A controversy erupted on Sunday, a day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar described Gautama Buddha as one of the greatest Indians ever, PTI reported. Nepal objected to Jaishankar’s comment and said that the country is the land of Buddha’s origin.
Anurag Srivastava, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said Jaishankar’s remarks were about the shared Buddhist heritage of the two countries. “There is no doubt that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal,” he added.
Addressing a Confederation of Indian Industries event on Saturday, Jaishankar referred to Buddha while discussing India’s soft power, according to The Hindu. “Who are the greatest Indians ever that you can remember,” he asked. “I would say one is Gautama Buddha and the other is Mahatma Gandhi.”
Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Lumbini is one of the UNESCO or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation world heritage sites. “It is a well-established and undeniable fact proven by historical and archaeological evidence that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal,” the official spokesperson of the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It added that Buddhism spread from Nepal to other parts of the world and the matter is not controversial. “During his visit to Nepal in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, addressing Nepal’s Parliament said, Nepal is the country where the apostle of peace in the world, Buddha, was born,” the statement said.
Former Nepal Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said Jaishankar’s comments about Buddha were “mischievous”. Nepali Congress spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma also took strong exception to the remark. “Lord Buddha was born in Nepal,” he tweeted. “We have reservations toward the Indian foreign minister Jaishankar’s statement against historical facts that the land is in today’s Nepal.”
Nepal’s former Foreign Secretary Madhu Raman Acharya tweeted: “Some 2270 years ago, Indian Emperor Ashok erected a pillar at Lumbini in Nepal to mark the birthplace of Buddha. That monument stands taller than any self-aggrandizing claim to say that Buddha was an Indian.”