New Delhi, October 14:

Amidst the presence more than 100 priests and eight high priests from Sri Lanka led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajpaksa’s minister son Namal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will place Kushinagar, site of Lord Buddha’s Parinirvana, firmly on Buddhist Tourism circuit by inaugurating the international airport on October 20.

Keeping firm sight on 3Ts – trade, tourism, technology – as markers for economic development, PM Modi will inaugurate the new airport also in the presence of ambassadors of at least 10-15 countries, where Buddhism is both practiced and preached. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath will also be present on the occasion and the two leaders are expected to address a political rally afterwards.

It is understood that PM Modi will also visit the Parinirvana Stupa, where Lord Buddha after decades of missionary activity is said to passed away in 487 BCE in Kushinagar. It is said that Mauryan king Ashoka the Great visited the parinirvana site, which was expanded to include a reclining statue of founder of Buddhism during Gupta period after expansion during Kushan empire. The present temple was build by the Central Government in 1956.

Excavations in the past century in the area by Indian and foreign archeologists have also led them to believe that Piprahwa, some 100 km away from Kushinagar, was the site of the ancient city of Kapilavastu, the capital of Shakya kingdom, where Prince Siddhartha Gautama spent the first 29 years of his life. Others believe that Kapilavastu is in Nepal. It is at Piprahwa that a buried stupa was found containing relics of Buddha. The founder of Buddhism attained Nirvana in Bodh Gaya in adjacent Bihar.

According to UP government officials, more than 110 Buddhist priests and eight high priests are flying from Sri Lanka for the inauguration with 35-year-old Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa leading the delegation. The priests will conduct religious ceremonies at the Parinirvana Stupa.

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.