Place where the Lord Buddha passed away – [Kushinagar]
How to reach there:
Kusinara or Kushinagar is in the Kasia village situated in the Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh. By road Kushinagar is 130km south of Lumbini, 250km east of Sravasti and 250km north of Patna.
Three months before reaching the age of eighty, the Lord Buddha left Vesali and traveling in stages via Pava, where he had his last meal offered by the smith Cunda, reached the final resting place at the Sala grove of Mallas by the bank of Hirannawati river in Kushinagar. There on the full moon day Wesak 543BC, the Buddha passed into Mahaparinibbhana – the Ultimate – the passing away into Nibbana. His last convert was the wandering ascetic Subaddha. His last words were:
“Handa dani bhikkave amantayami vo;
Vaya- dhamma sankara. Appamadena Sampadetha”
(“Indeed , bhikkus , I declare this to you: It is the nature of all conditioned things to perish. Accomplish all your duties with mindfulness’)
His body was taken to the shrine of Mallas called Makutabandhana. The funereal pyre could not be lit until the arrival of Ven. Mahakassapa to pay his respect. After the cremation the relics were divided into eight equal portions by the brahamin Dona,who distributed them to 8 clans, namely;
- King Ajasattu of Magadha
- The Litchchavis of Vesali
- Sakkyans of Kapilavattu
- The Bulians of Allakappa
- The Kolians of Ramagama
- The brahaman of Vethadipa
- The Mallas of Pava
- The Mallas of Kushinagar
Dona himself kept the urn used for dividing the relics. When the Moriyas of Pipphalavana arrived, it was too late as all the relics had been distributed, so they took the ashes. On their return they raised Stupas to honour them. As such there were eight Stupas for the relics, a ninth for the urn and a tenth for the ashes.
Though Kushinagar was a small town then, after the Parinibbhana of the Buddha, it became an important religious centre as Buddhism spread in India. King Asoka visited Kushinagar in 249BC and raised several Stupas and pillars at the site. But by the time Hsuan Tsang visited, – 637AD, the place was in ruins and the town and villages were desolate with few inhabitants. Yet Kushinagar continued to be a living shrine until the 12th century. After the Muslim conquest of India it became deserted and forgotten.
In 1861 – 1862 Cunningham visited the ruins of Kasia and identified the place as the site of Buddhas’ Mahaparinbbhana. In 1876 his assistant Carllelyle, on excavations, exposed the Main Stupa and the Reclining Buddha image buried among the ruins.
In recent times, the first Buddhist to occupy Kushinagar was the Ven. Mahavira, an Indian national ordained in Sri Lanka in 1890. He restored Kusinara to its rightful place. He was followed by Ven. Chandramani from Myanmar and continued the good work of his predecessor establishing educational institutions for the local people and reviving the tradition of Buddha Jayanthi with a celebration in 1924. Ven. Gayaneshwar, his successor, also from Myanmar, continued the noble task of taking care of the holy site.
Objects of interest
- Mahaparinibbhana Temple
The present temple was built by the Indian Govt: in 1956 as part of the commemoration of the 2500th yr. of Mahaparinibbhana or 2500BE [Buddhist Era]. Inside this temple one can see the Reclining Buddha image.
The statue is 6.1m long and rests on a stone couch . It has been excavated out of a single block of red sandstone during the Gupta period. Carlleyle discovered it in a dilapidated condition and successfully pieced together the fragments. This statue marks the 32 marks of the Great Men [Mahapurisa] and can evoke different feelings in the minds depending on where one is standing:
- In front of the face, one can discern a smiling mood
- Near the middle part of the body , one would discern a mood of suffering
- At the feet, one can discern the calm and serenity in the face
- Mahaparinibbhana Stupa [Nirvana Stupa]
This one located beside the Mahaparinibbhana Temple, is a restoration of the Main stupa exposed during the excavations of Carlyle in 1876. It is believed to be originally erected by the Mallas to enshrine the Buddha’s relics and subsequently enlarged by king Asoka and later also during the Gupta period. It is likely that the Nirvana Stupa was built on the site where the Buddha passed in to Mahaparinibbhana for devotees to worship long before the Buddha images came into existence although another theory states that Parinibbhana took place at the site of the Reclining Buddha.
- Matha Kuwara Shrine – After taking the last meal offered by the smith
Cunda, the Lord Buddha fell sick. Although the distance from Pava to Kushinagar was 3 gauvas or about 10km, it took great effort and he stopped at 25 places to rest. Thus comes sickness to a man, crushing all his health. As the Buddha wanted to point out this fact, he spoke these words which aroused religious urgency [Samvega]— ‘ I am wearied and would rest awhile “
At the last place of rest, close to Upavanatta Sala grove, Buddha had to ask Ven. Ananda three times before the latter would go to nearby stream to fetch some water to drink. Why Ven. Ananda did not go at first was, the stream had got muddy due to crossing of many carts. At the third request Ven. Ananda went to the stream and finding that water had got cleared brought some potable water.
A shrine has been built at this place with a colossal Buddha image in earth touching posture [bhumi- phassa mudra]. The statue is 3.05m tall and carved out of one block of blue sandstone and is about 1000yrs. old. The place is Matha Kuwara which literally means “ forehead position”, which is what devotees do when they visit this shrine.
- Cremation Stupa or Makutabandhana Cetiya
After paying homage to the body of the Buddha for six days, the Mallas carried it to the Makuta- bandhana, the traditional place for crowning their chieftain , where they cremated it . The cremation ceremony is described in Mahaparinibbhana Sutta. The cremation Stupa was erected by the Mallas after sometime later and was repaired by king Asoka in the third century and again during king Kumaragupta’s reign in the 5th century. When Cunningham visited the site in 1861- 62 it was a big mound. On subsequent excavations the hidden stupa, and a large no. of clay seals inscribed with Buddhist verses were discovered which confirmed that it was the cremation site. Located about 1.6km east of Matha Kuwara Shrine along the main road , the area around the stupa has now being planted with grass and is well maintained.
- Buddhist Monasteries in Kushinagar
With the construction of several monasteries and other modern facilities in Kushinagar in the recent times, the pilgrims could visit the Viharas, namely;
Japan-Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple
They could pay respect and seek the assistance of the monks to learn more about the holy site.