The ancient town gets its name from Kusha, the son of Lord Ram who is believed to have founded and ruled the city for a long time.
Kushinagar , known for Buddha’s mahaparinirvana, has recorded history from the time of ramayana. Ram and Sita crossed “kushinara” through bansi river after their wedding.
The renowned ascetic Gorakh Nath gave name and fame to this district by practicing austerities on the spot where the famous temple named after him stands. It appears that the earliest known king ruling over this region with his capital at Ayodhya, was Iksvaku, who founded the solar dynasty of Ksatriyas. It produced a number of illustrious kings till the accession of Ram, who was the greatest ruler of this dynasty. Ram had divided the kingdom, during his lifetime, into small principalities. He crowned his eldest son Kusa as the king of Kushavati present Kushinagar which lay in the Gorakhpur district till 1946. After Ram’s renunciation of the world Kusa left Kusawati (Kushinagar) and repaired to Ayodhya. His cousin, Chandraketu, son of Lakshmana, even the epithet of malla (valiant) in the Ramayana, thereupon took possession of this region.
The discovery of painted pottery red in color, terracotta and carnelian beads, cast and punch- marked coins, a large number of clay seals inscribed with proper names in the Brahmi characters of the third and second centuries B.C., found in the course of excavations at Sohgaura, in the Bansgaon tehsil, indicate that the people of this area possessed an artistic taste and lived in peace and prosperity. The history of this region in the era immediately following the fall of the empire of Magadha is shrouded in darkness till the advent of the Kushans. The discovery of some coins of Vima Kadphises and Kanishka( 78-102 CE) indicates that the district remained under the domination of Kushans. The Kushans were ousted by the Bharshivas of Bundelkhand, and the area covered by this district, thereafter remained under Gupta supremacy.
Then there is archeological evidence dating back to 3rd century BC, that proves that the Mauryan emperor Ashoka also exercised authority here for quite some time. However, what Kushinagar is most known for today is as a major pilgrimage centre for Buddhists in India. It was here that Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana.
Hence, the primary attraction of the city is Mahaparinirvana Temple, located amidst the ruins of various ancient monasteries that date back to 5th-century CE. The highlight of the temple is its 6 meters long statue of Lord Buddha. According to the inscriptions in the ruins, the remains of Lord Buddha were deposited here.
It features archeological excavations that were found in the city including various artifacts like statues, sculptures, seals, coins and banners along with a wide variety of other antiquities. The idol of Lord Buddha built in a striking Gandhara style is among the major attractions in the museum.
Ramabhar Stupa, which marks the place where Lord Buddha was cremated.
The Sun Temple is a must-visit too; it was built during the Gupta period and finds mention in the Puranas. The highlight of the temple is the idol of the Sun God which was carved out of a special black stone called Neelmani. The statue was believed to have been unearthed during excavations conducted between the 4th and 5th centuries.
Among the most important of Buddhist pilgrimages, Kushinagar was where The Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana (ultimate salvation) in c. 483 BCE.
Today’s Kushinagar is identified with Kusinara, capital of the ancient Malla republic, which was one of the 16 mahajanapadas of the 6th-4th centuries BCE.
The area went on to be part of the kingdoms of the Mauryas, Shungas, Kushanas, Guptas, Harshavardhana, and the Palas. Kusinara is believed to have been inhabited until at least the 12th century.
The first excavations in Kushinagar were carried out by Alexander Cunningham and ACL Carlleyle, who unearthed the main stupa and the 6-meter-long statue of the Reclining Buddha in 1876. Kushinagar is among the very few places in India where The Buddha is depicted in reclining form.
In 2016, the Ministry of Tourism announced the Buddhist Circuit as the country’s first transnational tourism circuit, covering sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka alongside those in India.
The map of the Buddhist Circuit includes Bodh Gaya, Vaishali and Rajgir in Bihar, Kushinagar, Sarnath, and Shravasti in UP, and Lumbini in Nepal.
The Buddha was born as the prince Siddhartha Gautama in c. 563 BCE in Lumbini, and he lived until the age of 29 with his parents in the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu.
He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, and gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Varanasi.
He taught in the area around Rajgir, where he built a forest monastery by king Bimbisara of Magadha, and he lived the largest part of his life as The Buddha in Shravasti. He delivered his last sermon in Vaishali.