Modi aims to bring soft power to the centrestage of relations with Nepal while also marking a formal presence at the site 10 km from the border.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday laid the foundation stone for a centre for Buddhist culture and heritage in the Lumbini Monastic Zone. Modi’s visit to Lumbini coincided with Vaishakha Buddha Purnima, recognised as the thrice-blessed day that marks the birth, enlightenment, and mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha.
Modi was received by his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba. After landing in Lumbini, Modi tweeted: “Happy to be among the wonderful people of Nepal on the special occasion of Buddha Purnima. Looking forward to the programmes in Lumbini.”
At Lumbini, Modi prayed at the sacred Maya Devi Temple and delivered an address at a Buddha Jayanti event organised by the Lumbini Development Trust. The two prime ministers lit lamps near the Ashoka Pillar, located next to the temple. They also watered the Bodhi tree sapling from Bodh Gaya that Modi had gifted in 2014.
The India International Centre for Buddhist Culture & Heritage will have a universal appeal and be undertaken by the International Buddhist Confederation, a grantee body under the Union Ministry of Culture. The ministry will fund the project, while the Lumbini Development Trust will oversee it. The centre will also be Nepal’s first net-zero emission building.
On the occasion, the ministry will collaborate with the confederation to host a programme for Vaishakha Buddha Purnima Divas celebrations in New Delhi. The stone-laying ceremony will be screened at the event.
While Buddha was born in Lumbini, he attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya (Bihar), preached his first sermon at Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh), and attained nirvana in Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh).
The famous gardens of Lumbini, said to be the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, has welcomed several pilgrims over the centuries, including Indian emperor Ashoka. The legendary Mauryan emperor erected a commemorative pillar at the site, now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The centre will house the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha.
Through this official visit, Modi aims to bring soft power to the centrestage of relations with Nepal while also marking a formal presence at the site 10 km from the border. This is Modi’s first visit to Nepal since the 2020 border row, which frayed ties between the two countries. The ties were brought back on track following Deuba’s visit to India last month. During his visit, Deuba and Modi agreed to resolve the row through the mechanism in place.
The two prime ministers held bilateral talks, discussing ways to strengthen cooperation and new areas of partnership.
In a statement before his departed, Modi said: “I also look forward to meeting Prime Minister Deuba again after our productive discussions during his visit to India last month. We will continue to build on our shared understanding to expand cooperation in multiple areas, including in hydropower, development and connectivity.”