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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.