Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Nepal’s Lumbini on the occasion of Vaishakha Buddha Purnima, on May 16, and performed Bhoomi Poojan to lay the foundation stone of the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage, being built at the initiative of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), New Delhi. Once it is completed, it will be a world-class facility welcoming pilgrims and tourists from all over the world to enjoy the essence of spiritual aspects of Buddhism.
The construction of the Centre, which will be built with financial support from the Union Ministry of Culture, comes decades after countries like the United States, China, Canada, France, Germany and Thailand had already built their Centres in Lumbini to promote the Buddhist philosophy.
Significance of PM laying foundation stone for India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage
Despite India being one of the main centres of Buddhism in the world, it had no centre or project in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. Countries like Thailand, Canada, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, France, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Austria, China, South Korea and the United States are all represented by Centres of projects in the Monastic Zone. Under the Lumbini Master Plan of the Government of Nepal, approved in 1978, the Lumbini Monastic Zone came into being as a place housing Buddhist monasteries and projects from various denominations and countries.
For the last three decades, while countries sought and received parcels of land within the Zone, India remained out. Time was also running out as only two plots of land remained vacant as per the original master plan.
Under PM Modi’s government, the issue was raised at the highest level with Nepal. As a result of constant follow-up and positive efforts from both governments, in November 2021, the Lumbini Development Trust allocated a plot (80meters X 80meters) to the IBC to build a project. This was followed up with detailed agreement between IBC and LDT in March 2022, following which the land was formally leased to IBC.
The Centre, once built, will be a unique design with seven external layers which symbolise the seven steps taken by Buddha soon after his birth. On the structure side, it will house prayer rooms, meditation halls, library, auditorium, meeting rooms, cafeteria, and accommodation for visiting monks. The Centre will be technologically advanced and net zero compliant in terms of energy and waste management. In total, the Centre will showcase both India’s Buddhist heritage and technological prowess.
PM Modi arrives in Nepal
Marking the auspicious occasion of Buddha Purnima, PM Modi along with his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba visited the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini and offered their prayers. “I would like to thank PM @SherBDeuba for the warm welcome in Lumbini,” PM Modi further said in a tweet amid his one-day visit to the Himalayan nation. PM Modi, Nepal’s PM Deuba and his spouse Dr Arzu Rana Deuba also paid their respects at the Marker Stone inside the Maya Devi temple premises, which pinpoints the exact birth spot of Lord Buddha. After this, the two PMs went ahead to attend the pooja conducted as per Buddhist rituals.
PM Modi also lit a butter lamp in front of the Ashokan Pillar adjacent to Mahamaya Devi Temple, which was erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC and bears the first epigraphic evidence of Lumbini being the birthplace of Lord Buddha. PM Modi visited the Bodhi tree, which was gifted by the PM Himself during his 2014 visit. It is said that PM Modi will also offer prayers to Lord Buddha at the Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar later in the day.