rajapaksa in September 2020, Mr. Modi announced a $ 15 million grant to Sri Lanka for promoting bilateral Buddhist ties.
- The airport inauguration and the enhanced connectivity to a site revered by Buddhist pilgrims is one of many initiatives in India’s apparent outreach to the Sinhala-Buddhist majority of the island nation.
- In the decade after the civil war, which coincides with China’s growing influence in the island nation, New Delhi seems keen on recasting its image as a friend and collaborator, using religious and cultural diplomacy.
- During his recent visit, Foreign Secretary Shringla, who travelled across the island, made the first stop in the central Kandy district, to offer prayers at the famed Buddhist temple DaladaMaligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
- India regularly invokes the Buddha and Buddhist history in its messaging in Sri Lanka, especially on social media.
- Sri Lanka, too, considers promoting shared Buddhist ties a matter of “paramount importance”, as was outlined in the Integrated Country Strategy prepared by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India MilindaMoragoda.