Bodh Gaya (Bihar), Dec 29 (PTI): Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on Friday met the Dalai Lama at Bodh Gaya where the Tibetan spiritual leader is on an annual retreat after a gap of two years.
Kumar reached the Tibetan Monastery, where the Nobel Peace Prize winner is staying, at 12.40 pm, and received a warm welcome from the octogenarian with whom he spent close to half an hour.
After the meeting, Kumar proceeded towards the Maha Bodhi temple, situated at the site where the Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment.
The temple was closed to the general public in view of VIP movement, and elaborate security arrangements were in place.
Emerging from the temple after offering prayers and spending some time close to the Bodhi tree, under which Buddha is said to have meditated, Kumar responded to queries from journalists.
“Every year, during this time, a large number of people visit Bodh Gaya where they offer prayers and listen to the preachings. The age-old tradition could not be followed for the last two years because of the pandemic. Thankfully, it has resumed, although we are alert because of the fresh spike in covid cases reported from other parts of the world,” he told reporters.
“I have been told that the number of people visiting Bodh Gaya is in lakhs. It is a matter of joy and pride for us. But because of the recent spurt, officials have been instructed to test foreign nationals,” he added.
The Bihar CM also recounted the “old and deep relationship” he shared with the Dalai Lama, who “has visited Patna in the past on my invitation and agreed to inaugurate a Buddhist museum coming up in Vaishali district which may be thrown open to the public in a few months”.
He said he would be back in Bodh Gaya soon as part of a state-wide “yatra” commencing on January 5, as part of which he would seek to raise awareness against social evils and mobilise public opinion in favour of abstinence from alcohol.
Replying to a query, he said, “The death of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother came as sad news. I had sent a condolence message no sooner than I learnt about it in the morning.”
The JD(U) leader was asked about the BJP claiming that he would soon be upstaged by his deputy Tejashwi Yadav, the heir apparent of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, in 2023.
“What do I say about this? But they may keep themselves happy with the thought,” said the longest-serving chief minister of the state, evoking peals of laughter.