From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Places associated with Buddhism
Mains level : Not Much
The Prime Minister has inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh, which will help connect key Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
- Kushinagar is a town in the Kushinagar district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
- It is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Buddhists believe Gautam Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana after his death.
- It is an international Buddhist pilgrimage centre.
- It is also at the centre of a Buddhist tourist circuit, which includes Lumbini (Nepal), Sarnath and Bodhgaya.
- Other Buddhist destinations nearby include Nalanda, Sravasti and Kapilavastu.
History of Kushinagar
The present Kushinagar is identified with Kusavati (in the pre-Buddha period) and Kushinara (in the post-Buddha period).
- Kushinara was the capital of Mallas which was one of the sixteen mahajanpada of the 6th century BCE.
- Since then, it remained an integral part of the erstwhile empires of Maurya, Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Harsha, and Pala dynasties.
- In the medieval period, Kushinagar had passed under the suzerainty of Kultury Kings.
- Kushinara continued to be a living city till the 12th century CE and was thereafter lost into oblivion.
- It was believed to be ruled over by a Rajput adventurer, Madan Singh, in the 15th century CE.
- Kushinagar came into prominence in the 19th century with archaeological excavations carried out by Alexander Cunningham, the first Archaeological Surveyor of India.
- It was later followed by C.L. Carlleyle who exposed the main stupa and also discovered a 10 meters long statue of reclining Buddha in 1876.
- Excavations continued till 1907 under J. Ph. Vogel, uncovering a wealth of Buddhist materials.
- Chandra Swami, a Burmese monk, came to India in 1903 and made Mahaparinirvana Temple into a living shrine.
What is the Buddhist Tourist Circuit?
- 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.
Significance of these places
- The Buddha was born as the prince Siddhartha Gautama in c. 563 BC 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 was 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 and got parinirvana at Kushinagar.
Significance of this Circuit
Ans. Cultural Diplomacy
- Look East: There is an awareness in the government that the absence of tourist infrastructure is a major reason why India loses out to Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia and Thailand.
- Employment through Tourism: The hope is that world-class facilities will be able to attract Buddhist tourists to India, and boost revenues and employment generation.
- Gaining soft power: The push is intended to assert and consolidate India’s position as the original centre of Buddhism, against the claims from China.
Questions based on either Buddhism or Jainism, are all-time favourite of UPSC and are equally invincible.
They no more seem to be based on NCERT or other standard references available in market.
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Meantime, try this PYQ:
Which of the following kingdoms were associated with the life of the Buddha?
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1, 3 and 4
(d) 3 and 4 only
Post your answers here.