Prime Minister Modi will travel to Sri Lanka to attend the Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ (Buddha Jayanti) that commemorates birth, enlighten and death of Buddha. This will be Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Sri Lanka since becoming the Prime Minister. ‘International Day of Vesak’ celebrations will be held in Colombo from May 12 to 14. As a part of the celebrations, International Buddhist Conference will be held in which over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries will participate. Vesak is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar. This is the first time Sri Lanka will host the festival.
The Buddhist link between India and Sri Lanka dates back to 2nd century BC. During the reign of Emperor Ashoka, Buddhism was made as the official religion of India. Ashoka’s daughter Sanghamitta is believed to have brought a branch of original Bodh tree to Anuradhapura. Theravada Buddhism is widely practiced in Sri Lanka.
During last year Vesak celebrations held in Lumbini, China taking advantage of strained relation between New Delhi and Kathmandu partnered with Nepal to celebrate Vesak. China has been aggressively pursuing a strategy of staking claim to the legacy of Buddhism to boost its cultural influence. India to counter China’s strategy has been actively engaging with South East Asian countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos to showcase its heritage.