Stupas and other remains along the Pilgrimage Route

high-definition creative commons photographs from various sites along the Buddhist Pilgrimage route in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India, together with some further information.


When Queen Māyādevī was nearing her time she asked permission from her husband King Suddhodana to return to her family home in Devadaha, as was the custom, but while on the way, under a Sal Tree at the Lumbini Park, she gave birth to the Bodhisatta. King Asoka visited the place and left a pillar edict to mark the place iof the Buddha's birth. The whole area is now set in the Lumbini Park, which is a protected area.


The capital of the Sakiyan Republic was at Kapilavastu (Pāḷi: Kapilavatthu), where King Suddhodana had his palace, and where the young prince grew up, received his schooling and was married to Princess Yasodharā. It was also here that the Bodhisatta saw the Four Signs which made him renounce the household life and begin his quest for Awakening. There are two sites which are acclaimed as the ancient city, the one photographed here, with its stūpa and monastic buildings, is in India, and the other is in Nepal.


After his Awakening the Lord Buddha spent around seven weeks in the vicinity of Gayā, before walking the approximately 250km to Baraṇāsi, and then out to the Deer Park at Isipatana (now Sārnāth). It was here he gave his teaching to the group-of-five ascetics, who had previously been his companions, and set the Dhamma Wheel rolling. It was also here that he spent his first Rains Retreat and send out the first missionaries.


Shravasti (Pāḷi: Sāvatthi) was the capital of Kosala, which was one of the two main kingdoms in Lord Buddha's time. It was here that the Buddha received a number of important monasteries, like the Jetavana from the wealthy merchant Anāthapiṇḍika, and the Eastern Monastery from Lady Visākhā. The Buddha spent more time in this city than anywhere else, and by far the majority of the recorded teachings in the Canon are located around this city.


Kesarīya (Pāḷi: Kesaputta) was one of the cities of the Kālāmas, who are remembered in the Pāḷi texts mainly for two things: one of the Bodhisatta's early teachers, Ālāra Kālāma, belonged to the clan; and the Buddha gave one seminal discourse to the same clan, which is now known as the Kālāmasutta. There is a very large and impressive stūpa here, which commemorates the place on the Buddha's last journey where he asked his lay followers to return to their villages and let him continue his walk to his destination.


Kushinagara (Pāḷi: Kusināra) was a town of the Mallas, and it was here that the Lord Buddha ended his days. After his final Rains Retreat he left Vaishali and walked around 250 km up to Pāvā where he received his last meal from Cunda the Smith. After the meal he fell ill again, and according to the very sad story in the Commentary, on the last day of his tour he actually had to sit down and rest no less than 25 times before reaching Kusinārā in the evening. With Ānanda's help the Mallas came out to pay their final respects to the Great Teacher, and he passed away at the end of the night between twin Sāl trees.


After the Buddha's Final Emancipation his body was cremated and the relics from the pyre were distributed between eight claimants. This stūpa on the outskirts of Kushinagara marks the cremation spot. It is again quite impressive in size, as befits the occasion it commemorates. The grounds are marked by a sense of peace and final tranquility.

On the Road

Besides the many wonderful places we visited on the pilgrimage routes, the journeys in between were also quite memorable: being greeted by beautiful dawns, seeing the fertile fields in the morning, monks on cārika and the country roads with village life lived out along them all remain with me. The roads are unfortunately in many places very rough, and can be quite dangerous, and we saw a number of accidents along the way as vehicles gave way to gravity and were upturned, and to weight and broke in crucial places.


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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