Buddha's last days are described in the Pali text called the Great
Parinirvana Sutra (Parinirvana meaning "completed nirvana").
The Buddha's living nirvana, achieved during enlightenment, at
death transforms to nirvana without human residue. Self possessed,
without psychological pain, untroubled by the thoughts of death,
the Buddha identifies four places of future pilgrimage: the sites
of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death. "But
don't hinder yourself by honouring my remains," he added.
On reaching the village
of Kusinara of the Mallas on the further side of the Hiranyavati
river, the Buddha realised that his end was fast approaching.
He told Ananda to prepare a bed for him with its head turned towards
the north between two sal trees. Ananda who served him for 20
years was deeply upset. "Don't grieve, Ananda!" the
Buddha consoles him. "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".
As desired by the Buddha, the Mallas
of Kusinara were informed of his impending death, and they came
to pay respects to him. Among them was a mendicant named Subhadra,
a 120 year old Brahmin. He had earlier been turned away by Ananda
but when the Buddha overheard this he called the Brahmin to his
side. He was admitted to the Sangha (Buddhist order) and immediately
after his conversion he passed away.
When the third quarter of the night
approached, the Buddha asked his disciples three times if there
were any doubts about the teachings or the disciplines. The Bhikkhus
stood silent. "Not one, Ananda, has misgivings. All will
eventually reach enlightenment.
The Buddha then said his final words, "Listen, Bhikkhus,
I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay, strive
with diligence for your liberation".
He then passed into meditational
absorptions and entered Mahaparinirvana (the great passing away).
It was the full moon of the month of Vaisakha (April-May) and
the year was probably between 487 and 483 B.C. However, according
to the Sri Lankan tradition and other southeastern countries,
it is believed that the Buddha entered Parinirvana in 544-543
For the next six days the body
of the Great Master was laid in state. Preparations were made
for his funeral under the direction of Anirudha a cousin and follower
of the Buddha. On the seventh day, after honouring the body with
perfumes and garlands, it was taken to the Mukutbandhana Chaitya,
the sacred shrine of the Mallas. The last ceremony was performed
by Maha Kasapa and the body of the Great Master was cremated with
due honour. When the cremation was completed the ashes were collected
by the Mallas as relics, which consisted of a skull bone, teeth
and inner and outer shrouds. The relics were then distributed
into eight shares amongst the representatives of the other eight
Kingdoms which constituted ancient northern India. These relics
were again subdivided after King Ashoka decided to build 84,000
stupas. Today these relics are enshrined in stupas across Asia.
temple was built by the Indian Government in 1956 as part of the
commemoration of the 2,500th year of the Mahaparinivana or 2500
BE (Buddhist Era). Inside this temple, one can see the famous
Reclinging Buddha image lying on its right side with the head
to the north. The statue is 6.1 m long and rests on a stone couch.
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 inscriptionof the 5th
century AD, which states the statue was "a gift of the
monk Haribala of the Mahavihara and was fashioned by Dinna".
This 1500-year old reclining Buddha image was executed out
of one block of red sandstone brough in from Mathura during the
Gupta period. It was discovered in 1876 in a dilapidated condition
and the scattered fragments were successfully pieced together.
showed that the original temple on the site consisted of an oblong
hall and antechamber with its entrance facing the west. Large
number of bricks with carved surfaces found among the rubbish
indicated that the temple had a barrel-vaulted roof not unlike
that on the modern temple.t
iconography in Greco-Roman style
the Buddha's Pariinibbana