Buddhist destinations in India

We (my family) are elated to know that Uttar Pradesh has got its third international airport in the form of Kushinagar. The interim terminal with an area of more than 3500sqm, a 3.2-kilometer-long runway, designed in-house with German tent concept, is ready for commissioning and this is a great news for travellers around the world. The domestic airport turning international will facilitate direct travel to this much-loved Buddhist pilgrimage centre. Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana in the district of Kushinagar. This final resting place of Buddha has been one popular place since ages, bringing in major footfall from Asian countries. Earlier, flyers had to come down to Lucknow or Varanasi to travel to Kushinagar but now it will have direct flights.

My father got really excited when he read the news about the new airport and he offered to write a travel article for my blog. My Dad hails from Padrauna, a city and district headquarter of Kushinagar and he knows this place since childhood. A visit to my grandparents also meant a short visit to Kushinagar, always. It is one popular tourist destination that I have known as a child. Padrauna also has a Buddhist connection. Its initial name used to be Pava where Buddha took his last meal.

KUSHINAGAR IS AN INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE CENTRE

Kushinagar is a town in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. This international tourist place is situated at a distance of 51 km east of Gorakhpur on National Highway no. 28. It is one of the four sacred places of Lord Buddha and thus is part of the Buddhist circuit.

Kushinagar Tourism and how to travel there
Buddhist circuit is incomplete without your visit to Kushinagar – Photos courtesy – https://kushinagar.nic.in/

According to the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, Lord Buddha made his journey to Kushinagar, died there, and this is where his last remains happen to be.  It is believed that on the last day he walked into the groves of trees near the city and rejoiced at the blossoms of Sala trees (Shorea Robusta) before laying himself to rest. Archaeological evidence says that the Buddha died in Kushinagar, close to the modern Kasia in Uttar Pradesh.

It is believed that Gautam Buddha attained Parinirvana (salvation) after his death in 483 BC and was cremated at Rambhar Stupa which is called as Buddhist temple. This is also the place where Buddha delivered his last sermon. Here, you will find a reclining nirvana statue of Lord Buddha, 6.10 meters long, made with monolith red-sand stone of the 5th century A.D. It is very attractive.

Kushinagar area houses numerous monasteries and stupas and is the go-to place for Buddha worshippers. Many devotees flock to this place every year from all over the globe to explore and learn about last chapters of Buddha’s life. One must visit the various sites associated with Buddha’s life for an wholesome experience.

Another site of this beautiful town is Mahaparinirvana Stupa, which is right above Buddha’s resting point. Several temples like – Indo – Japan Srilanka Temple, Chinese Temple, Wat Thai Temple, Matha Kuar Shrine and Meditation Park are some of the other major attractions of this beautiful town of Kushinagar. The architectural brilliance and unique structural designs of these buildings get to the eyes and heart. And above all, the majestic statues of Lord Buddha etched with beautiful lines and vibrant colours is alluring. His statues are always about peace and meditation.

Many of the stupas here were constructed centuries back and is said that King Ashoka from the Mauryan Kingdom played a significant role in their construction. A parallel saying goes that this place was also an extremely significant site for Jain, Vaishnavism and Shaivism followers.

BUDDHA: A SPIRITUAL LEADER

Buddha, born with the name Siddhartha Gautama, was a teacher, philosopher and spiritual leader. As he renounced the worldly glories to find the true meanings of life, he also gave birth to the religion called Buddhism. The name Buddha means “one who is awakened” or “the enlightened one.” Lord Buddha was simply a human being and he claimed of no spiritual power. He attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavour and human intelligence. He often reiterated in his teachings that a man and only a man can become a Buddha.

Matha Kuar Shrine
Kushinagar has offbeat locations to discover! Photos courtesy – https://kushinagar.nic.in/

BRIEF HISTORY

The present Kushinagar was also known as Kusavati (in the pre-Buddha period) and Kushinara (in the post-Buddha period). Kushinara was the capital of Mallas which was one of the sixteen mahajanpads of the 6th Century BCE. It is an integral part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Harsha, and Pala dynasties.

Kushinara continued to be a living city till the 12th century CE and was thereafter lost into oblivion. Padrauna which is situated besides Kushinagar is believed to be ruled over by a Rajput adventurer, Madan Singh, in the 15th century CE.

However, modern Kushinagar came into prominence in the 19th century with archeological excavations carried out by Alexander Cunningham, the first Archeological Surveyor of India and later followed by C.L. Carlleyle who exposed the main stupa and also discovered a 6.10 meters long statue of reclining Buddha in 1876. Excavations continued in the early twentieth century under J. Ph. Vogel. He conducted archaeological campaigns in 1904-5, 1905-6 and 1906-7, uncovering a wealth of Buddhist materials.

Chandra Swami, a Burmese monk, came to India in 1903 and made Mahaparinirvana Temple into a living shrine. After independence, Kushinagar remained part of the district of Deoria. On 13 May 1994, it came into being as a new district of Uttar Pradesh.

ANCIENT HISTORY OF KUSHINAGAR

During ancient times, Kushinagar was also known as Kushavati and Jatakas. In the famous Hindu scriptures, Ramayan, Kushinagar is mentioned as the city of Kusha (the son of Ram, the king of Ayodhya) who is said to be its founding ruler.

During the era of Lord Buddha, Kushinagar was believed to be the capital of Mallas Kingdom. The Mallas of Kushinara or Kushinagar were not only admirers but also followers of the Lord Buddha. Some pages of history also tell us said that one of the eight Buddha relics was deposited in a cairn in Kushinagar and it was respected and honoured by Mallas of Kushinara.

TEACHINGS OF LORD BUDDHA

Buddha’s teachings are loved across the world because they are simple and relevant. It was only after 400 years after his death, that the first manuscript was written. Buddha’s teachings help people attain a new perspective of peace, a state of well-being and the incarcerations of life.

  • Peace comes from within.
  • One word of light is netter than a thousand hollow words.
  • Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart surrender yourself to it.
  • Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate on the present moment.
  • In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
  • Just tilt your head back and look at the sky to realize how beautiful and perfect the world is.
  • The mind is everything. What we think, we become.
  • You are the community now. Be a lamp for yourself. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All thing must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up.
  • It is man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.
  • The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you and depend on no one.
  • No one saves us but ourselves.
  • Act on the good words that your read.
  • Physical charms attract the eyes; goodness attracts the mind.
  • Doubt everything. Learn to disperse darkness. Each one must find their light.

India is full of vibrant destinations and Kushinagar is one of them. This is the place for those who love spiritual places. Domestic travellers often travel to Kushinagar via road from Gorakhpur and nearby places. I have always travelled that way. Once you are there, you must pay homage to Lord Buddha and meditate in a peaceful environment to understand the teachings of the “Enlightened” one. Best places to visit here are Japanese temple, Big Buddha Bell, Parinirvana place, Matha Kaur Shrine, Interpretation centre, etc. Local accessibility and movement is made easy with buses, tongas and rickshaws. Hotels are numerous and of different ranges. Overall, it is a safe destination. The period from November to February brings in pleasant weather in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and hence is considered the best time for Kushinagar.

Author – Pramod Kumar Jaiswal also writes at https://secondinningsoflife.blogspot.com/

Written by

Manjulika Pramod

An engineer who loves to be called a blogger more!
Traveler, short-story writer, voracious reader, foodie is the better me!
Reading, eating, traveling, exploring, observing and blogging are the beautiful highs of my life.