Kushinagar is one the four most important pilgrimage sites in Buddhism, around 52 km from the town of Gorakhpur. It was earlier called Kusinara and was the capital of Malla kingdom. It is the place where Buddha attained parinirvana at the age of eighty. The followers of Buddhism wish to visit this place at least once in their lifetime. When Buddha was eighty years old he announced at the Capala shrine in Vaishali that his time was nearing the end. He announced that time has come for the cessation of his existence on this earth and it was time for his parinirvana. Buddha passed away on the full moon day of wesak month, near the river Hiranyawati. Buddha was lying on his right side between two sal trees with his head facing north when he was taking his last breath. The ruler of Kushinagar arranged for the cremation, and the last rites were carried out in accordance with the honor of a Chakravarti king. Buddha was cremated at the shrine of Mallas now called Ramabhar stupa, originally called Makutbandhana Cetiya. After his cremation, the relics were divided into eight equal parts and given to eight different clans who were in attendance to take their share. These relics were kept in eight relic stupas in different parts of the country.
Major Attractions in Kushinagar;
Mahaparinibbana Temple: The present temple at Kushinagar was built in 1956 by government of India to mark the 2500 years of Parinirvana of the Buddha. The renowned “Nirvana Buddha” statue is placed inside this Mahaparinibbana temple. This 5th century statue is 6.1 meter long and rests on a couch. The ruins of monasteries, built during the 1st century AD to 10th century AD could be seen around the temple.
Mahaparinibbana Stupa: The Mahaparinibbana Stupa stands immediately behind the Mahaparinibbana temple. This 40 feet high stupa was built by the Maurayan Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC. It was renovated in the early 20th century. Originally the height of this stupa was 200 feet and it enshrines the bodily relics of Buddha.
Cremation Stupa : On the seventh day after Buddha’s death, his body was carried for cremation to the place where the Malla kings used to be crowned. The cremation Stupa was built by the Mallas’ some time after cremation which was later renovated by king Asoka in 3rd century BC and again in the 5th century AD by the Gupta king Kumargupta. The stupa originally called Makutbandhana Cetiya, is now known as Ramabhar stupa to the locals. The ruins of an ancient Mukutabandhana monastery can be seen scattered around the cremation stupa.
Mathakunwar Shrine : The Mathakunwar shrine is located around 400 meters south west of the Mahaparinibban temple. Mathakunwar literally means “Dead Prince”. This shrine houses a 10.5 feet tall statue of Buddha in earth touching posture. This 10th century statue was carved out of a single piece of blue stone from Gaya region. Buddha took a brief rest at the site which is now known as Mathakunwar before leaving for the Upavattana sala grove , where he attained parinibban. Ruins of an ancient monastery can be seen around the main temple, built in 1927 by U Chandramani.
Buddhist monasteries in Kushinagar: Kushinagar is one of the four major centers of pilgrimage mentioned by Buddha himself and therefore attracts thousands of followers every year from different parts of world. Different countries have established the monasteries that can be visited in Kushinagar. The major monasteries recommended include the Myanmar monastery, the Japan temple, the Tibetan temple and the Sri Lankan temple.