PM Narendra Modi arrives in Sri Lanka, meets President Maithripala Sirisena

May 12, 2017, 09:51 IST | IANS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena here ahead of the "International Vesak Day" celebrations where the Indian leader will be the chief guest

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena ahead of the "International Vesak Day" celebrations where the Indian leader will be the chief guest.

"Delighted to meet President @MaithripalaS in Colombo," Modi tweeted soon after the meeting. On his part, Sirisena said in a tweet: "It is wonderful to meet this great human being @narendramodi in Colombo again. Thank you for gracing #InternationalVesakDay."

Modi, who arrived here earlier in the day on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, will be the chief guest at the UN-recognised 14th International Vesak Day, which is celebrated to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha. He will attend the opening ceremony of the Vesak Day celebrations here on Friday.

The visit follows an invitation from Sirisena. It is Modi's second trip to Sri Lanka as Prime Minister after March 2015. This is the first time that Sri Lanka will be hosting the International Vesak Day. The theme of the event is "Buddhist teachings for social justice and sustainable world peace".

Soon after his arrival, Modi took part in a traditional lamp lighting ceremony at a Buddhist temple here as part of the International Vesak Day celebrations. "In holy sanctum. PM @narendramodi visits Gangaramaya temple @ d famous Beira Lake, lights lamps @ temple on Vesak Day eve," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.

As Modi pressed a switch, the entire complex of the Gangaramaya temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, was lit up with colourful lights, which was followed by fireworks in the sky. According to India's state broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi, who was accompanied by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, also offered prayers at the temple.

The Gangaramaya temple was established in the late 19th century by one of the most famous scholar monks, Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumanagala Nayaka Thera. Its complex comprises the temple, the "seema malaka" or assembly hall for monks in the picturesque Beira Lake and a vocational training institute.

Modi will open an India-funded 150-bed multi-speciality hospital at Dickoya in the central hill district which is home to Tamil tea plantation workers of Indian origin. The Indian Prime Minister will also pray at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic at Kandy in central Sri Lanka. The golden-roofed Kandy temple houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic -- a tooth of Lord Buddha.

In Pallekele, Modi will unveil a plaque commemorating the foundation laying of the Faculty of Kandyan Dance at the Sri Lankan International Buddhist Academy that will be constructed with India's grant assistance. Although no bilateral talks are scheduled, the visit is expected to give fresh boost to India-Sri Lanka ties. Last month, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had visited India.

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