2014 - Buddhist Pilgrimage to India (Day 6) in Kushinagar

BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE TO INDIA “In the Master’s Footsteps” 24 Nov – 5 Dec 2014 (12D/11N)

Day 06 (29.11.2014) – Vaishali to Kushinagar (180Km 6hr drive) Kushinagar the place of the Buddha’s passing away.

As the morning usual call at 5am. breakfast at 6am. and by 7am we departed Vaishali for a 6hr drive to Kushinagar a 180km away.

On the road at 9am we visited Buddha Stupa Kesariya, East Champaran the tallest stupa in the world. We also performed morning chanting, meditation and commentaries by our group leader Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee.

At 1pm we arrived at Hotel Imperial for lunch and at 2.15pm we visited the Excavated Remains of Ramabhar Stupa the brick ruins of Buddha’s cremation. At 3.47pm we visited the Matha Kuar Shrine and proceed to the Excavated Remains, Kushinagar to perform Dana, chanting and meditation led by our group leader Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee. This is where the Tathagata passed away into Mahaparinirvana. The Mahaparinirvana Temple houses a beautiful reclining Buddha statue.

Later at 5.16pm we visited the beautiful Linh Son Vietnam Chinese Buddhist Temple and then back to our hotel for dinner at 6pm. At 6.45 we walked to Wat Thai Kushinara Chalermraj for evening chanting and performed Dana at 7pm. There was a dharma talk but in Thai and after the talk the monk gave each of us a photo gift. We came back at 8.35pm for our good night sleep.

Lunch / Dinner and overnight at Kushinagar: Hotel Imperial.

The Kesariya Stupa at East Champaran.

Kesaria Stupa Situated in the East Champaran district of Bihar, Kesariya region serves as the place of the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. Kesariya stupa, as it is known, is located at a distance of about 110 km from Patna, the capital of Bihar. Kesariya region has a rich heritage of the Buddhist architecture of the ancient times, with Kesaria stupa being the highlight. Discovered in 1998, the stupa is believed to date back to somewhere between 200 AD and 750 AD.

Kesaria stupa has a circumference of almost 1400 ft and raises to a height of about 104 feet. It is believed that initially, the height of the stupa was approximately 150 feet. However, after being subjected to the 1934 earthquake that shook India, the stupa got immersed into the ground and was reduced to 123 feet in height. The aftermath of the earthquake further reduced the height of the statue to its current stature, that of 104 ft.

Ah Heng Kor the photographer an ex-staff of Public Bank.

This same group from Myanmar (devotees and monks) had been following us whenever we go since we last met at Sattapanni Caves.

Interestingly, Kesariya stupa is believed to have been built to honor the place where Lord Buddha had spent the last days of his journey, before attaining Nirvana. It is said that Lord Buddha handed over his begging bowl to the Lichhivis, people of Vaishali and requested them to go back to Vaishali, after his death. To venerate the end life of Lord Buddha, the Lichhivis are said to have built this stupa. While formerly, it was only a mud stupa, it gained its present structure in the Maurya, Sunga and Kushana period.

Kesariy stupa serves as a holy site for the Buddhist pilgrims around the world. Standing tall, it acts as a reminder of the last days of Lord Buddha and his compassionate and gentle approach towards people. In the 1998 excavation, the place around the stupa was found to house significant items, like Islamic coins, arrow heads, copper and terracotta items, earthen lamps, decorated bricks, etc. A number of images of Lord Buddha, in ‘Bhoomi Sparsh Mudra’ and other sitting postures, were also found in Kesaria.

I can't remember what is this? Can anybody tell me.

I was writing some notes on my net-book before lunch in the hotel.

Taking lunch in the hotel.

This was my favorite eaten with curry.

Ramabhar Stupa, the Cremation site of Lord Buddha, Kushinagar.

