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Four Other Sacred Places
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 22 December 2007

Original Four Sacred Places

"Ananda, there are four places the sight of which will arouse strong emotion in those with faith - Which are they?  "Here the Tathagata was born" this is the first. "Here the Tathagata attained the supreme enlightenment" – this is the second. "Here the Tathagata set in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma" – this is the third. "Here the Tathagata attained final Nirvana without remainder" – this is the fourth.  And the monk, the nun, the layman or the laywoman who has faith should visit these places. And anyone who dies while making a pilgrimage to these shrines with a devoted heart will, at the breaking up of the body at death, be reborn in heaven."                                                                    Mahaparinibbhana Sutta 

Four usual sacred places for Buddhist Pilgrims visited at Majjhimadesa (Middle-Land of Buddha Places) are those directly associated with Gotama Buddha, as mentioned above, i.e.,

(1)  Lumbini: the birth place of Gotama Siddhartha at Lumbini, Nepal; (2)  Bodh Gaya: the place for attainment of enlightenment by Gotama Buddha at Buddha Gaya (Bodh Gaya) in Bihar, India (Mahabodhi ceti and Mahabodhi Tree and related places); (3) Migadawon: the place where the first sermon, "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta", commonly known as "The Great Discourse Setting in Motion on the Wheel of Dhamma", to his five old friends - Kondanna (Kondajja), Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji, at the deer park, Migadawon/Isipatana, near Varanasi (Kashi), Uttar Pradesh (UP) State, India; and (4)   Kushinagar: the place where  Gotama Buddha entering Maha Parinibbana at Kushinagar, UP State, India. 

Other Four Sacred Places Four other places that are associated with the previous and present Buddhas and also linked with the great miracles performed by Gotama Buddha are: (a)Sravasti (Savatthi): where Gotama Buddha took his seat on a thousand petalled lotus and created multiple representations of himself and the conversion of Angulimala, the robber and murderer, who killed so many people, and also a place where not only Gotama Buddha but also all previous Buddhas and future Buddhas have to stay for the longest years of retreats. Sravasti in modern day is called Saheth-Maheth, near Balrampur in Sravasti District, abut 134 km north-west of Lucknow, the capital of UP State in India. The Jetavana Park where Buddha had spent longest years of his life had been maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). There are two oldest Myanmar Buddhist Viharas, one (called as Daw Dwe Zayat) is no more used by Myanmar pilgrims, and another one being inside in the archaeological sites have been agreed to keep as it was as a guest house and maintained by Myanmar monk. A new Myanmar Buddhist Vihara has been constructed in 2006. (b)Sankisa (Sankasya): where Gotama Buddha, after spending the seventh retreat and preached the Dhamma (Abhidhamma) to his mother and other gods at Tusita (Tushita), descended to earth accompanied by the Brahma and Indra. It is about 300 km south-east of New Delhi, and about 30 km east from Bewa Town on Delhi-Kanpur Road, in UP State, India. There is a ruined stupa with Ashoka’s pillar which has an elephant on top. A newly constructed Myanmar Buddhist Vihara is situated about 5 km from the stupa maintained now by the ASI. (c)Rajagriha (Rajgir): the capital of King Bimbisara where Gotama Buddha spent second longest retreats (over 10 times), and also tamed the wild and mad elephant. Present day Rajgir was a small town with many ruins maintained by the ASI. One of the oldest Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (established in 1936) was situated in side main city compound of Rajgir. (d)Vesali (Vaishali): a capital of Lichchhavi, one of the first republican states in the world, where a monkey offered honey to Gotama Buddha, and also a place where the Lord accepted the Bikkhunis. Vesali is about 60 km north of Patna, present day capital of Bihar State, India. Myanmar Buddhist Vihara at Vesali is partially built. Pilgrims can stop over and having lunch/snacks at the Vihara, on their way from Patna to Kushinagar.   These eight places are described as Atthamahathanani or eight incidents of Buddha Life as shown on one of the stone slabs in the National Museum in Sarnath.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 December 2007 )
Sravasti - Sacred Place
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 15 December 2007


Sravasti (Savatthi)

Longest Stay by Gotama Buddha


Sravasti (Savatthi)

Sravasti  (Savatthi in Sanskrit or Thawutti in Myanmar) in modern day is called Saheth-Maheth, near Balrampur in Sravasti District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), about 160 km north-east of Lucknow, the capital of UP, India.  Balrampur town has a railway station on the Gorakhpur-Gonda line of the North-Eastern Railway.  Sravasti is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists since Gotama Buddha and all earlier and future Buddhas stay there the longest years of rainy seasons’ retreats. Gotama Buddha stayed in Sravasti for 25 rain-retreats and also visited there on many occasions.

