Kushinagar or Kusinara is a town located at a distance of 54 km from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana after his death.
It attracts visitors from across the globe, especially from the Asian countries and many people make it a point to visit this place at least once in their lifetime.
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Kushinagar is one of the four major places in the Buddhist circuit where Buddha is said to have lived. The other sites are Lumbini, Sarnath and Bodhgaya. It was a celebrated centre of the Malla kingdom of ancient India.
By Air: The nearest airport is the Gorakhpur airport, which has flights operating to all the major cities across the country.
By Road: Kushinagar is well connected by road. It is located on the NH 28 which connects the town to other parts of the city. Kushinagar is at a distance of 246 km from Varanasi, 323 km from Lucknow and 54 km from Gorakhpur.
The present Kushinagar was known as Kushwati in the pre-Buddha period and Kushinara when Buddha lived here. Kushinara was the capital of the Mallas and was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas of the 6th century BC.
Since then it has remained an important part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta and Harsha dynasties. In the medieval period, Kushinagar was under the control of the Kultury Kings. It continued to be a living city until the 12th century AD, after which it was lost in darkness.
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Many of the ruined stupas and viharas at Kushinagar date back to the 3rd century and the 5th century AD when prosperity was at its peak. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka is known to have contributed to significant construction at this site.
Prior to its rediscovery in the 19th century, there was a silence of more than half a millennium which is believed to be because of the violent invasions. The place lost its vitality and eventually was neglected.
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Excavations began in the late 1800s and many important remains were rediscovered. The Matha Kuar and Ramabhar stupa were unveiled. The notable Buddha Temple was covered in a 40-foot high mound of bricks along with dense thorny forests when it was discovered.
This temple was rebuilt in 1926 and is set amongst extensive lawns and ancient excavated ruins with a circumambulatory path. The stupa houses the 5th century reclining Buddha which was unearthed in 1876.
The statue made out of red sandstone measures 6 m and depicts Buddha on his death bed. The statue is seen reclining on his right side and his face is towards the west; it is also one of the world's most moving Buddhist icons.
At sunset, the monks here cover the statue till its shoulders with a long saffron-coloured silk sheet, as though putting Buddha to sleep for the night.
2. Nirvana Chaitya (Main Stupa)
It is located just behind the Main Parinirvana Temple. It was excavated by Carlleyle in the year 1876. During the excavation, a copper plate was found which had an inscription with a text of the Nidana Sutra. It reveals that the plate was deposited by someone by the name Haribala, who also installed the great Nirvana Statue of Buddha in the temple front.
The half-ruined 15 m high stupa resembles a large dome-shaped cluster of red bricks. There is an aura about this place which is very hard to ignore. It is said this is where Buddha's body is said to have been cremated.
The white octagonal temple is covered by a beautiful golden spire. There is a peaceful vibe and there are some unusual statues which surround the temple.
5. Matha Kuar Shrine
This is a small shrine amidst the ruins, which marks the spot where Buddha gave his final sermon. The shrine houses a 10 ft tall Buddha statue carved out of a blue stone, which is said to have been erected in the 10th century AD.