The Buddha's last days are described in the Pali text called the Great Parinirvana Sutra (Parinirvana meaning "completed nirvana"). The Buddha's living nirvana, achieved during enlightenment, at death transforms to nirvana without human residue. Self-possessed, without psychological pain, untroubled by the thoughts of death, the Buddha identifies four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death. "But don't hinder yourself by honouring my remains," he added.

Buddhist Monk at Ramabhar Stupa, Kushinagar.

On reaching the village of Kusinara of the Mallas on the further side of the Hiranyavati River, the Buddha realised that his end was fast approaching. He told Ananda to prepare a bed for him with its head turned towards the north between two sala trees. Ananda who served him for 20 years was deeply upset. "Don't grieve, Ananda!" the Buddha consoles him. "The nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us. Everything born contains its own cessation. I too, Ananda, am grown old, and full of years, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning 80 years of age, and just as a worn-out cart can only with much additional care be made to move along, so too the body of the Buddha can only be kept going with much additional care".

As desired by the Buddha, the Mallas of Kusinara were informed of his impending death, and they came to pay respects to him. Among them was a mendicant named Subhadra, a 120 year old Brahmin. He had earlier been turned away by Ananda but when the Buddha overheard this he called the Brahmin to his side. He was admitted to the Sangha (Buddhist order) and immediately after his conversion he passed away.

When the third quarter of the night approached, the Buddha asked his disciples three times if there were any doubts about the teachings or the disciplines. The Bhikkhus stood silent. "Not one, Ananda, has misgivings. All will eventually reach enlightenment.

The Buddha then said his final words, "Listen, Bhikkhus, I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay, strive with diligence for your liberation". He then passed into meditational absorptions and entered Mahaparinirvana (the great passing away). It was the full moon of the month of Vaisakha (April-May) and the year was probably between 487 and 483 B.C. However, according to the Sri Lankan tradition and other southeastern countries, it is believed that the Buddha entered Parinirvana in 544-543 B.C.

For the next six days the body of the Great Master was laid in state. Preparations were made for his funeral under the direction of Anirudha a cousin and follower of the Buddha. On the seventh day, after honouring the body with perfumes and garlands, it was taken to the Mukutbandhana Chaitya, the sacred shrine of the Mallas. The last ceremony was performed by Maha Kasapa and the body of the Great Master was cremated with due honour. When the cremation was completed the ashes were collected by the Mallas as relics, which consisted of a skull bone, teeth and inner and outer shrouds. The relics were then distributed into eight shares amongst the representatives of the other eight Kingdoms which constituted ancient northern India. These relics were again subdivided after King Ashoka decided to build 84,000 stupas. Today these relics are enshrined in stupas across Asia.

Buddhist Monk at Ramabhar Stupa, Kushinagar.

Road side singer and beggar.

This shrine with a colossal statue of Buddha forms the part of a large monastic complex. The statue, 3.05 m. in height is carved out of blue stone of the Gaya region and represents Buddha under Bodhi tree in the Bhumisparsha Mudra (earth-touching attitude). The inscription on the pedestal of the image datable to 10-11th century A.D. records the construction of the shrine by a local Kalachuri chief.

The excavations, conducted in 1876 A.D. by Carlleyle and later by archaeologists revealed the original shrine on the west with the Buddha statue surrounded by an ambulatory path and a monastery attached to the east consisting of an open courtyard with rows of rooms on north, south and east. The existing temple housing the Buddha image was built in 1927 A.D.

After eating the last meal offered by the smith Cunda, the Buddha became sick. According to the commentary, although the distance from Pava to Kushinagar was 3 gavutas or about 10 km, it took great effort and the Buddha had to stop at 25 places to rest. Thus comes sickness to a man, crushing all his health. As he wanted to point out this fact, the Buddha spoke these words which aroused religious urgency (samvega): “I am wearied and would rest awhile.” At the last place of rest, 400 metres before reaching the Upavanatta Sala grove, the Buddha had to ask Ananda three times before the latter would go to the nearby stream to fetch him some water to drink. The reason why Ananda did not go at first was because many carts had crossed the stream, making the water muddy and dirty. After the third request, Ananda went to the stream and found that its water had turned clear and potable.

