The capital of the Mallas and the scene of the Buddha's death. At that time it was a small city, "a branch-township with wattle-and-daub houses in the midst of the jungle," and Ananda was, at first, disappointed that the Buddha should have chosen it for his Parinibbāna. But the Buddha, by preaching the Mahā-Sudassana Sutta, pointed out to him that in ancient times it had been Kusāvatī, the royal city of Mahā-Sudassana (D.ii.146). Between Kusinārā and Pāvā, three gāvutas away (DA.ii.573) - from where the Buddha came to Kusinārā on his last journey from Rājagaha, stopping at various places - lay the stream of Kakuttha on the banks of which was the Ambavana; beyond that was the Hiraññavatī river, and near the city, in a south-westerly direction, lay the Upavattana, the Sāla-grove of the Mallas, which the Buddha made his last resting-place (UdA.238; DA.ii.572f).
After the Buddha's death his body was carried into the city by the northern gate and out of the city by the eastern gate; to the east of the city was Makutabandhana, the shrine of the Mallas, and there the body was cremated. For seven days those assembled at the ceremony held a festival in honour of the relics (D.ii.160f).
It is said that the Buddha had three reasons for coming to Kusinārā to die:
As the scene of his death, Kusinārā became one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha to be fit places of pilgrimage for the pious, the other three being Kapilavatthu, Buddhagayā and Isipatana (D.ii.140). Mention is made of other visits paid to Kusinārā by the Buddha, prior to that when his death took place. Thus, once he went there from āpana and having spent some time at Kusinārā, proceeded to ātumā. The Mallas of Kusinārā were always great admirers of the Buddha, even though not all of them were his followers, and on the occasion of this visit they decided that any inhabitant of Kusinārā who failed to go and meet the Buddha and escort him to the city, would be fined five hundred. It was on this occasion that Roja the Mallan was converted and gave to the Buddha and the monks a supply of green vegetables and pastries (Vin.i.247f). During some of these visits the Buddha stayed in a wood called Baliharana, and there he preached two of the Kusinārā Suttas (A.i.274f; v.79f) and the "Kinti" Sutta (M.ii.238f). A third Kusinārā Sutta he preached while staying at Upavattana. (A.ii.79; for another discourse to some noisy monks at Upavattana, see Ud.iv.2).
Kusinārā was the birthplace of Bandhula and his wife Mallikā (DhA.i.338, 349). It was twenty-five yojanas from Rājagaha (DA.ii.609; acc. to Fa Hsien, p.40, it was twenty-four yojanas from Kapilavatthu) and lay on the high road from Alaka to Rājagaha, the road taken by Bāvarī's disciples (SN.v.1012).
This was evidently the road taken also by Mahā Kassapa from Pāvā, when he came to pay his last respects to the Buddha (Vin.ii.284).
According to a late tradition, one-eighth of the Buddha's relics were deposited in a cairn in Kusinārā and honoured by the Mallas (D.ii.167; Bu.xxviii.3).
In ancient times Kusinārā was the capital of King Tālissara and twelve of his descendants (Dpv.iii.32). It was also the scene of the death of Phussa Buddha at the Setārāma (v.l. Sonārāma) (BuA.195; Bu.xix.25).
In Hiouen Thsang's day there still existed towers and Sarighārāmas erected to mark the spots connected with the Buddha's last days and obsequies at Kusinārā. According to his account (Beal. op. cit.li. lii. n) Kusinārā was nineteen yojanas from Vesāli.
To the northern Buddhists the place was also known as Kusigrāma (Kusigrāmaka) and Kusinagarī (E.g., Dvy.152f, 208).
Kusinārā is identified with the village of Kasia at the junction of the river Rapti and the smaller Gondak and in the cast of the Gorakhpur district (CAGI.i.493). A copper plate belonging to the thūpa erected at the site of the Buddha's death has recently been discovered (CAGI.i.714).
The people of Kusinārā are called Kosinārakā. E.g., D.ii.167.