October 22, 2021 - 7:01 am

Cultural Diplomacy

Keeping firm site on 3Ts - trade, tourism, technology - as markers for economic development, PM Modi inaugurated the new airport so called the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh which will help connect key Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination, and is believed to be the final resting place of Gautam Buddha.

                           Today's Kushinagar is identified with Kushinagar, capital of the ancient Malla republic, which was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas of the 6th-4th centuries BC. The area went on to become part of the kingdoms of the Mauryas, Shungas, Kushans, Guptas, Harshvardhan, and the Palas. Kushinagar is believed to have been inhabited until at least the 12th century. The first excavation in Kushinagar were carried out by Alexander Cunningham and ACL Carlleyle, who unearthed the main stupa and the 6 metre-long statue of the reclining Buddha in 1876. Kushinagar is among the very few places in India where the Buddha is depicted in declining form.

                     The inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport will coincide with the city being linked with other Buddhist sites by dedicated trains for Indians and foreigners interested in  pilgrimage or religious tourism. There is a special focus on the development of places associated with lord Buddha through better connectivity, and creation of facilities for devotees. There is an awareness in the government that the absence of the tourist infrastructure is a major reason why India loses out to southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia and Thailand. The hope is that world-class facilities will be able to attract Buddhist tourists to India, and boost revenues and employment generation.