This place is called Matha Kuwara and a shrine has been erected and installed with a colossal Buddha image in earth-touching-posture (bhumi-phassa-mudra). The 3.05 m tall statue is carved out of one block of blue stone and is about 1,000 years old. The name ‘Matha Kuwara’ literally means ‘forehead prostration’, which is what devotees do when they visit this shrine.

The last sermon by Lord Buddha was given here. The bhumisparsa-mudra i.e.'earth-touching attitude' symbolically expresses the supreme moment in Buddha's life just before his Enlightenment, when he called upon the Earth to bear witness to the pieties performed by him in his previous births.

The present Parinirvana Temple was built by the Indian Government in 1956 as part of the commemoration of the 2,500th year of the Mahaparinivana or 2500 BE (Buddhist Era). Inside this temple, one can see the famous Reclinging Buddha image lying on its right side with the head to the north. The statue is 6.1 m long and rests on a stone couch.

We carried in the robe by holding over our head to the temple in performing Dana to the Buddha. The robes worn by Theravada monks and nuns of Southeast Asia today are thought to be unchanged from the original roves of 25 centuries ago.

The robe has three parts: The uttarasanga is the most prominent robe. It is sometimes also called the kashaya robe. It is a large rectangle, about 6 by 9 feet, that can be wrapped to cover both shoulders, but most often it is wrapped to cover the left shoulder but leave the right shoulder and arm bare. The antaravasaka is worn under the uttarasanga. It is wrapped around the waist like a sarong, covering the body from waist to knees. The sanghati is an extra robe that can be wrapped around the upper body for warmth. When not in use it is sometimes folded and draped over a shoulder.

These are Thai Monks chanting beside the Parinirvana Temple.

After the death of the Buddha, the relics of His body were collected from the funeral pyre and divided into eight parts. These were distributed to the claimants and stupas, or burial mounds, were erected on the relics. The practice of pilgrimage in Buddhism probably started with visits to these places, the purpose of which was to achieve personal advantage such as rebirth in a good location, as well as to honour the great master. Thus the custom of pilgrimage has been widespread among Buddhist for many centuries and is common to both the Mahayana and Theravada traditions.

But if we consider the history of pilgrimage in Buddhism, we notice that in the earliest order and scheme of Buddhist monastic life as described in the Tripitika, there is no recognition of the duty or advantage of pilgrimage. According to a commentary to the Vinaya Sutra known as 'Lung-Treng-Tik' in Tibetan by the First Dalai Lama (1392-1474), the Buddha is said to have emphasised several times the importance of pilgrimage.

"Bhikkhus, after my passing away, all sons and daughters who are of good family and are faithful should as long as they live, go to the four holy places and remember: Here at Lumbini, the enlightened one was born; here at Bodh Gaya he attained enlightenment, here at Sarnath he turned the wheel of Dharma; and there at Kusinara he entered Parinirvana. Bhikkhus, after my passing away there will be activities such as circumambulation of these places and reverence to them. Thus it should be told to them for they, who have faith in my deeds and awareness of their own, will travel to higher states. After my passing away, the new Bhikkhus who come and ask of the doctrine should be told of these four places and advised that a pilgrimage to them will help purify their previously accumulated Karmas or actions."

A pilgrim is defined in the Dhammapada as one who has abandoned the world. In Buddhist literature there is mention of becoming a 'wanderer' and being free of worldly attachments by becoming a member of the Buddhist Sangha or order. However, the wandering of a monk was not completely aimless, it included visits to sacred shrines for religious merits. It is mentioned in the Mahavagga, "Go ye Bhikkhus (monks), wander for the gain of the many for the welfare of the many, out of compassion for the world and for the gain and the welfare of gods and men". The wandering mode of living of Buddhist monks without a settled home and the practice of pilgrimage contributed to the spread of Buddhism.

