Prime Minister, Narendra Modi arrived in Colombo as the Chief Guest for the 14th International Vesak Day celebrations on 11th May, 2017, on the invitation of President Maithripala Sirisena. This was his second visit to Sri Lanka.
During his last visit in 2015, Prime Minister Modi had visited Anuradhapura, a UNESCO world heritage site and a leading centre of Buddhism for centuries. This visit saw him paying respects at the revered Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, also known as the ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’.
His schedule of engagements during the two days saw him visit the Seema Malaka at the Gangaramayya temple where he took part in the traditional lamp lighting ceremony on the eve of Vesak Day, address the International Vesak Day celebrations on 12th, inaugurate Dickoya Hospital, built with Indian assistance, hold discussions with President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as well as a broad section of country's political leadership and interact with the Indian-origin Tamil community.
The book will take you through the highlights of the visit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on arrival in Colombo commenced his schedule of engagements with a visit to the Seema Malaka at the Gangaramayya temple. Where he was received by the Chief Monk of the Temple, among other dignitaries. Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Wickramsinghe together participated in the lamp-lighting ceremony on the eve of Vesak Day, characterised by brilliant multi coloured lights and a fireworks display.
"Our region is blessed to have given to the world the invaluable gift of Buddha and his teachings"
The Prime Minister Modi, addressed the Opening Ceremony of the International Vesak Day Celebrations at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo. The function began with the recital of the 5 Buddhist precepts. The welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, Sri Lankan Minister for Buddha Sasana and Justice.
"For us in Sri Lanka, you are one of us”, he said, welcoming the Chief Guest.
“On Vesak, my hope is that India and Sri Lanka will work together to uphold the ideals of Lord Buddha and promote values of peace, accommodation, inclusiveness, and compassion in the policies and conduct of our governments.”
“To honour and deepen our links of Buddhist heritage, I have the great pleasure to announce that from August this year, Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi. This will ease travel to the land of Buddha for my brothers and sisters from Sri Lanka, and help you directly visit Sravasti, Kusinagar, Sankasa, Kaushambi and Sarnath.”
“The biggest challenge to Sustainable World Peace today is not necessarily from conflict between the nation states. It is from the mindsets, thought streams, entities and instruments rooted in the idea of hate and violence. The menace of terrorism in our region is a concrete manifestation of this destructive emotion.”
“These ideologies of hate and their proponents in our region are not open to dialogue and hence only open to causing death and destruction.I firmly believe that Buddhism's message of peace is the answer to growing arc of violence all over the world."
On 12 May 2017, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated a hospital in Dickoya in Central Province of Sri Lanka that was built with Indian assistance.
Kaniyan Pungunranar, a Tamil Scholar had declared more than two millennia ago, Yaathum Oore; Yavarum Kelir, meaning “Every town is hometown and all people are our kin”.
"You form an important link between Indian and Sri Lankan people and government... It is my Government’s priority to nurture these links."
Addressing a large gathering of Indian Origin Tamils at Norwood, in the presence of the Sri Lankan President, Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and a large number of community leaders, the Prime Minister spoke of the contributions of the Indian Origin Tamil community to Sri Lanka, and the long shared heritage between India and Sri Lanka.
"As some of you may have heard, I have a special association with tea. Chai pe Charcha, or discussions over tea, is not just a slogan. Rather, a mark of deep respect for the dignity and integrity of honest labour.”
"As part of the innovative Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka, 4000 houses are being constructed in upcountry areas. I am happy that for the first time, beneficiaries are also being given ownership of the land on which the houses are being built.To continue our commitment in this area, I am delighted to announce the construction of an additional ten thousand houses in upcountry areas under this project. "
"I am also pleased to announce that we have decided to extend the 1990 Emergency Ambulance Service, currently in operation in Western and Southern Provinces, to all the other Provinces as well.”.
Accompanied by President Sirisena, Prime Minister Modi visited the Dalada Maligawa Temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka where he offered floral prayers in sanctum sanctorum of the temple. He also announced gifting of 16000 candles as a special present by people of India to people of Sri Lanka besides unveiling a plaque for Faculty of Kandyan Dancing in Kandy.
"We rejoice in the success of the Indian-origin diaspora as they leave a mark across the world, near and far."