The contemporary structure will house prayer halls, meditation centres, libraries, and exhibition halls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba laid the foundation stone for the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage in Nepal's Lumbini Monastic Zone on Monday.

Once completed, the centre will be a world-class venue that will welcome pilgrims and visitors from all over the globe to experience the soul of Buddhist spirituality, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), New Delhi, will build the centre on land given by the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) in March 2022, as part of an agreement agreed upon between IBC and LDT. It is being constructed at the initiative of the International Buddhist Confederation, New Delhi, the MEA said.

The two Prime Ministers also displayed a model of the Centre after the shilanyas ritual, which was conducted by monks from three major Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.

Prayer halls, meditation centres, libraries, exhibition halls, cafeterias, offices, and other facilities will be housed in a contemporary structure that will be NetZero compliant in terms of energy, water, and waste disposal.

Prime Minister Modi landed in Lumbini, Nepal earlier in the day for an official visit on the auspicious occasion of Buddha Jayanti. This is his fifth visit to Nepal as Prime Minister and his first to Lumbini.

"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 tweeted.

Along with his Nepali counterpart, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and his spouse, Dr Arzu Rana Deuba, PM Modi then visited the Mayadevi Temple as the first stop of his one-day visit to Lumbini.

The leaders visited the Marker Stone within the temple grounds, which marks the precise location of Lord Buddha's birth. They attended the puja (prayer) that was conducted as per Buddhist rituals.

Later on, they also lighted lanterns at the Ashoka Pillar, which is located next 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 Prime Ministers watered the Bodhi tree sapling from Bodh Gaya which was gifted by PM Modi to Lumbini in 2014 and also signed the temple's visitor’s book, the MEA said.