Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pledged to develop Bodh Gaya as the spiritual capital of the Buddhist world and described the founder of the faith, Gautama Buddha, as one of the most important teachers in world history.
Modi is in Bodh Gaya, a town which is sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists, to attend the concluding event of the three-day Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness.
“We would develop (a) civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world,” Modi said at a symposium after offering prayers at the Mahabodhi Temple, which was targeted by terrorists in July 2013.
The temple complex houses the ‘holy bo tree’ under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
This is Modi’s first visit as Prime Minister to Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from capital Patna.
PM Modi in Bodh Gaya |Hinduism and Buddhism are an inseperable amalgam
“Buddha was a great preacher of equality, I would personally call India ‘Buddhist India’,” the Prime Minister said, referring to the religion’s influence in shaping the country socio-religious character.
He also said that Lord Krishna and Gautam Buddha were two great teachers, both of whom gave importance to principles.
Modi’s Gaya visit coincides with Janmashtami, a Hindu festival to celebrate the birth of Krishna.
Just before his arrival, Modi tweeted that he was feeling “blessed” as he is the first Prime Minister to visit the place after Jawaharlal Nehru.
Some glimpses from Mahabodhi Temple. Feeling very blessed. pic.twitter.com/VF8oBml7EN— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 5, 2015
Earlier, Modi was received by the Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind and minister Shyam Razak at the Gaya’s airport.
According to police officials, Bodh Gaya has been turned into a fortress and a 16-member Special Protection Group (SPG) team has been monitoring the security arrangements.