The earliest centres of Buddhist pilgrimages were the places associated with the life and Teachings of the great Master. These four places are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kusinara. Lumbini, in what is now Nepal, is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. The others are in India: Bodh Gaya was the place, under the pipal or Bo tree, where the Buddha was enlightened after practicing meditation for several years. Sarnath was the scene of His first teaching and Kusinara was the place of His death or final Nirvana.

On the front of the couch are three sculptures, believed to represent Ven. Ananda near the feet, Ven. Subhadda at the middle and Ven. Dabba Malla at the corner. At the centre is an inscription of the 5th century AD, which states the statue was "a gift of the monk Haribala of the Mahavihara and was fashioned by Dinna". This 1500-year old reclining Buddha image was executed out of one block of red sandstone brought in from Mathura during the Gupta period. It was discovered in 1876 in a dilapidated condition and the scattered fragments were successfully pieced together. Excavation showed that the original temple on the site consisted of an oblong hall and antechamber with its entrance facing the west. Large number of bricks with carved surfaces found among the rubbish indicated that the temple had a barrel-vaulted roof not unlike that on the modern temple.

Chanting by BGF group in the Parinirvana Temple led by Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee.

Chanting by BGF group in the Parinirvana Temple led by Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee.

Meditation by BGF group in the Parinirvana Temple led by Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee.

This is the first temple, as one enters through the main entrance gate of Kushinagar and is one of the newly added attractions of Kushinagar. The architecture of the temple is predominantly Han Chinese and has design elements that have been borrowed from various provinces of mainland China.

The exterior view of the temple gives a mix view of Chinese-Vietnamese Architecture. Apart from the main temple this complex houses the models of the main Buddhist temples located in north India, viz., Rajgir (Bihar), Lumbini (Nepal), Bodhgaya (Bihar), Sravasti (U.P.) & Nirvana Temple & Stupa (Kushinagar).

The temple is run by Linh-Son Buddhist's from Vietnam. A Meditation Hall (can accommodate 300 Pilgrims), Dharma Hall, Vihar and a school (run by the temple), are also located in the temple complex. The temple also provides very cheap accommodation to the Buddhist tourists.

Thai  Buddhist  monks,  lay  followers  and  Indian  Buddhists  would respect  to  the  strong   intention  and  objective  of  Venerable Phara Sumedhadhibordee  who was propagating Buddhism in India. His Holiness wishes to see a peaceful and pleasant Thai Buddhist Monastery in Kushinagar where the Buddha passed away. The monastery was last place constructed with the great support of Wat Thai Buddha-Gaya, the Royal Thai Embassy to India in New Delhi, and the Royal Thai Consulate to Calcutta. The land covering 5 acres was bought by the committee.

The monastery construction was designed. Thai-style architecture inspire Buddhists of reverence to the great founder. It was designed to be the forest-monastery gathering innumerable kinds of trees as to commemorate the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol the Great's Accession to the Throne.

This Thai Buddhist temple, in the land of Buddhism, at the location of Lord Buddha's Nirvana at Kushinagar is created from the project of returning Buddhism to the land of its origin.

The project has been initiated since B.E. 2537 (1994 ) by the Thai Sangha, Indian and Thai Buddhist, to worship the Lord Buddha, and to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the accession to the throne and the 72nd Birthday Anniversary of the HIS MAJESTY KING BHUMIBOL ADULYADEJ , King of Thailand in B.E. 2542 (1999).

HIS MAGEST KING BHOOMIBOL ADULYADEJ has graciously given this temple the name of "WAT THAI KUSHINARA CHALERMRAJ" and the Royal Monogram "BHOR POR ROR" to be affixed on the front Gable. HIS MAJESTY KING BHOOMIBOL ADULYADEJ also graciously bestowed the name of "PHRABUDDHASAYAMBHUYAN" to the presiding Buddha Image of this temple.

