Kushinagar is the place that the Buddha chose for his Mahaparinirvana, or final exit from this earth. Kushinagar or Kushinara as it was then known was the capital of the Malla republic, one of the republican states of northern India during the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
During his lifetime the Master traversed the dusty plains of the Ganga valley, subsisting on whatever he collected as alms, and pausing to rest only during the rainy season. In 543 BC on the full moon night of Magh (January - February), the Master lectured to the Sangha at the village, Beluva, near Vaishali, on the impermanence of all living things, and said that his own life on earth was soon to end.
Makutabandhana, the cremation-site of Gautama Buddha's body
From Vaishali the Lord went to Pava, where a humble metalsmith, Chunda, invited the Sangha for a meal. Having tasted the food, the Master immediately realised that there was something wrong with it and asked Chunda to burry the rest so that others would not be harmed by it. Chunda was overcome with grief and guilt when he realised that his offering was the cause of the Master's fatal illness. But the Buddha consoled him saying that one who donates the Buddha's last meal acquires great merit.
The Buddha desired to leave his corporeal body at the Sal grove on the banks of the Hiranyavati River in Kushinagar. The Master asked the Sangha, whether anyone had any queries. Sakyamuni then uttered the last words, "Now, bhikshus, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay - strive on untiringly."
On a bed, which Ananda had prepared under two Sal (shorea robusta) trees, the Lord entered the sphere of No Nothingness then the sphere of Infinite Consciousness, then the sphere of Neither Perception, nor Non-Perception.
King and commoner, villager and townsman from far and near flocked to pay obeisance to the earthly remains of the Lord for the next six days. On the seventh day the Lord's person was bedecked with garlands and taken in a procession to the accompaniment of music. The revered bhikshu, Mahakashyapa lit the funeral pyre at Mukutabandha Vihara (Rambhar Stupa) in Kushinagar. Today not much remains of this stupa expect a large brick mound rising to a height of almost 15 metres set within a well-kept park.
Thereafter there ensued a war among eight great powers of north India for the possession of the holy relics. Finally the sacred relics were divided and encased in eight stupas in different parts of the country.
The Mahaparinirvana Temple
In 7th century AD, the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang lamented on the desolation of this sacred site. However he mentions the Mahaparinirvana Stupa. Thereafter Kushinagar sank into near oblivion, almost forgotten by the world until early this century.
The Mahaparinirvana temple enshrines a 6 metre long statue of the Buddha in the Parinirvana posture. Carved from black stone, the statue now looks metallic gold because of the application of gold leaves by pilgrims.
The best time to visit this temple is in the early hours of the evening, when the mellow light from the candles and the chanting of mantras render a sacred aura to the temple.
About 366 metres from the Mahaparinirvana temple is the small Mathakuar shrine, built on the spot where the Buddha delivered his last sermon. Here there is a black stone image of the Buddha in the bhumisparsha mudra built in the 5th century AD.
Other Attractions - Monasteries and Temples
There are several new monasteries and temples. The Sri Lanka -Japan monastery has an Ashta Dhatu (eight metals) statue of the Buddha flanked by Japanese - style portraits of his ten principal bhikshus. The oldest monastery in Kushinagar is the large Burmese Chandramani Bhikshu Bharamasala, which is next to the Chinese Temple with its marble images of the Buddha and the White Tara.
Next to the meditation centre of the Sri Lanka Japanese Foundation is the new Kushinagar Museum.
Location and Transport
Kushinagar is identified with the modern village of Kasia, 51 kms from Gorakhpur city, in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Gorakhpur - 51 kms
Lumbini via Gorakhpur - 176 kms
Kapilavastu - 148 kms
Gorakhpur - 51 kms
Varanasi - 280 kms
Kushinagar had a population of 17,982. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Kushinagar has an average literacy rate of 62%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 70%, and female literacy is 54%. In Kushinagar, 15% of the population is under 6 years of age.