Kushinagar

Kushinagar is a pilgrimage town in the Kushinagar district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

It is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana after his death. It is an international Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The followers of Buddhism, especially from Asian countries, wish to visit this place at least once in their lifetime.

According to one theory, Kushvati was the capital of Kosala Kingdom and according to Ramayana it was built by King Kush, son of Rama, protagonist of the epic Ramayana. While according to Buddhist tradition Kushavati was named prior to the king Kush. The naming of Kushwati is believed to be due to abundance of Kush grass found in this region.

As of 2011 India census, Kushinagar had a population of 22,214, with 3462 households. Males constitute 52% (11,502 Men) of the population and females 48% (10,712 Women). Kushinagar has an average literacy rate of 78.43%, higher than the national average of 74%, male literacy is 85%, and female literacy is 72%. In Kushinagar, 11% of the population is under 10 years of age. Schedule Caste (SC) constitutes 5.03% while Schedule Tribe (ST) were 2.39% of total population in Kushinagar Nagar Panchayat.

The present Kushinagar is identified with 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. Since then, it remained an integral part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Harsha, and Pala dynasties.

In the medieval period, Kushinagar had passed under the suzerainty of Kultury Kings. Kushinara continued to be a living city till the 12th century CE and was thereafter lost into oblivion. Padrauna 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 archaeological 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.

In 1896, Waddell suggested that the site of the death and parinirvana of Gautama Buddha was in the region of Rampurva. However, according to the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, the Buddha made his journey to Kushinagar, died there and wherein he was cremated. It is believed that during his 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.

Modern scholarship, based on archaeological evidence, believes that the Buddha died in Kushinagar, close to the modern Kasia (Uttar Pradesh).

Ashoka built a stupa and pilgrimage site to mark Buddha’s parinirvana in Kushinagara. The Hindu rulers of the Gupta Empire (fourth to seventh century) helped greatly enlarge the Nirvana stupa and Kushinagar site, building a temple with reclining Buddha. This site was abandoned by Buddhist monks around 1200 CE, who fled to escape the invading Muslim army, after which the site decayed over the Islamic rule in India that followed. The British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham rediscovered Kushinagara in the late 19th century, and his colleague A. C. L. Carlleyle unearthed the 1,500-year-old Buddha image. The site has since then become an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Archaeological evidence from the 3rd century BCE suggests that the Kushinagara site was an ancient pilgrimage site.

Kushinagar is a nagar palika situated at 53 km east from Gorakhpur on the National Highway-28, lying between latitude 26°45´N and 83°24´E. Gorakhpur is the main railway terminus for Kushinagar while air strip of UP Civil Aviation is situated in Kasia, 5 km away from Kushinagar, currently being developed as an International Airport by Uttar Pradesh Government and Government of India.

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