Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday arrived in Nepal for a brief visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, and also hold comprehensive talks with his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba to expand bilateral cooperation in multiple areas, including in hydropower, development and connectivity.
After landing, Modi visited the sacred Maya Devi Temple as the first stop of his one-day visit to Lumbini.
Modi offered prayers at the Maya Devi temple on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.
He was accompanied by his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba and his spouse Dr Arzu Rana Deuba during his visit to the historic temple, the birth place of Gautam Buddha.
“Beginning the Nepal visit with prayers at the sacred Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini,” the Prime Minister's Office tweeted.
“On the auspicious occasion of Buddha Purnima, both Prime Ministers offered pooja and prayers at the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini, the birth place of Gautam Buddha,” Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter.
The leaders paid their respects at the Marker Stone inside the temple premises, which pinpoints the exact birth spot of Lord Buddha. They attended the pooja conducted as per Buddhist rituals, it said.
The two Prime Ministers also lit lamps near the Ashoka Pillar located adjacent to the temple.
The pillar, which was erected by emperor Ashoka in 249 BC, bears the first epigraphic evidence of Lumbini being the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
Thereafter, the two leaders watered the Bodhi tree sapling from Bodh Gaya which was gifted by Modi to Lumbini in 2014 and also signed the temple's visitor's book.
“A timeless bond of friendship… Prime Ministers @narendramodi and @SherBDeuba at the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini,” the PMO tweeted along with a picture of Prime Minister Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Deuba watering the Bodhi tree sapling.
Modi, who is in the Himalayan nation at the invitation of Deuba, is paying a day-long visit to Lumbini on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.
"Landed in Nepal. Happy to be among the wonderful people of Nepal on the special occasion of Buddha Purnima. Looking forward to the programmes in Lumbini," Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter upon his arrival.
He was received by Deuba in Lumbini.
“I would like to thank PM @SherBDeuba for the warm welcome in Lumbini,” Modi said in a tweet.
It is the prime minister's fifth visit to Nepal since 2014.
Modi and his entourage arrived in Lumbini on a special Indian Air Force helicopter from Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
Lumbini, located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal, is one of the holiest places of Buddhism, as Lord Buddha was born there.
During the visit, he will deliver an address at the Buddha Jayanti celebrations organised by the Lumbini Development Trust.
The visiting Prime Minister will also participate in the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a centre for Buddhist Culture and heritage within the Lumbini Monastic Zone. PTI AKJ
Deuba was in Delhi last month in his first bilateral visit abroad after becoming prime minister for the fifth time in July 2021.
During the visit, which was aimed at injecting fresh momentum into bilateral ties, Deuba held talks with Modi on a number of key issues, including the boundary issue.
Nepal is important for India in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region, and the leaders of the two countries have often noted the age-old "Roti-Beti" relationship.
The landlocked Himalayan nation shares a border of over 1,850 kms with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services.