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Kushinagar, a Buddhist pilgrimage town

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 22, Oct 2021
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport.

  • The airport in eastern UP, the third international airport in the election-bound state, will mainly service the Buddhist tourism circuit.
  • The Sri Lankan Airlines flight carrying monks and dignitaries was the first to land at the airport.

Historical significance of Kushinagar:

  • Among the most important of Buddhist pilgrimages, Kushinagar was where The Buddha attained Mahaparinivana (ultimate salvation) in c. 483 BC.
  • Today’s Kushinagar is identified with Kushinara, capital of the ancient Malla republic, which was one of the 16 mahajanapadas of the 6th-4th centuries BC.
  • The area went on to be part of the kingdoms of the Mauryas, Shungas, Kushanas, Guptas, Harshavardhana, and the Palas.
  • The first excavations 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 reclining form.

Significance of the move:

  • While Buddhism originated in India and seven of the eight main Buddhist pilgrimage sites are in India, our country gets not even 1 percent of Buddhist pilgrims in the world.
  • There is an awareness in the government that the absence of 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.

Therefore, the latest move helps India promote important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the country.

Buddhist Circuit:

  • In 2016, the Ministry of Tourism announced the Buddhist Circuit as the country’s first transnational tourism circuit, covering sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka alongside those in India.
  • The ministry’s map of the Buddhist Circuit includes Bodh Gaya, Vaishali, and Rajgir in Bihar, Kushinagar, Sarnath, and Shravasti in UP, and Lumbini in Nepal.