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Buddha Statue at Saranath

Places where the Buddha visited

By Rohan Jayetilleke



Standing Buddha-Mathura (Gupta period)

The itinerary of Sri Lanka pilgrimages organized by pilgrim operators generally cover places such as Buddha Gaya, Shravasti, Vaishali, Rajagaha, Kusinara (Kushinagar), Uruvela (Dhungeswari) Saranath (Varanasi) but there are other places where the Buddha visited which are not included in these guided Buddhist tours of India. There are a number of villages and towns the Buddha passed through mentioned in detail in the Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka. These places still remain to be identified and included in the itineraries of Buddhist pilgrims. Such places include Mathura, (Muttra), Mithila, Saket, Alavi, Kosambi and Champa.

Mathura was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Surasena. It was once called Madhuvana (the forest of honey) where the demon chief Madhu and his son Lavana resided. The demon is referred to as Yaksa in the Buddhist scriptures. They were called yaksas not because they were monstrous demons but worshippers of their ancestors (animism). In the pre-Buddhistic Vedic India, the general belief was that the departed kinsmen lived in large trees and green groves as spirits and offerings made the survivors free from internal and external vicissitudes (plebian needs). These places where they made offerings and oblations were called cetiyas. The term yaksa is a derivative of the word yajna meaning fit for worship. The worshippers of such spirits were called yaksa. In Sri Lanka even today the Veddhas continue with this ancestor worship in the form of Ne-yaksa, relative spirit. This term cetiya was later absorbed by the Buddhist traditions to name the stupas enshrining the sacred relics of the Buddha and Arahants. The Sinhala term being (chaitya). Even during the time of the Buddha these spirit worshipping shrines existed.

Worshipping spirits

The Rajayatana tree, Ajapala tree in Buddha Gaya were such places, where spirits


Bodhisatva, Gandhara (Graeco-Buddhist)

were worshipped. Rajayatana is formed of the two words Raja (king) and yajna (fit for worship). Ajapala means the tree of worship by the goatherds. Gautama Buddha in his last walk at the age of 80, from Gijjakuta (Rajgir - Rajagaha) to Kusinara (Kasi or Kushinagar) a distance of nearly 300 miles taking a period of twelve months, en route stayed Rajagaha - (Gijjakuta - Vulture Peak Rock - formed like at eagle) Ambalatthika - Pavarika Mango Grove, Na Landa - Pataligama (modern Patna capital of Bihar State) - Kotigama - Nadika - Vesali (Vaishali) - Ambapalis Grove - Beluwagamaka (where the last vassa rains retreat was spent) - Savatthi (Modern Sahet - Mahet) - Capala-cetiya - in Vaisha li, where the Buddha said, Vesalis agreeable, Ananda, and so are the Udena - cetiya - the Gotamaka-cetiya, the Sattambika-cetiya - the Bahuputra-cetiya - the Gotamaka-cetiya, the Sattambika-cetiya - the Bahuputra-cetiya, the Sasanda-cetiya - Sattambaka-cetiya and Capala-cetiya - Bhandagama - Hatthigama-Bhoganagara - Pava and finally to Kusinara for the great demise (Mahaparinirvana).

Ramas step-brother defeated Lavana and cutting the forest down, built Mathura. The Chinese pilgrim monk Fa-Hien of the 5th century A.D. visiting Mathura calls the site Mataou-lo, or the peacock city. Still another Chinese pilgrim monk Hieun-Tsang of the 7th century calls Mathura Mo-tu-lo. The ancient site of Mathura is now identified by Indian archaeologists with modern Maholi, 8 km to the South-West of modern Muttra, both situated in the banks of the Yamuna in Haryana State. Mathura was a great centre of Buddhism for several centuries, from the time of the Buddha (6th century B.C.) Ven. Mahakaccana, one of the most accomplished disciples of the Buddha who ordained Sona Kutikana at Pavatta Rock at Kurueraghara in the kingdom of Avanti, too lived in Mathura for several years.



Yakshani, Patna Museum

Once, when the Buddha was in Sravasti Jetavanaramaya, gifted by the rich Vaishya-Setti merchant Anathapindika having obtained the Jetas grove, Buddha observed a certain woman in the throes of death and was about to be reborn after death in an unpleasant plane (niraya) came to Mathura and the woman served alms to the Buddha and consequent to this meritorious action she was reborn in a pleasant existence (heaven). The Chinese pilgrim monk in the 5th century A.D. saw numerous Viharas with many monks in residence in Mathura and he estimated them to be around 3,000. In the 7th century A.D. Chinese pilgrim monk Hieun-Tsang had seen 2,000 monks and a greater majority of the Hindu-Brahmanical faith. These large figures are nothing surprising as the life circle of a man in the Vedic times was four-tiered, namely, Bramacariya (studentship), Gruhasta (employed-bringing up a family), Vanapravasth (entry to forests for a meditative life) and finally Sannasi (wandering ascetic with no fixed abode). Even Prince Siddarta went through these four stages, and it was not a case of seeing a sick man, old man, dead body and a recluse, he decided to renounce worldly life. This renunciation from household life was a tradition followed by the Bodhisatva (Aspirant to Buddhahood) performing the ten Perfections (Paramits) through aeons and aeons of his samsara journey (life and death continuing cycle).

Sacred relics

The present temple of Hindu Bhutesvara was originally a stupa enshrining some sacred relics of Sariputta, one of the chief disciples of the Buddha. It is one of the seven stupas mentioned by Hieun Tsang. The Archaeological excavations and finds indicate that Mathura was a meeting ground of various religious sects, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Vaishavanism, like Isipatana (where sages descend) at Saranath, Varanasi, to which place the former five associates of Prince Siddartha (later Buddha) went when the prince gave up the life of self-mortification. Numerous Buddhist antiquities, inclusive of Buddha and Bodhisatva images, have come to light with the archaeologists spades.

These images are colossal in size. The statues portray various mudras of the Buddha names, (i) the Dhayanamudra (meditative posture), (ii) Abhayamudra (fearless posture) (iii) Bhumisparsamudra (earth-touching posture, earth as a witness) (iv) Dharmacakrapravartana mudra (the Turning the Wheel of Righteousness) and (v) Varadamudra (granting a boon posture - boon of not materialism but spirituality).

To be continued

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පෝය අගෝස්තු 27 වැනි දා සඳුදා
අපර භාග 06.13 ට ලබයි. 28 වැනි දා අඟහරුවාදා අපරභාග 04.03 දක්වා පෝය පවතී.
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28 වැනි දා අඟහරුවාදාය.

මීළඟ පෝය සැප්තැම්බර්
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Second Quarterඅව අටවක

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New Moonඅමාවක

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