SOMDEJ PHRA YANSANGVARA , HIS HOLINESS  The Supreme Patriarch of the Kingdom of Thailand, performed the religious Inauguration of this temple on 21st February, B.E. 2542 (1999).

The BGF group performing Dana led by Chong Voon Siong.


  1. Thanks for sharing....very enlightening and it emanates a
    wonderful feeling of reverence to Lord Buddha!

  2. Dear Mr Ching,

    Shadu,Shadu,Shadu to you and all your friends for such a wonderful blessing trip in India.

    Thank you very much for sharing. All this while I only used to read dharma books, Majjhima Nikaya Sutta and listening to the Sutta CD. This time I got to see the real place mentioned in the suttas from your photos sharing. Indeed I was so happy and will also wish to go there together with all yogis, Sayadaws from Myanmar and Monks to India.

    I will be going to Kathmandu and Lumbini (Buddha's birth place) on 22-27 January 2015 and your blogs experienced has helped me to familiar and adapt to the environment and places better prior to my visit there.

    Although now I am 47 years, for the last 5 years I used to visit Myanmar for my meditation practice with all the Sayadaws, Sayalays and yogis in a remote place in a small village at least one to twice a year. Your lifestyle also inspire me to be like you traveling around the world but more towards visiting Buddha's land where I can practice more onto the Nature, Created Truth Vs Original Truth, 4 noble truth, 7 factors of Enlightenment, the Noble 8 folds path.. as taught by our Lord Buddha. It's really happy and meaningful in this life.

    Thank you.
    Best regards,

  3. Dear Anne,
    It is nice to read all detail in your blog. Thank you so much for sharing. I only suggest you more Please dont forget to Visit Lord Buddha Birth Place Lumbini for Buddhist Circuit trip from Nepal Including Mini Tibet Boudhanath Stuppa.

  4. Dear Ching Neng Bin,

    My name is Katya Borisova. I volunteer with the Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden, Netherlands,http://volkenkunde.nl/en) to make the exhibition about the Life of the Buddha.

    The exhibition will focus on the biography of the Buddha, including his previous lives (Jatakas), life of Sidhartha Gautama and the veneration of his relics. It will be curated by Prof. Marijke Klokke (http://hum.leiden.edu/lias/organisation/southeast-asian/klokkemj.html) and is planed to run in the Museum Volkenkunde and Tropenmuseum (now one institution) from February 2016 till January 2017.

    The exhibition will have a section dedicated to the pilgrimage sites in India, showing photographs and videos form the 4 main sites. I attach here the preliminary design.

    We consider including one or your photographs showing the statue of the Reclining Buddha in Kushinagar in this section.

    This photograph was posted in your blog about backpacking travel and pilgrimage - http://chingnengbin.blogspot.nl/2014/12/2014-buddhist-pilgrimage-to-india.html

    With this letter I want to kindly ask your permission to include the photograph in the exhibition.

    Please let me know if it might be possible.
    My e-mail is artagitka@gmail.com

    With best wishes!

    Katya Borisova
    Assistant Exhibition Maker (volunteer)

  5. Hi Katya Borisova, you have my permission to use my blog photos.

  6. Katya Borisova11 November, 2015

    Thank you very much Ching Neng Bin!

    We greatly appreciate it!

    I attach here the preliminary design of this part of the exhibition, so you can get an idea how it will look. Your photo of the Reclining Buddha would be on the left side together with a screen showing a video from Kushinagar.

    Because we plan to print your photo in large, we would need the best resolution available. Would it be possible for you to send us the original photograph in full size? So our designer could see how it fits in a large print.

    With many thanks and best wishes!


    P.S. I also attach here the image so you know which one I mean.

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