Mapping the Buddhist Holy Land

Sublocations of Kushinagar


Rhamabhar Stūpa

 The Rhamabhar Stūpa is believed to be the location of Buddha’s cremation. In Buddhist text it is often referred to as ‘Mukut-Bandhan Vihar’. It was discovered as a part of the excavations done by Alexander Cunningham during the 19th century, and is considered to be one of the first eight stūpas, since it is where the Buddha’s relics were first divided into eight equal parts. It is believed that the name Ramabhar originates from a lake that was located nearby, potentially in order to draw away from its meaning in the Buddhist religion. Cunningham later discovered that it was the site of Buddha’s cremation due to archaeological evidence and accounts from Chinese pilgrims. Early pilgrims, such as Faxian, identified it as the Charcoal stupa.


Mahāparinirvāṇa Temple


The Mahāparinirvāṇa temple contains a six foot statue of the reclining Buddha with his head pointed north, located among a grove of sal trees. This is significant, because it was said that Buddha was born beneath a sal tree and that when he reached Mahāparinirvāṇa, four sal trees surrounding him turned to white. This temple was a part of Alexander Cunningham’s excavations in 1876. There are three sculptures on the surface which Buddha is reclining, and some of his relics are located here. One of the sculptures at his feet is representative of Ananda, his closest follower. Another carving in the center depicts Subhadra, the last convert of Buddhism before the Buddha’s death, and the last image is of Dabba Malla, which is located near the head.


Nirvana Stūpa


The Nirvana Stūpa is located directly behind the Mahāparinirvāṇa Temple. It was also excavated in 1876 by Cunningham. It is thought that this was a temple erected by King Asoka. The most important finding of the excavations along with this stupa was a copper vessel with a Brahmi inscription detailing that relics of the Buddha were located within.


Japanese Temple

This temple was built by the Atago Isshin World Buddhist Cultural Association of Japan, and houses a statue of the Buddha made from eight metals which is visible to onlookers through a stained glass window.


Chinese Temple


The Lin Sun Chinese Temple is noticeably different than the other temples, due to its architecture. Its build is based on traditional Han Chinese and Vietnamese structures. Another unique aspect of the temple is that it houses visiting pilgrims at no charge. Additionally, there is a statue of the Buddha located within, which is what attracts many Buddhist pilgrims.


Matha-kuar Shrine


This shrine is located at the place where Buddha’s last sermon was believed to be held. The building in which the shrine is held is rather lackluster, but within is a statue carved into a large blue stone. The statue depicts the Buddha in the bhumisparsa-mudra posture beneath the Bodhi tree, which represents his moment of enlightenment. Matha-kuar translates to Dead Prince, and in the accounts of Xuanzang, Kushinagar is referred to as the


Myanmar Buddha Vihar


The Myanmar Buddha Vihar, a Burmese temple, was the first monastery built in Kushinagar. It has several Buddhist temples within the monastery, as well as an abundance of statues of the Buddha. Additionally, it houses the Samridhi Chaitya Stupa, which contains 5,000 statues of the Buddha.


Wat Thai Temple


The Wat Thai Temple was built for use by Thai royalty, and is a forested temple, meaning that vegetation was purposefully planted around it to make it more pleasing for visitation.

Kuśinagar in itself has become a city functioning solely for honoring Buddha, largely because it is one of the four locations that Buddha instructed pilgrims to visit. The city is very diverse in architecture, due to the multitude of origins from various Buddhist cultures. This variety is reflected in the individuals who are visiting or making pilgrimage to the Buddhist Holy Land. It is a potentially unintended, but wonderfully symbolic, expression of the values of Buddhism to see that a multitude of societies are able to gather, unite, and worship peacefully in one place. Additionally, it should be noted that the presence of the different cultures also reflects the different interpretations of Buddhism due to differences in exposure over the years. Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and all other Buddhists from different areas of the world have had alternative levels of exposure and therefore worship and interpret the religion in variant ways. This can be seen in the architecture and the various types of imagery of the Buddha.