Kesaria Stupa, Kesaria
Located in Bihar, Kesaria Stupa is one the largest Buddist stupas in the world. It was built around the 2nd and 7th century AD and stands more than 300 feet in height. The stupa was also known to be visited by Lord Buddha and is also mentioned in the writings of Chinese traveller Heiun Tsang that signifies its historical importance.
Ancient Kesariya was called Kesaputta and was a republic ruled by Kalamas, which was later annexed by its monarchical neighbour Kosala. Alara Kalama, the teacher of Buddha before enlightenment, is said to belong to Kesaputta. Buddha is also said to have had direct connection with Kesaputta. According to Jataka stories Buddha ruled this place as a Chakravartin Raja in his previous birth. Similarly, it was during one of his visits to Kesaputta that Buddha gave one of his most important discourses, the celebrated Kessaputtiya Sutta, popularly known as Kalama Sutta. Kesariya stupa is believed to have been built to honor the place where Buddha had spent the last days of his journey, before attaining Nirvana. It is said that on his last journey to Pawa, Buddha handed over his begging bowl to the following Lichhivis, people of Vaishali and requested them to go back to Vaishali. To venerate the end life of Buddha, the Lichhivis are said to have built this stupa. While formerly, it was only a mud stupa, it gained its present structure in the Maurya, Sunga and Kushana period. Huien Tsang mentions having seen the grand Stupa in Kia-shi-po-lo (Kesariya) but it was deserted and vegetation had overgrown.
The stupa is the largest in the world, with a height of 104 ft, and attracts lots of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world. Excavated in 1998, the stupa is rare example of Buddhist architecture and archaelogical preservation. The stupa competes with that of Borobodur (103 ft) in Java, a world heritage site, of 103-m height. It is believed that the stupa has further immersed into earth after the famous 1934- earthquake before which, the height of this stupa was 123 ft. Huen Tsang has mentioned, in his travelogue, about this giant stupa. Some important aspects of Buddha’s life are associated with Kesaria. It is known that he spent a night at this place before his Nirvana, and gave his begging -bowl to the people of Vaishali. Buddha also asked Lichhivis to return to Vaishali after his death and its believed that Lichhivis built this stupa.
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Location : Kesaria is located at a distance of 110 Km from Patna, in the Champaran (east) district of Bihar. It is spread between Latitude: 22o54’N Longitude: 71o48’E
The stupa is believed to be of a height of 150 ft while the Borobodur is of 138. The striking similarity in the two is that both have six floors, and the diameter of the Kesaria stupa is equal to that of the width of the Borobodur. The stupa was built to commemorate the end-life of Lord Buddha, by Licchvis, as for the matter of fact Buddha held the Lichhvis high and also preached others to do so.
The place is a reminiscent to the Buddha’s last phase of life, his humanitarian approach towards all, independent of caste and creed. His simple and ethical principles also come into mind while one travels this huge Stupa, nearly twice as large as that of Sanchi.
Excavated in 1998, this place has become a global tourist attraction within a short span of time. The place exerts a spiritual effect on everybody and relieves the aesthetics. According to some archaeologists, this monument dates back to 200 AD to 750 AD, and is associated to some Raja Chakravarti. The circumference of this brick monument is nearly 1400 ft which, is a certificate of its bulky structure.
The excavation led to many significant findings such as Islamic coins, arrow heads, copper and terracotta items etc.
The landscape is also quite attractive and has a heartwarming effect on the tourists travelling to the city.
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VaishaliVaishali : The village is ancient and is related to Ramayana, and hence has a rich history associated with it. The village houses many important tourist attractions such as the double storeyed Buddhist monastery, Kolhua pillar and ruins of the monastery, a mound refered to as Raja Vaihala ka Garh, The stupas of Buddha, the Bhawan pokhar temple and the Vaishali museum. Besides, mango groves and rice fields beautifully surround the place to make it an ideal religious destination.
Kushinagar : This place is very important to Buddhists due to the fact that Lord Buddha gave his last sermon here and passed away in this village. It is also associated to Mahavira, the Jain saint. The places to see include the Mahaprinirvana tempe, Nirvana stupa, Mathakuar shrine, Ramabhar Stupa, the peace pagoda, and Kushinagar museum.
Besides the Buddha Purnima festival is a fabulous festival and thousands of devotees flock to Kushinagar on this occasion.
How to reach
Air : Patna airport at a distance of 150 Km is the nearest airport.
Rail : The nearest major railway station is Hajipur.
Road : The road network is well connected with Muzzaffarpur, Motihari etc.
Where to stay
One can stay at Kushinagar, in Hotel Nikko Lotus or in the Royal Residency. However, dharmashalas and other charity foundations’ accommodation arrangements could also be tried out.
In the 1998 excavation, the place around the stupa was found to house significant items, like Islamic coins, arrow heads, copper and terracotta items, earthen lamps, decorated bricks, etc. A number of images of Buddha, in ‘Bhoomi Sparsh Mudra’ and other sitting postures, were also found.
Nearest Big Village Trilokwa (3.5 Km), Phultakiya (3 Km), Baisakhawa (2 Km), Ramgadhwa (4 Km), Tajpur (6 Km), Bairiya (6 Km), Bathana (5 Km), Nyagaw (4 Km), Etc.