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A Pilgrimage Special: At Matha Kuwara Shrine

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In Kushinagar, we went to a small shrine called Matha Kuwara Shrine. This shrine houses a Buddha image in earth-touching-posture, said to be 3.05 m tall and carved out of one block of blue stone. An interesting incident happened here. Lord Buddha had become sick after he was offered a meal of mushroom by Cunda and as a result had to stop at 25 places to rest when he was traveling from Pava to Kushinagar. Apparently, when Lord Buddha stopped here to rest, he had asked Ven. Ananda to fetch some water to drink. Ven. Ananda did not go initially because many carts had crossed the stream making the water muddy and the water undrinkable, I suppose. On the third request, he went over to the stream and had found the water had turned clear.

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At the Matha Kuwara Shrine built in 1927 by Ven. Chandramani out of the donations of Myammar devotees, U Po Kyo and U Po Hlaing...




A Pilgrimage Special: The Cremation Stupa

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The Makutabandhana Cetiya or Cremation Stupa marks the place where Lord Buddha was cremated. We had visited it immediately after visiting the Mahaparinibbana Temple. It was a cold, misty morning when we visited it but monks and other pilgrims were already up and about. We were warned not to give away money freely since there were charlatans dressed in saffron robes and posing as monks there . The Cremation stupa was raised by the Mallas after the cremation and repaired by Asoka in the 3th century BC and again in the 5th century AD during the reign of Kumaragupta. In 1861 it was just a big mound but later a stupa consisting of a circular drum 34 m in diameter resting on a 47 m diameter platform was exposed and in the excavations, a large number of clay seals inscribed with Buddhist verses confirmed that this was the cremation of Lord Buddha. At this holy place then, pilgrims say a prayer.
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At the Makutabandhana Cetiya....
We...and other pilgrims say a prayer...


Traveling Tip: Beware …

A Pilgrimage Special: At Kusinagar -the Site of Parinirvana

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Leaving India for Nepal was a fantastic experience. It was towards evening when we left Kapilavastu for Lumbini. The road to Nepal was bad and it was a bumpy ride all the way as we passed through hamlets where villagers could be seen gathering outside their homes or going about their chores. At night, oil lamps were lit and occasionally in little shops, a small motor may be used to light up a little bulb. All along the way, people can be seen walking or cycling along the isolated road even when it was already pitch dark, thus giving me the impression that there were actually many people and activities going on around these remote areas where there was no electricity or piped water. I really wonder how the locals live and no, I would not want to go for a home stay here! The hotel in Lumbini was fine though and we had no difficulty getting through the customs at the congested border. We had visited Mayadevi temple the next day and following there had left Nepal again for Kusin…

A Pilgrimage Special: To Kapilavastu

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Kapilavastuis the name of an ancient Indian city. In a school textbook which I used ages ago, I remember it was stated that Kapilavastu was the birthplace of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The search for Buddha's birthplace following the accounts left by Xuanzang and Faxian has now, of course, decided that it is Lumbini that is the birthplace and it happens too that there are two Kapilavastu and Lumbini is near to both these places. The first Kapilavastu was of course Piprahwa in India. Nepalese guidebooks and historians however consider Tilaurakot in Nepal to be the real Kapilavastu. Our Indian guide said it is Piprahwa as evident from the relics excavated there but some people prefer to think that Tilaurakot was the old Kapilavastu and after the attack by the Kosalan army near the end of Buddha's life, Kapilavastu was rebuilt in Piprahwa and thus, it was the new Kapilavastu. There is another view that Kapilavastu is a large area which is mainly in Nepal but partly in I…

A Pilgrimage Special: At Buddha's Birthplace

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The paper reported today that rescuers searched for more than 100 missing people after a steel footbridge collapsed in remote western Nepal, sending scores plunging into icy Himalayan waters. The only place I visited in Nepal was Lumbini and that was of course, during my recent pilgrimage. I remember bridges there were rather narrow and only one vehicle could cross it at anyone time and it was really a wonder that there was no traffic light or a police to direct the traffic. Lumbini is really a small drab town in Rupandehi District but being the place where Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama who later became the Buddha, it has become an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists besidesKushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Sarnath. .In Buddha's time, Lumbini was supposed to be a beautiful garden full of green shady Sal tree under which Siddhartha Gautama came into the world. Our visit to Lumbini was mainly to visit Mayadevi Temple which marked the exact spot where the birth took place. T…