It keeps out cold and heat, Wild animals besides, and creeping things and flies, And chills and rain as well; And it affords protection, when Sun and Wind are fierce;  The aim is to be sheltered and at ease, in order to concentrate and practice insight; Gifts of dwellings to the Order are praised most highly by the Buddhas; So let a man possesses of wisdom, who sees wherein his own good lies, have a comfortable dwellings made and have a learned live in them; He can give food to them and drink and clothing and a resting place, letting his heart repose its trust in those who walk in righteousness; And they will teach the Dhamma to him for freedom from all suffering, knowing which Dhamma, he here attains Nibbāna and is free from taints.” {Vin. 6:5-9}

The above was what Gotama Buddha gave his sermon and blessing at the first day meal offering by Anathapindika, the wealthy merchant at the Jetavana Monastery of Jeta’s Grove, bought and built by Anathapindika. 

Sravasti (Savatthi) was a capital of Kingdom of Kosala ruled by King Pasenadi, and said to be derived from the fact that everything was available and also one of the vibrant and wealthy cities in Majjhimadesa.  Gotama Buddha visited Sravasti several times, before finally making it the headquarters of the Sanghas for 24 years from his 21st to 44th year of enlightment, of which eighteen years were spent at Jetavana Monastery, the rest at Pubbârâma.

A rich and pious trader Sudatta (popularly known as Anathapindika or Feeder of the Poor) from Sravasti got the idea of building the dwellings for Buddha and his followers, when he visited his brother at Rajagaha (Rajgir), where he met Gotama Buddha at the dwellings in Bamboo Grove during the 2nd Vassa.  Anathapindika offered Gotama Buddha to come and spend the next rain-retreat at Sravasti to which Gotama accepted.  The delighted Anathapindika went back to Sravasti and searched for appropriate place. He found out that the pleasure park owned by Prince Jeta, son of the King of Kosala, was the most suitable place.  Prince Jeta, who did not want to sell initially, told him an unrealistically high price that he would accept only if as many gold coins would fill the landscape.  Anathapindika already determined to build the dwellings for Lord Buddha asked his servants to bring as much gold pieces as they could take and began spreading them over the Jeta’s park.  Prince Jeta after realizing the intent of the buyer gave away the rest of the place, not covered by the gold coins, as his donation. Thus, the place was called “Jetavana Anathapindika-arama” (Anathapindika’s Garden of Jeta’s Grove).

According to the Vinaya, the Jetavana consisted a complex of buildings with monasteries, cells, halls, porches, attendance halls, fire rooms, kitchens, wells, covered pathways, toilets, bathrooms, lotus ponds and sheds.  After initial buildings, several large monasteries were built in the coming years around Sravasti, of which Pubbârâma (the Eastern Monastery built by Visâkhâ) and the Rajakârâma were mentioned in the Buddha’s sermons on several occasions. At these sacred places, Gotama Buddha gave famous sermons at least 6 out of 11 main paritas that the Buddhists today chant everyday for their health, wealth and luck. These famous paritas (Suttas/Jatakas) are: (a) Mangala Sutta for basic ways, means and principles for human beings used for blessings and prosperity; (b) Metta Sutta for suffusing all kinds of being, including devas in heaven and those beings in hell, with lovingkindness; (c) Khandha Sutta for giving lovingkindness to animals and other living things, especially for protection against snakes and other creatures;  (d) Mora Jataka for helping ill persons and for protection against snares, imprisonment and for safety; (e) Dhajagga Sutta for the benefits of worshiping triple gems for protection against fear, trembling and horror; and (f) Angulimala Sutta for easy and safe birth.  Gotama Buddha also preached several other suttas and jatakas while residing in Sravasti, and also expounded a major part of Tripitaka. Jetavana had the high honour of sheltering Gotama Buddha and his followers for retreats during 25 rainy seasons.

Events at and around Sravasti

One of the twin miracle and most celebrated events was the conversion of Angulimala, the most fearful robber and murderer who had killed many people.  He had hung one finger each from each victim on a string around his neck, and hence he was named Angulimala. Gotama Buddha went to the place where he was known to operate, and was seen by Angulimala who began to chase him. He was not able to catch up with the Buddha despite he ran the fastest. Angulimala asked the Buddha to stop, to which Gotama said that he had stopped. When asking for explanation, the Buddha replied that he had stopped killing and harming human beings, and that Angulimala should do the same. The murderer threw down his sword and asked to be ordained as a monk.

