Friday, 20 March 2015

Prime Minister Modi emphasises India's and Sri Lanka's shared Buddhist heritage

From Eurasia Review   
By Smruti S. Pattanaik

"...Modi’s choice of places to visit in Sri Lanka is important both from the political and cultural perspectives. His visit to Anuradhapura, which is, in a way, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, is quite significant here. It is not only the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, but also the place where Arahat Mahinda, son of Ashoka the Great, arrived to spread Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE (Before the Common Era). It is well-known that the cultural linkages between the two countries have continued in spite of political and diplomatic reverses over time. For Sri Lankans, India remains a major place for pilgrimage. Buddhism spread to Sri Lanka from India and remains a main source of religion and culture for a majority of its people. Modi’s symbolic visit to Anuradhapura is therefore a very welcome idea.

It is appropriate to mention here that India has made use of cultural diplomacy with Sri Lanka in the past. The decision to lend the Kapilavastu relics to be displayed in Sri Lanka for the second time in 2011 was received well there and large numbers of devotees rushed to have a look at them. This decision was taken in spite of the earlier directives not to allow the display of sacred relics outside India due to their inestimable value and delicate nature and the huge logistics and planning required for their exhibition. Sri Lanka is also one of the countries involved in establishing the international Buddhist University in Sanchi and is part of the Buddhist circuit that India is developing in the subcontinent.

Modi’s visit to Anuradhapura and the Mahabodhi society in Colombo, which are part of the two countries’ common cultural heritage and strong historical connection, will definitely be a huge step forward in public diplomacy. Both countries have already agreed to undertake joint activities to commemorate the 2600th year of Buddha attaining Enlightenment and the PM’s reiteration in this regard will go down well with the majority Sinhala audience..." more

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