Kusinara is the most sacred of all pilgrimage centers for the Buddhists because it is here where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. In ancient India this place was known as Kushavati. It was an important center of the Mallas located near Hiranyavati River.
In the Pali text, Great Parinirvana Sutra the last days of Gautama Buddha had been described. Mahaparinibbana Sutta too describes his death. Buddha`s living nirvana turned to parinirvana with his death. Before he passed Buddha himself identified the four places of pilgrimage for the Buddhists. These comprised of the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death. He also added a word of caution when he said that his disciples must not keep his remains as a sign of honor. Presently the place is dotted with several ruined stupas and viharas. These date back to 3rd to 5th century BC. It is said that Mauryan emperor Ashoka contributed a great deal to construct these edifices.
According to legends Buddha realized that his life was coming to an end when he arrived at the village of Kusinara. He asked Ananda, his favorite disciple, to prepare a bed for him between two sal trees. Ananda was deeply grieved by this. Buddha consoled him and explained to him the fleeting nature of life. He said, "The nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us. Everything born contains its own cessation. I too, Ananda, am grown old, and full of years, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning 80 years of age, and just as a worn-out cart can only with much additional care be made to move along, so too the body of the Buddha can only be kept going with much additional care".
Even while lying on deathbed Buddha preached some of the most important truths of life. As a result Kusinara is one of the most important pilgrimage centers. Buddha too mentioned it as a sacred place for his followers.
One of the major attractions here is the Ramabhar Stupa. This is Buddha`s cremation place. His final words were, "Listen, Bhikkhus, I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay, strive with diligence for your liberation." the Enlightened one then passed into a meditation stage and attained Mahaparinirvana, the last stage of nirvana.
Another monument here is the Mahaparinirvana Temple. This was built on the initiative of the Indian Government in 1956. The well-known reclining image of Gautama Buddha is situated here. This is 6.1 metre long.
On the front of the couch are three sculptures, believed to represent Ven. Ananda near the feet, Ven. Subhadda at the middle and Ven. Dabba Malla at the corner. At the centre is an inscription of the 5th century AD. This 1500-year old reclining Buddha image was executed out of one block of red sandstone brought in from Mathura during the Gupta period. It was discovered in 1876 in a dilapidated condition and the scattered fragments were successfully pieced together.