Sravasti is also best remembered as a place where the Buddha defeated the leaders of India’s six main philosophical schools, accomplished by debate and miracles.  Gotama Buddha during his 7th rain retreat, as the practice of previous Buddhas, performed one of the Greatest Miracles by taking part in a contest of miraculous feats with the Tirthikas before King Pasenadi of Kosala and the assembled audience. The Buddha took his seat on a thousand petalled lotus; causing fire and water coming out of the body; planting a seed in the ground and making it as a great tree - kandamba seta (kanda - park manager + amba – mango + seta - white) to spring up, fragrant and fully laden with flowers, and ripe fruits. Gotama also showed multiple representations of himself and some images even went up to the heaven.  The supreme position of the Master was thus vindicated and he preaches the Law of Dhamma before a huge assemblage of people that had come to witness this miracle. After this event, Gotama Buddha went up to Tâvatimsa (the Heaven of the Thirty-three). Here the Buddha preached the Abhidhamma or the Higher Doctrine, to the deities (devâs) headed by his mother Mahâmâyâ who passed away seven days after the birth of Prince Siddhartha, and was reborn as a deva in the Tâvatimsa.

Devadutta, brother-in-law of Gotama Buddha, made several attempts of Buddha’s life during his stay at Sravasti. But, he failed in all attempts and eventually sank into the Earth and died. There is a swampy area near Jetavana which is believed to be the place where Devadatta sank into the Earth.

Historical buildings

Saheth-Maheth today consists of two distinct sites. Saheth is the site of Jetavana Vihara covering about 40 acres lying a quarter mile to the south-west of the old City. The larger, Maheth, spreads over nearly 500 acres had been identified as the City proper of Sravasti.  Mauryan King Ashoka visited Sravasti as part of his pilgrimage to the holy sites, and built stupas to enshrine the Buddha’s relics, and erected two pillars, each 70 feet high, on both sides of the eastern gate of Jetavana. During the time of Kusana kings, Kaniska and Huviska, in the 1st-2nd century CE, new shrines were installed to enshrine Buddha images. When Fa Hien came to Sravasti in the early 5th century CE, it was no more than a small town with a few hundred families. He indicated that the two Ashoka’s pillars still existed, and the original Jetavana Monastery might be a seven storied that was burnt down by fire from the offering.  The stupas of Angulimala and Sudatta were in ruins.  He also met a few monks and found a temple, probably Gandhakuti, which housed a famous sandalwood statue of the Buddha. 

thawuhti_zedawon-web.jpgWhen Huien Tsiang visited Sravasti around 7th century, the town was almost deserted and ruined, except the Jetavana Vihara. The monasteries were destroyed with foundations only remained.  According to the archaeological survey findings, it was found that a few years after Huien Tsiang left, the monastic places had been rebuilt and flourished right up to the 12th century (based on the recovery of seals and images of Mahayanists pantheons such as Lokanatha, Avalokitesvara and other belongings. Records of the renovations of monasteries and stupas, and the gifts of six villages to the Sanghas of Jetavana monastery were also found in a copper charter, donated by King Govindachandra and his devout Buddhist wife Kumaradevi of Kanauj and Banares (Varanasi) in 11th century. Then, the monasteries were vanished again till 18th century. Based upon the information provided by Fa Hien and Huien Tsiang, Sir Cunningham in 1863 identified the Jetavana covering 13 hectares and Sravasti spreading over 162 hectares, and excavated the ruins and monuments. He was able to exposed the remains of several big and small stupas, temples and monasteries, including the famous Gandhakuti or Perfumed chamber, which had been dated to Kusana period (1st-2nd century CE).  Today, the pilgrims can find many remains of several temples, monasteries, stupas, bathrooms, water pools and wells, dormitories, and several remained unexplored. An Archaeological survey of India (ASI) had maintained the archaeological park of Jetavana, since 1956 and preserve it with trees and flowers around the ruins of temples and monasteries, till date. New excavations are also initiated.


Jetavana Park and Gandhakuti

Present day Saheth, the site of Jetavana Vihara, consists of plinths and foundations of monasteries and stupas, built by successive Kings from the Buddha period till 12th centuries. The place is spread around 40 acres with several monasteries, dormitories, water pools, and stupas among the forest.  Pilgrims from all over the world visiting this place, to mark it as the most sacred place where all Buddhas live longest years of rainy retreats, imagining how Buddhas live and stay with Sanghas, how they would talk each other, and how do they meditate.