A Pilgrimage Special: At Angulimala's Cave

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Visiting Angulimala's cave at Mahet near Sravasti in Northern India brought back memories of a Buddhist hymn written by Victor Wee. Part of the hymn has gone thus:
Stop thee, O Safron princely monk,
That hasten like falling rain.
I want a finger from thy foot,
To finish of f my bloody chain...Angulimala is an important figure in Buddhism. In fact, he was a bandit who murders for fingers to make a chain for his teacher. The princely monk in the hymn is Buddha and He has converted Angulimala, stopping him thus from completing his bloody chain of severed fingers. Angulimala's cave is just a hole which can be viewed from atop a stupa and I have failed to climb up the stupa after being swarmed by a group of students from Jesus and Mary school who were curious and had bombarded me with lots of questions. It was nice interacting with them and this post is specially dedecated to them...
Visiting Angulimala's cave...
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Students of Jesus and Mary School...









Traveling Tip: Traveling is …

A Pilgrimage Special: At the Ancient capital of Kosala

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We had left Lucknow after lunch, at about two plus. Lunch was marvelous and I liked especially the bean sprouts that looked like they had a hard time sprouting. They were very unlike the bean sprouts back home where the radicals were longer. The ones we had in Lucknow had just a tip of the radical emerging from the beans but they did really taste good. I wonder if they were bean sprouts at all but if they were not, what were they then? Anyway, back to Sravasti, it was supposed to be the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Kosala. Formally known as Sahet Mahet, it was an important Buddhist site because it was here that Buddha performed some miracles, known to the Buddhist circle as the The Twin Miracles. Being 173 km away, we went through a long, strenuous journey where we passed hamlets and vast padi fields. We spent a night at Hotel Lotus Nikko before visiting the important sites early the next day. Many monasteries built by foreign countries could be found here but we had visited the…

Special Feature: Out On A Pilgrimage!

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India, here I come again; this time for a pilgrimage. When I first announced the first time that I would be going for a pilgrimage trip in December, it drew looks of surprise. What would an unreligious person go for a pilgrimage for? My boss announced in the meeting that I would be going for a pilgrimage trip and there was laughter. I was actually a bit embarrassed but I put on an unassuming look. I would be going for a pilgrimage yes, on 7 December, 2007. It would be a 12 day trip if you would consider the first day of traveling from Penang to New Delhi aboard MH1153 one day and the last day of traveling aboard MH 1138 from New Delhi back to Penang another. In both cases, we would transit at KLIA, the beautiful airport that I had not stepped on since flying AirAsia. Anyway, to make a long story short, our pilgrimage did not really start on 7 December, technically. We had reached New Delhi at about 11.50 pm and had been herded to a dilapidated part of the city where the hotel had an e…

India - The Day Our Group Split

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A day before we left for home, our group split. My roommate, Heng Chye and the Siamese couple,Niran and Somsi were interested in museumswhile Shah and his friends, Aziz and Wahab were not so keen. It ended up then that I went to the museum with my roommate and company and Shah went on a tour of New Delhi visiting the place where Indira Gandhi was murdered, the Bahai temple etc. Visiting the NationalMuseum was a delight especially when we got to see artifacts from Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, two ancient sites in Northern India which we have learnt in history books during our school days. Later towards the night, we met up with our friends as we prepared to take a plane home. There was however, a surprise waiting in store. That night, there was a thick mist and our plane could not take off as scheduled. The passengers were all herded off to a hotel and the seven of us, who had waited at another corner, were left unattended. Luckily, later when the mistake was realized, we were reimbursed…

Seeing Red in New Delhi

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There seems to be many red forts in India. Of course, the first I saw was Agra Fort in Agra and then, came many more red buildings both in Fatepur Sikri and Jaipur. If I remember right there is another one in New Delhi too. One afternoon, we just took a taxi and walked into a park and there were so many fabulous red buildings there.It must be the the palace for the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan!The Red Fort as the complex was called, had massive red sandstones for walls. Construction of the fort was said to have begun in 1638 and was completed by 1648 but it is also believed that this was the AncientCity of Lal Kot ,the capital city of Prithviraj Chauhan in the late 12th century. Lal Kot had been captured by Shah Jahan and literally, it means Red(Lal) Fort(Kot). Later in history, that was after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Fort was used as a headquarters for the British army and during this time, about four-fifths of its pavilions and gardens were destroyed. What we walked into however,…