Colombo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day state visit to Sri Lanka, on Friday participated in the International Vesak Day celebrations here, the biggest festival of Buddhists.
PM Modi, who is the chief guest, arrived on Friday morning at the venue and was received by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe amid traditional fanfare.
While addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister announced that from August this year, Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi.
"My Tamil brothers and sisters will also be able to visit Varanasi, the land of Kashi Viswanath," PM Modi said.
I believe we are at a moment of great opportunity in our ties with Sri Lanka: PM
The PM assured the Sri Lankans that India will be great a friend and partner that will support in nation-building endeavours.
"Lord Buddha’s message is as relevant in the 21st century as it was two and a half millennia ago," PM Modi said, adding that "The themes of Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace, chosen for the Vesak day, resonate deeply with Buddha's teachings."
"The biggest challenge to Sustainable World Peace today is not necessarily from conflict between the nation states, bit it is from the mindsets, thought streams, entities and instruments rooted in the idea of hate and violence," PM asserted.
"On Vesak let us light the lamps of knowledge to move out of darkness; let us look more within and uphold nothing else but the truth," PM Modi told the Sri Lankans.
The Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha.
The visit follows an invitation from Sirisena. It is Modi's second trip to Sri Lanka as Prime Minister after March 2015.