Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to visit Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura during his trip to the island nation next month, a move aimed at pushing India’s soft power and projecting the country’s Buddhist links in the region.
Officials said that Modi could reach Colombo on March 12 or 13 as part of a four-nation tour and pay a visit to Jaffna on March 14, adding that the prime minister is also planning to visit Trincomalee where India is constructing a power plant.
India is trying to include in the itinerary a brief visit to Anuradhapura, a World Heritage Site and Sri Lanka’s capital from 4th century BC to 11th Century AD, which has also been a centre of Theraveda Buddhism for ages.
Anuradhapura, in north-central Sri Lanka, where Emperor Ashoka’s son Mahendra delivered two public speeches on Buddhism in 3rd century BC, is the first place where people beyond the shores of India embraced Buddhism.
“The PM’s visit there will be in keeping with India’s outreach to project Buddhist links in the region and beyond,” an official said. “This increases people-to-people contact and helps push soft power in countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia which have a Buddhist heritage. India has been trying to attract tourists to its own Buddhist sites from Sri Lanka, and Southeast and East Asia.”
India in August 2012 took Kapilavastu Relics preserved in Delhi’s National Museum to Sri Lanka.
A large number of Buddhists offered prayers before the relics when it arrived there. India has been trying to make Buddhism the centrepiece of cultural engagement in parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia amid China’s move to also project its Buddhist heritage, an expert said.
With the introduction of Buddhism, architecture in Anuradhapura gained more prominence. (Times of India)