Kushinagar (Kushinara) is situated in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India is the final resting place of the Buddha. On a full moon day of Magh (Feb) in 543 BC the Buddha left his physical self and attained Mahaparinirvana.
Lord Buddha preached his doctrine for 45 years travelling from place to place. While delivering one such last sermon; the Buddha named Kushinagar as the site of his death or Mahaparinirvana. While staying at a village near Vaishali, the Buddha told Ananda that he was ill and had pain all over his body. The results of old age are telling on him now. The Buddha was eighty-one years of age at that time. However bearing all the illness with fortitude, The Buddha continued his journey with Ananda to Kushinagar passing by the village Pava. Here he eat a meal offered to him by a metalsmith’s son named Kunda, which further aggravated his illness. After reaching the Hiranyavati River, that lies south of Kushinagar, the Buddha realised that his end was very near. Here, between two pairs of Sal tree (Shorea robusta ), the Buddha rested on his right side in the lion posture with his head towards the north. The Buddha spoke to Ananda some advice on the principle of faith, some rules to be to be respected by the monks along with instructions on the disposal of his remains. The Buddha then looked quietly over the community and said, "Bhikkhus, listen carefully to what I now say: Dhammas are impermanent. where there is birth, death is inevitable. Be thorough in your efforts in attaining liberation. I proclaim to you all that all things are of a nature to decay – strive on tirelessly." After delivering these last words, The Buddha closed his eyes.
For the next 6 days The Buddha’s body was kept in state. Elaborate funeral preparations were carried out by the Mallas, (rulers of Kushinagar) under the supervision of Aniruddha, a follower and cousin of the Buddha. On the 7th day, the body was honored with garlands and perfumes and taken to the shrine sacred to the Mallas, the Mukutbandhana Chaitya (Rambhar Stupa), for cremation. The last rites were performed by Mahakashyapa, the most notable of Buddha’s disciples.
After the cremation was complete, the ashes were collected by the Mallas as relics and were distributed amongst the representatives from the eight Kingdoms which constituted ancient northern India. These relics were later subdivided by King Ashoka who decided upon building 84,000 stupas. Today these are enshrined in numerous stupas spread across Asia.
ATTRACTIONS IN KUSHINAGAR
Kushinagar (Kushinara), where Buddha attained Nirvana, was a minor town of the Mallas kingdom and was bordered by a dense forest cover of Sal trees. For two centuries following the Great Decease, Kushinagar however did not achieve any such importance. It was only during the visit of Ashoka the great that Kushinagar again came into prominence. Ashoka erected erected pillars and stupas at this site to commemorate the mahaparinirvana. All these have been testified by the Chinese pilgrims Fa-hsien and Hsuan-tsang who visited these sites and recorded the same in their memoires. Very little was known about Kushinagar since then and it remained unknown & hidden, until archaeologists, in late nineteenth century, rediscovered the site.
The Nirvana Stupa
This stupa standing directly behind the Mahaparinirvana Temple is built over the very place the Buddha attained final nirvana between the twin sal trees. The stupa was excavated in 1876 by Carlleyle, and is 2.74 m in height. A copper vessel found here contained the text of Nidan Sukta inscribed on it in Brahmi script and it also mentions that The Buddha's remains were deposited here. Several silver, gold and copper plate-inscriptions from the 8th century AD were also found inside, recording the identification of the monument. After restoration of the Stupa was comple, it was closed in 1927, after a ceremony conducted by 16 Buddhist priests.
Exactly in front of the Nirvana Stupa stands the Mahaparinirvana temple, inside which is the 6.10 m long statue of Lord Buddha in a reclining position which dates back to the 5th century. It represents the Dying Buddha resting on his right side with his face turned towards the west. In 1876 Carlleyle exposed this site and discovered the great statue. Although the statue appears to be made of gold, it is executed out of a single block of reddish sandstone. It is one of the very few representations of the Buddha’s final Nirvana ever found in northern India. The facial expression of Lord Buddha seems to change when viewed from different positions. From the front it looks like he is smiling; from behind the head, he looks like as if thinking; and viewed from his feet, it looks like he is dying.
About 200 m southwest of the Main Stupa can be found the Matha-kuar Shrine which houses an enormous statue of the Buddha meditating under the "Bodhi Tree". This black stone image of the Buddha measuring 3.05 m is seated in a pose known as " Bhumi Sparsh Mudra " (Earth touching gesture). This posture symbolically expresses the supreme moment in the Buddha’s life just before his enlightenment. It is believed that at this place The Buddha after he delivered his last sermon. The statue is locally called Matha-Kuar or the “dead prince”.
The Ramabhar Stupa (Makutabandhana-chaitya)
About 1.5 km east of the main Nirvana Temple on the Kushinagar-Deoria road is the Mukutbandhan-Chaitya or the Ramabhar Stupa, so called because of the nearby Ramabhar Lake. This Site marks the cremation place of the Buddha. The Stupa has a huge circular drum 34.14 m in diameter, and rests on a circular plinth consisting of two or more terraces 47.24 m in diameter at the base. The stupa rises to a height of 15.4 m.
Wat Thai Temple
One of the most beautiful temples in Kushinagar is the Wat Thai Temple. The Wat Thai Temple, can be seen from everywhere in Kushinagar which makes it all the more interesting. The Wat Thai temple is a huge temple complex, which has been constructed in the traditional Thai-Buddhist architectural style in memory of the accession of King Bhumibol to the throne of Thailand. This temple was originally constructed to be a forest monastery and as such it is situated amidst acres of sprawling greenery covering a huge area and surrounded by trees and plants.
The Japanese Temple in Kushinagar has been built by The Atago Isshin World Buddhist Cultural Association. There is a magnificent Ashta Dhatu or Eight Metals statue of Lord Buddha. This Ashta Dhatu statue of Lord Buddha was brought from Japan in a dismantled form and it was finally given a shape over here. The temple with a circular chamber contains the image of a golden Lord Buddha which is illuminated through stained glass window.