Inaugural flights to historically and religiously important town of Kushinagar in India’s Uttar Pradesh state will be landed from Colombo carrying state and religious delegation from Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission in Colombo stated.
The delegation from Sri Lanka on the inaugural flight led by Sports Minister and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son, Namal Rajapaksa includes four State Ministers and nearly 100 senior Buddhist monks, belonging to different sects and prominent temples, spread across Sri Lanka.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the International Airport in Kushinagar on Wednesday on the auspicious Vap Poya Day with the maiden international flight operating from Colombo to Kushinagar.
In August this year, Modi through the High Commissioner of India Gopal Baglay, had informed Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa that India would like Sri Lanka to send the first international flight to the newly upgraded Kushinagar airport.
Again in September, Modi during the Virtual Bilateral Summit with Rajapaksa announced that the first international flight to Kushinagar would be for a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims.
Kushinagar in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is significant to Sri Lanka’s Buddhist pilgrims since the airport is located near a number of sites sacred to Buddhists.
It has a pre-eminent position given that The Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana.
“Considered to be a focal point of the Buddhist Circuit in India, the new international airport in Kushinagar is likely to strengthen people to people interactions between India and Sri Lanka substantially,” the High Commission in Colombo stated.
“The inaugural flight not only underscores the deep people to people linkages but also millennia old civilisational 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 is also to visit Varanasi during their stay in India and special prayers are to be held at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple for the delegation on Wednesday.
Additionally, the sacred Kapilavastu Buddha relics from Sri Lanka will also travel on the inaugural flight and the sacred relics will be ceremonially brought on board the first international flight to Kushinagar by Most Ven. Waskaduwe Mahindawamsa Nayaka Thero, 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 the government of India,” the High Commission stated. Exposition of the relics is to 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.
The relics which were brought to Sri Lanka travelled to India in October 2015.
“The venerated Kapilavastu 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,” the High Commission said.
Annually, many Buddhists from Sri Lanka make religious pilgrims to India specially to Buddhists places of worships in Bodhgaya, Varanasi and Sarnath.
However. in March last year, the Sri Lankan government banned all religious pilgrims due to Covid-19 pandemic.