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India to grant Sri Lanka US$15mn for Buddhist ties, mulls travel bubble

ECONOMYNEXT – India will grant Sri Lanka 15 million dollars to promote Buddhist ties, facilitate inaugural pilgrim flight to the newly set up international airport in Kushinagar, after a virtual summit between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Narendra Modi.

“The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism, inter-alia, through constructions/renovations of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of Lord Buddha’s relics, strengthening of Buddhist scholarship, and supporting the clergy,” India said.

The government of India will facilitate visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka to the sacred city of Kushinagar, a joint statement said.

Buddhist believes Lord Buddha attained parinirvana (passed away) in Kushinagar.

Sri Lanka has history of being one of several Indianized Hindu Bhuddist cultures found in South and South East Asia.

Seafaring empires and traders of Indian origin displaced the native megalithic style cultures involving ancestor or serpent worship to build Indianized cultures or colonies.

The Indianized states and kingdoms including Sri Lanka have at times been parts of Indian empires.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa took oaths as in Anuradhapura and worshipped at the Sri Maha Bohdi, a sacred peepal tree (ficus religiosa) whose sapling is believed to have been brought from India.

The tree called also called ashvattha is important for Hindu’s and is associated with Shiva and Vishnu. Hindu ascetics Hindu ascetics meditate (circumambulation) under the tree.

Buddhist believe Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the tree.

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The countries will also promote “tourism by enhancing connectivity and by early establishment of an air bubble between the two countries to resume travel, bearing in mind threat posed by Covid-19 pandemic and to take all necessary preventative measures” the joint statement said.

In 2019 Sri Lanka was the fourth largest source of foreign visitors at 350,000 persons, after Bangladesh, the US and UK. (Colombo/Sept27/2020)