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Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Wednesday, 02 January 2008
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Kushinagar: Gotama Buddha entry’s to Parinibbana (Parinirvana)

“Ananda: you may think: ‘The teacher’s instruction has ceased, now we have no teacher!’ But it should not be seen like this. Let the Dhamma and the discipline that I have taught and explained to you be the teacher after my passing.” “Now, Bhikkhus, I say to you – all conditioned things are of the nature to decay – strive on untiringly.”

vayadhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha

Present Day – Kushinnagar

Kushinagar (Kushinara) is near the present day Kasia town, and easily reached by road, 55 km east on the NH28 from Gorakhpur of UP State, which has a railway station and small airport.

Historical Facts

As soon as Gotama had spoken his last few words uttered as above before his entry to Parinibbana (Parinirvana) and closed his eyes, those who were not yet enlightened wept and cried. The earth shook. Sal blossoms fell like rain. Everyone felt their minds and bodies tremble. They knew the Buddha had passed into nirvana. As desired by the Buddha, for the next six days, the Malla Kings of Kushinagar prepared for the funeral rites under the direction of Ashin Anuruddha. On the seventh day of Mahaparinibbana, the last cremation rite was performed by Ashin Mahakassapa (Mahakasyapa), the most celebrated disciple of Gotama Buddha, at the cremation site.. After the cremation, the relics and ashes were collected and distributed to Malla Kings and other representatives of the Kingdoms presented at the ceremony. Mallas Kings also erected a stupa - Makutabandhana-ceti (Rambhar Stupa) at the place of the cremation of Buddha.

After two centuries, Mauryan King Ashoka visited Kushinagar. He had built stupas with Buddha relics, and erected a pillar to mark the place of Mahaparinibbana. Both Chinese pilgrims – Fa-hsien (3rd century) and Hsuan-Tsiang (6th century), who visited this sites in Kushinagar, mentioned that the place had many stupas, monastic buildings, two pillars and several holy spots, but the area was almost deserted. Sir Alexander Cunningham, the Archaeological Surveyor of India, who visited Kushinagar in 1861-62, confirmed that it was an exact place where the Buddha entered Mahaparinibbana. After 15 years, his assistant, ACL Carlleyle made extensive excavations, but not able to find any major proof.

kushinagar-parinibbana-web.jpgIt was only in 1904-12, the excavations in the same area by J.Ph Vogel and H Shastri, unfolded numerous brick buildings, monuments,. light seals and copper plate inscription, mentioning a Mahaparinibbana Vihara and a Parinibbana Ceti. Major renovation and restorations in and around Kushinagar Mahaparinibbana sites were largely due to the efforts of Myanmar Sayadaws – Venerable Bhikku Mahawira, Ashin U Chandramani and their successor Venerable U Nyanissara. A first Myanmar Buddhist Temple was built by Sayadaw Mahavira (an Rakhine-Barua Buddhist monk) at the donation of a plot of land and money for building by a Rakhine family in 1900. Sayadaw Mahavira was joined by a young novice from Rakhine, Myanmar, Shin Chandramani, who later took over as Chief Resident Monk in 1920. In 1969, the ailing Sayadaw U Chandramani handed over the management of the Kushinagar Monastery and related works to Venerable U Nyanissara. Successive Chief Resident Monks of Kushinagar Myanmar Buddhist Vihara had maintained the archaeological treasures as well as maintenance of Buddhism in and around Kushinagar. Venerable U Chandramani had initiated, since 1924, the annual festival of full-moon day Kasone (May/June) for water pouring to the Bodhi tree on the occasion of birth anniversary of the Buddha, which is a popular event and attracts visitors of both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in and around Kushinagar. In 1956, coinciding with the 2500 years of Buddha’s birthday celebration, this festival was named “Buddha Jayanti”, and with the support of Indian Government, similar celebrations spread to other places. The annual Buddha Jayanti festival events is still conducted every year in May/June till today.

