The capital of the Mallas and the scene
of the Buddha's death. At that time it was a small city, "a branch-township with
wattle-and-daub houses in the midst of the jungle," and
Ananda was, at first,
disappointed that the Buddha should have chosen it for his
Parinibbāna. But the
Buddha, by preaching the
Mahā-Sudassana Sutta, pointed out to him that in
ancient times it had been Kusāvatī, the royal city of Mahā-Sudassana (D.ii.146).
Between Kusinārā and Pāvā, three gāvutas away (DA.ii.573) - from where the
Buddha came to Kusinārā on his last journey from Rājagaha, stopping at various
places - lay the stream of Kakuttha on the banks of which was the Ambavana;
beyond that was the Hiraññavatī river, and near the city, in a south-westerly
direction, lay the Upavattana, the Sāla-grove of the Mallas, which the Buddha
made his last resting-place (UdA.238; DA.ii.572f).
After the Buddha's death his body was
carried into the city by the northern gate and out of the city by the eastern
gate; to the east of the city was Makutabandhana, the shrine of the Mallas, and
there the body was cremated. For seven days those assembled at the ceremony held
a festival in honour of the relics (D.ii.160f).
It is said that the Buddha had three
reasons for coming to Kusinārā to die:
- (1) Because it was the proper venue for
the preaching of the Mahā-Sudassana Sutta;
- (2) because Subhadda would visit him
there and, after listening to his sermon, would develop meditation and become an
arahant while the Buddha was still alive; and
- (3) because the brahman Doha would
be there, after the Buddha's death, to solve the problem of the distribution of
his relics (UdA.402f; DA.ii.573f6).
As the scene of his death, Kusinārā became
one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha to be fit places of
pilgrimage for the pious, the other three being Kapilavatthu, Buddhagayā and
Isipatana (D.ii.140). Mention is made of other visits paid to Kusinārā by the
Buddha, prior to that when his death took place. Thus, once he went there from
āpana and having spent some time at Kusinārā, proceeded to Ātumā. The Mallas of
Kusinārā were always great admirers of the Buddha, even though not all of them
were his followers, and on the occasion of this visit they decided that any
inhabitant of Kusinārā who failed to go and meet the Buddha and escort him to
the city, would be fined five hundred. It was on this occasion that Roja the
Mallan was converted and gave to the Buddha and the monks a supply of green
vegetables and pastries (Vin.i.247f). During some of
these visits the Buddha stayed in a wood called Baliharana, and there he
preached two of the Kusinārā Suttas (A.i.274f; v.79f)
and the "Kinti" Sutta (M.ii.238f). A third Kusinārā
Sutta he preached while staying at Upavattana. (A.ii.79; for another discourse
to some noisy monks at Upavattana, see Ud.iv.2).
Kusinārā was the birthplace of Bandhula
and his wife Mallikā (DhA.i.338, 349). It was twenty-five yojanas from Rājagaha
(DA.ii.609; acc. to Fa Hsien, p.40, it was twenty-four yojanas from
Kapilavatthu) and lay on the high road from Alaka to Rājagaha, the road taken by
Bāvarī's disciples (Sn.v.1012).
This was evidently the road taken also
by Mahā Kassapa from Pāvā, when he came to pay his last respects to the Buddha
According to a late tradition,
one-eighth of the Buddha's relics were deposited in a cairn in Kusinārā and
honoured by the Mallas (D.ii.167; Bu.xxviii.3).
In ancient times Kusinārā was the
capital of King Tālissara and twelve of his descendants (Dpv.iii.32). It was
also the scene of the death of Phussa Buddha at the Setārāma (v.l. Sonārāma)
In Hiouen Thsang's day there still
existed towers and Sarighārāmas erected to mark the spots connected with the
Buddha's last days and obsequies at Kusinārā. According to his account (Beal..
op. cit.li. lii. n) Kusinārā was nineteen yojanas from Vesāli.
To the northern Buddhists the place was
also known as Kusigrāma (Kusigrāmaka) and Kusinagarī (E.g., Dvy.152f, 208).
Kusinārā is identified with the village
of Kasia at the junction of the river Rapti and the smaller Gondak and in the
cast of the Gorakhpur district (CAGI.i.493). A copper plate belonging to the
thūpa erected at the site of the Buddha's death has recently been discovered
The people of Kusinārā are called
Kosinārakā. E.g., D.ii.167.