Coming to Pava, the blacksmith's son Kunda offered
him a meal which included meat. It is said that all the buddhas
of this world eat a meal containing meat on the eve of their passing
away. Buddha accepted, but directed that no one else should partake
of the food. Later it was learned that the meat was bad. He told
Ananda that the merit created by offering an enlightened one his
last meal is equal to that of offering food to him just prior to
Between Pava and Kushinagar the Buddha rested near a village through
which a caravan had just passed. The owner of the caravan, a Malla
nobleman, came and talked to the Buddha. Deeply moved by Shakyamuni's
teachings, he offered the Buddha two pieces of shining gold cloth.
However, their lustre was completely outshone by Shakyamuni's radiance.
It is said that a buddha's complexion becomes prodigiously brilliant
on both the eve of his enlightenment and the eve of his decease.
The next day, when they arrived at the banks of the Hiranyavati
river south of Kushinagar, the Buddha suggested that they should
go to the caravan leader's sala grove. There, between two pairs
of unusually tall trees, Shakyamuni lay down on his right side in
the lion posture with his head to the north. Ananda asked if Rajgir
or Shravasti, both great cities, would perhaps be more fitting places
for his passing. The Buddha replied that in an earlier life as a
bodhisattva king this had been Kushavati his capital, and at that
time there had been no fairer nor more glorious city.
The noblemen of Kushinagar, informed of the Buddha's impending
death, came to pay him respect. Among them was Subhadra, an 120-year-old
brahmin who was much respected, but whom Ananda had turned away
from the monkhood three times. However, the Buddha called the brahmin
to his side, answered his questions concerning the six erroneous
doctrines, and revealed to him the truth of the buddhist teaching.
Subhadra asked to join the Sangha and was thus the last monk to
be ordained by Shakyamuni. Subhadra then sat nearby in meditation,
swiftly attained arhantship and entered parinirvana shortly before
As the third watch of the night approached, the Buddha asked his
disciples thrice if there were any remaining perplexities concerning
the doctrine or the discipline. Receiving silence, he gave them
the famous exhortation: "Impermanence is inherent in all things.
Work out your own salvation with diligence." Then, passing
through the meditative absorptions, Shakyamuni Buddha entered mahaparinirvana.
The earth shook, stars shot from the heavens, the sky in the ten
directions burst forth in flames and the air was filled with celestial
music. The master's body was washed and robed once more, then wrapped
in a thousand shrouds and placed in a casket of precious substances.
For seven days, offerings were made by gods and men, after which,
amidst flowers and incense, the casket was carried to the place
of cremation in great procession. Some legends say that the Mallas
offered their cremation hall for the purpose. A pyre of sweetly
scented wood and fragrant oils had been built but, as had been foretold,
it would not burn until Mahakashyapa arrived. When the great disciple
eventually arrived, made prostrations and paid his respects, the
pyre burst into flames spontaneously.
After the cremation had been completed the ashes were examined
for relics. Only a skull bone, teeth and the inner and outer shrouds
remained. The Mallas of Kushinagar first thought themselves most
fortunate to have received all the relics of the Buddha's body.
However, representatives of the other eight countries that constituted
ancient India also came forth to claim them. To avert a conflict,
the brahmin Drona suggested an equal, eightfold division of the
relics between them. Some accounts state that in fact Shakyamuni's
remains were first divided into three portions - one each for the
gods, nagas and men - and that the portion given to humans was then
subdivided into eight. The eight peoples each took their share to
their own countries and the eight great stupas were built over them.
In time these relics were again subdivided after Ashoka had decided
to build 84,000 stupas. Today they are contained in various stupas
scattered across Asia.
In later times Fa Hien found monasteries at Kushinagar, but when
Hsuan Chwang came, the site was almost deserted. Hsuan Chwang did
see an Ashoka stupa marking Kunda's house, the site of Buddha's
last meal. Commemorating the mahaparinirvana was a large brick temple
containing a recumbent statue of Buddha. Beside this was a partly
ruined Ashoka stupa and a pillar with an inscription describing
the event. Two more stupas commemorated former lives of the Buddha
at the place. Both Chinese pilgrims mention a stupa where Shakyamuni's
protector Vajrapani threw down his sceptre in dismay after Buddha's
death, and some distance away a stupa at the place of cremation
and another built by Ashoka where the relics were divided.
Kushinagar was rediscovered and identified before the end of the
last century. Excavations have revealed that a monastic tradition
flourished here for a long time. The remains of ten different monasteries
dating from the fourth to the eleventh centuries have been found.
Most of these ruins are now enclosed in a park, in the midst of
which stands a modern shrine housing a large recumbent figure of
the Buddha. This statue was originally made in Mathura and installed
at Kushinagar by the monk Haribhadra during the reign of King Kumaragupta
(415-56 CE), the alleged founder of Nalanda Monastery. When discovered
late in the last century the statue was broken but it has now been
restored. Behind this shrine is a large stupa dating from the Gupta
age. This was restored early in this century by the Burmese. Not
far away a small temple built on the Buddha's last resting place
in front of the sala grove has also been restored. Some distance
east a large stupa, now called Ramabhar, remains at the place of
On one side of the park a former Chinese temple has been reopened
as an international meditation centre. Next to it stands a large
Burmese temple. On the south side of the park is a small Tibetan
monastery with stupas in the Tibetan style beside it. Thus also
at Kushinagar one can see dharmic activities alive even today.
The visiting sites of Kushinagar fall in three categories : The
Mahaparinirvana Temple, commemorating the place of the great decease
with a reclining statue of Lord Buddha, Mata Kunwar Shrine contains
a 10th Century blue schist image of Buddha and; Rambhar Stupa, which
is supposedly the spot where Lord Buddha was cremated and his relics
divided into eight equal parts. Apart from this, a Chinese Temple,
a Buddhist Temple, a Tibetan Temple and the Indo-Japan-Srilanka
Buddhist Center hold significant religious value for pilgrims.
Best time to visit
From October to April
Kushinagar is 55 km away from Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur is a district
of Uttar Pradesh and well connected to all major cities by rail.
One can also take the road, if so desired. Gorakhpur is connected
to all major cities of Uttar Pradesh by road.