New Delhi(PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the International Buddha Purnima Diwas celebrations on Monday and offer prayers for the people affected by the earthquake in Nepal, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.
An ambitious proposal to transform the Buddha Stupa here into a centre dedicated to the life and teachings of the Buddha would also be discussed at the gathering which is to be attended by ambassadors, MPs, scholars and Buddhist monks from across the globe.
Announcing the "extraordinary" celebrations on Monday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that the "international community has always looked up to India for taking a lead as this is the country where Buddha attained enlightenment and where Buddhism was born".
Responding to queries from reporters, the minister, meanwhile, dismissed any notion that the event was aimed at delivering "political messages" across the border and said that organising it was "natural" on the part of India.
He rued that there had been little effort or government initiative to mark Buddha Purnima and said that the celebrations would be an annual affair from now on.
"It is going to begin from this year. It is incumbent upon India to take the lead. Buddhist countries look up to India for this guidance," he said. Only twice since Independence has Buddha Purnima been officially commemmorated, in 1956 and 2007.
Rijiju said that the Prime Minister will lead the nation in offering prayers for the people of earthquake-struck Nepal. Talking about the proposal to transform the Buddha Stupa on the Yamuna banks here into a centre of attraction for people from the world-over, he said a committee would be formed to implement the same.
Discussions have been held with the Prime Minister in this regard, he added. "We would like to ensure that it becomes a centre for understanding the life of Lord Buddha. We want to make it a place such that anybody visiting India would want to visit it," he said.
The Buddhist tradition regards Lumbini, in present-day Nepal, to be the birthplace of the Buddha.