Nirvana Temple and Stupa

kushinagar_nirvana_temple-web.jpgThe Government of India had renovated the Nirbbina (Nirvana) Temple in 1956 on the occasion of the Buddha’s 2500th birthday celebration, just in front of the main Nirbbana stupa, built over the very place where Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinibbana. The stupa was originally built by Malla Kings and successively renovated by several kings and well-wishers from India and elsewhere. The inscription on the copper vessel excavated from this stupa site indicated that it was the actual place of Nibbana Ceti. The present form of the stupa was restored in 1927 by Venerable U Chandramani, Chief Resident Monk of Kushinagar Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, with donations from U Po Kyu and U Po Hlaing of Myanmar.

kushinaga-reclining-web.jpgIn the main Nirbbana Temple, a reclining Buddha statue, with the length of 6.1 metre curved out of a single block of reddish sandstone, represents the dying Buddha declining peacefully on his right side with the head towards the north, the face turning towards the west, the right hand being placed under the head, and the left hand resting on the thigh. Whole body was covered with the golden robe and the feet seem to be puffy.

The plinth underneath the Buddha statue has three small figures on its west side. The figure on the left is a crying human figure, probably depicting the grief of Malls Kings. The figure in the centre shows a monk meditating with his back to the viewer. Another figure on the right shows a monk resting his head on right hand overcome with grief. Both probably represent the monks who remained calm and those who cried at the Buddha’s Parinirvana.

Original statue may have been built by a monk “Hiribala” in 5th century CE, and donated to this Temple, as described in the inscription at the pedestal of the statue. This statue was seen and described in the same manner by Huien Tsaing who visited around 5th century. The Archaeologist Carlleyle, who excavated the Nirvana Temple in 1876, found this Buddha statue completely smashed, but he restored and repaired to its original shape.

Dhatu-ceti (Cremation Stupa)

kushinaga-datu_ceti-web_copy.gifNearly 2 km proceeding from the Nirvana Temple, on the main road down south, is the Makutabandhana-cedi or the Dhatu-ceti (Cremation Stupa), which marked the site of cremation of Buddha’s body. Being nearby is the Ramabhar Lake, the stupa was also called as “Ramabhar Stupa”. It is a huge circular, drum-shape, about 34 metres in diameter and rests on a circular plinth that consisted of two or more terraces about 47 metres in diameter at the base. It has a height of 15.4 metres.

A replica of Dhatu-ceti (Kunwarkakot Matha) was built at a place about 2.5 km west of the existing stupa with a huge seated Buddha. The replica was constructed on the archetypal principle of the cosmic, representing the five gross elements of the organic life: the earth (the square base), air (the sphere), flame (triangular up-thrust), water (the crescent), and the ether (the conical dome).

Matha-kuar Shrine and Temple

About 200 meters southwest of the Nirbbana Temple, proceeding south down the main road, is the Matha-kaur Shrine and Temple, where a colossal statue of the Buddha is installed. According to the local legions, this is believed to be the actual site where the Buddha died after he delivered his last sermon. The name of the stupa implies the “dead prince”. The statue was found by the Archaeologist Carlleyle in late 1870s, as broken pieces, and being restored. Existing temple was built by Myanmar pilgrims in 1927 to shelter the statue.

Buildings around the Nirvana Temple and Stupa

Myanmar-Rakhine Sayadaw Mahawira, with donation from Rakhine Merchant U Kyi Zayi (Khee Zarhee) of Calcutta, purchased a plot of land in 1990, and built the first Myanmar Buddhist Vihara in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India. Sayadaw Mahawira passed away in 1920 at the age of 85, and was succeeded by Venerable U Chandramani, who became the Head Sayadaw of Kushinagar Myanmar Buddhist Vihara. Starting from a small temple and rest house built in 1900 by Venerable Mahavira, many buildings including health clinic, have been expanded mostly in late 1950s by venerable U Chandramani. One of the oldest building was ‘Chandramani Bhikku Dhammasala’.

Successor to U Chandramani, Chief Abbot U Nyaneinda expanded more structures mainly rest houses for pilgrims, Chanthargyi Ceti - a replica of Shwedagon Ceti of Yangon, a new Ordination Hall, extension of kitchen and dining facilities. Sayadaw also renovated the existing structures to reflect the traditional Myanmar architecture, and improvements are also made to have adequate water supply, sanitation, electricity, cooking facility and transportation.

There are numerous Buddhist monasteries of various Buddhist countries, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Japan and Tibet, and a Museum.

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 March 2011 )
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