Spiritual Stop: Parinirvana Temple In Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh

One of Kushinagar's biggest draws is this ancient Buddhist temple embraced by the ruins of forgotten stupas
Sleeping Buddha statue at Parinirvana Stupa
Sleeping Buddha statue at Parinirvana StupaShutterstock

Kushinagar, a small town located 53 km from Gorakhpur, holds a lot of significance for Buddhists. This sacred site is revered as the place where Lord Buddha attained Parinirvana, the final and complete liberation from the cycle of birth and death. One of the biggest Buddhist attractions of this place is the Parinirvana Temple.

Built on the very spot where Buddha is believed to have breathed his last and attained enlightenment, the temple stands as a solemn reminder of his profound teachings and the ultimate goal of spiritual attainment in Buddhism. This representation symbolises the serene passing of Buddha into nirvana, inspiring a sense of peace and detachment for those who visit the temple. It serves as a place of pilgrimage and contemplation for numerous Buddhists and curious visitors from around the world.

Parinirvana Temple and stupa in Kushinagar
Parinirvana Temple and stupa in KushinagarShutterstock

The Structure

The Parinirvana Temple is built in traditional architectural style using Buddhist elements. It spans a single room with an impressive reclining Buddha statue. Beyond its spiritual allure, the temple is also an archaeological treasure trove, revealing ancient artefacts and remnants of a rich cultural past. But the temple was once in complete ruins with the Buddha sculpture and the entire edifice in pieces. Even now, the main temple is surrounded by the ruins of ancient stupas.

British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, between 1876-77, supervised excavations that unearthed the remains of the main Mahanirvana Stupa and the reclining Buddha statue. He discovered the existence of the vaulted chamber, wherein lies the statue and dated it around 637 AD. In March of 1877, the Buddha statue and the temple were excavated. The surrounding stupas were also discovered around the same time. The magnificence of the reclining Buddha that you can now witness lay scattered into uncountable pieces when it was found. The broken statue, the temple, and some of the stupas were entirely reconstructed and made what it is today by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Drawing of the sculpture of the 'mahaparinirvana'
Drawing of the sculpture of the 'mahaparinirvana'Online Gallery

The Reclining Buddha

The sculpture depicts him in the moment of Parinirvana, lying at rest, with a tranquil expression on his face. It is made of red sandstone. The statue's pose is very distinct; you can see the 6.1m long reclining Buddha turned on his right side in resting form. The statue faces the west and holds the right hand underneath the head like a cushion.

According to an inscription found at the site, the reclining Buddha lies on a pedestal with three human figures carved in the western front, which was a gift from Swami Haribala, a disciple of Lord Buddha. There is a main stupa beside the temple, which was excavated in 1876 by archaeologists. The main stupa is elevated by a circular base and is topped by a dome that is 19.81m tall. After that, additional dig ups have led to more discoveries like copper coins from Jai Gupta, which were found in 1910, a vessel with silver coins from Kumar Gupta and another copper vessel and plate. The current form of the temple and stupa dates back to 1956, renovated during the 2500th anniversary of Buddha Jayanti.

For travellers and pilgrims alike, the Parinirvana Temple in Kushinagar remains a profound and humbling experience, inviting them to connect with the teachings of Lord Buddha. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Lord Buddha and continues to be an important site for those seeking spiritual growth and understanding.

Getting There

By air: The nearest Airport is Gorakhpur some 53 km away

By road: Some roadways buses ply the route from Gorakhpur and Deoria regularly

By rail: The nearest railhead is Gorakhpur railway station

Address: PVQR+J9M, Kushinagar, Sonbarsa, Uttar Pradesh 274403

Hours: All days, 7 am to 5 pm

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