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Modi inaugurates international airport in Kushinagar, a Buddhist site in UP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday with the landing of a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo that brought over 130 Buddhist monks and dignitaries to the city of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana.

NEW DELHI, Oct 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. Kushinagar being the place where Gautam Buddha attained 'Mahaparinirvan' (death), the new airport is expected to scale up international tourism as several countries in India's neighbourhood have Buddhism as a dominant religion.

The airport was inaugurated with the landing of a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo that brought over 130 Buddhist monks and dignitaries to the city of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana. The entourage included Sri Lankan Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, who is a nephew of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and also son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. It included a 12-member holy relic team as well.

"It (Kushinagar International Airport) is a great gesture of PM Modi and especially inviting Sri Lankan airlines to be the first international carrier to land at Kushinagar International Airport," Namal Rajapaksa, who arrived with a delegation of monks, said. The representatives from countries practising Buddhism were present at the Kushinagar inauguration function.

Kushinagar is the centre of a Buddhist pilgrimage circuit of Lumbini, Sarnath and Gaya. The airport will make travel smooth for foreign Buddhist pilgrims, especially from Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand and Nepal, apart from Sri Lanka.

"Kushinagar International Airport is the result of decades of hopes and expectations. My happiness is two-fold today. As curious about the spiritual journey, I have a sense of satisfaction. As a representative of the Purvanchal area, it is time for the fulfilment of a commitment," Modi said.

Among those present at the ceremony were Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other dignitaries.

The Kushinagar airport will begin scheduled commercial flights from November. This will be UP’s ninth airport. Built at a cost of Rs 260 crore, the airport can handle 300 passengers per hour.

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