The original Gandhakuti (Perfumed Chamber) was built by Anathapindika with a seven storied wooden structure. Mauryan King Ashoka rebuilt it with bricks in 232 BCE. Around 412 CE, when Fa Hien and Tao Ching saw this building, it was almost in ruin and renovation was made again. Around 7th century CE, when Huien Tsiang arrived Sravasti, this building was totally damaged. When Sir Cunningham excavated this place in 1863, he found bricks of 9th, 12th and 15th centuries for which periods successive renovations must have done. Present day Gandhakuti dated from the Gupta period construction, and it has only the foundation of rectangular terrace with stairs and entrance towards the east, a pavilion and a small shrine 2.85 meters square, with walls about 1.8 meters thick. This small shrine may be signified the site of the original Gandhakuti, while the pavilion might be later added. According to the commentaries, the site of the Buddha’s bed in it is the same for all Buddhas, irrespective of the size of the Gandhakuti. The name for Gandhakuti may have come from the sacred place where people would come making offerings of flowers, sandalwood and perfume. At the gate leading a well-constructed footpath towards the Gandhakuti, King Ashoka had put a pillar with a cow on top. Gandhakuti is the favorite site for pilgrims to perform religious rites and meditate.

Just in front of the Gandhakuti, there is a big well, supposed to be a place where Gotama Buddha cleaned the feet after coming back from begging alm. The Sumangalavilasini described the daily routine works of the Buddha, that he would go out for alms, eat in the Gandhakuti, go forth from there to teach the Dhamma to the lay people, teach the disciples, and teach the devas, walk up and down in front of it, and meditate.

There is a Bodhi-tree (fig-tree), located near the entrance of Jetavana, with the base of which enclosed with a platform. This tree is believed to mark the spot where Ashin Ananda planted a Bodhi-tree from the sapling of the Mahabodhi tree from Bodh Gaya. This tree was built by Ashin Ananda at the request of Anathapindika and others from Sravasti, who wanted to have an object to worship during the Buddha’s absence from Jetavana, Sravasti. The Bodhi tree was called as “Ananda Bodhi Tree”.  Gotama Buddha indicated that there were three types of objects of veneration, namely: the corporeal relic deposited in a stupa after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, an object used by the Buddha such as his alms-bowl, etc., and a visible symbol such as a Dhammachakka wheel. People now build Buddha images, relic-stupas and Dhammachakka wheel as symbol for worshiping the Buddha. There are many ruins of stupas, Buddha Statues and monasteries around the Gandhakuti, built in different centuries.

Sravasti – Main City

The main city of Sravasti (Maheth) is situated further north of the Jetavana Park and there are many ruins of buildings including old monasteries. One of the ruins - Pakki Kuti, identified by Huien Tsiang and later by Cunningham was supposed to be the remains of the stupa of Angulimala. In this old city, just north of Jetavana, a big stupa of Sudatta (Anathapindika) can be found. The stupa, according to Fa Hsien, was built on the foundations of the house of Sudatta. Near this stupa, a mass of bricks was identified as the Angulimala stupa, marking the site where Angulimala was cremated. These stupas have been earlier taken by one by the Muslim Mullahs and another by Hindu Mahants. In 1959, the Archaeological Survey of India took over these stupas from them and made further excavations and maintained them as sacred archaeological sites.


Stupa of Great Miracle

The place - kandamba seta - where Gotama Buddha during his 7th rain retreat performed the Greatest Miracle is a hillock before entering Sravasti. In the year 2000, excavations were carried out on this hillock and revealed the remains of a brick stupa believed to be erected by King Ashoka.

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (Old and New)

There were three Buddhist temples being constructed for more than 70 years near the Jetavana Park. One of the earliest ones built in Sravasti was a Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, built in 1930 by Venerable Monywa Sayadaw U Mahinda, under the guidance of Venerable Ashin Chandramani of Kushinagar. Sayadaw U Mahindra stayed at this monastery till he died in 1959 and Sayadaw U Kalayana (nephew of Ashin Mahindra) managed it till 1970, when he relinquished the monkhood. Sravasti Vihara had no permanent resident monk till the present Resident Monk Sayadaw U Awbatha arrived in 1986.

Since the Vihara and its compound were situated just a few meters away from the entrance gate to the Jetavana Park and within the vicinity of the Archaeological site of the historical Jetavana Grove,  the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the Temple and its compound under the Indian Archaeological Act in 1956. ASI also opened its head-offices at the Temple building.

After arrival of Sayadaw U Awbatha, who had been assigned as the Chief Resident Monk of Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, by the Myanmar State Sangha Nayaka, continuous and zealous efforts were made to take control of the Vihara. With support from successive Ambassadors of Myanmar to India, State Sangha Nayaka, and the Ministry of religious Affairs as well as well-wishers from local administration in India, the Vihara had been handed back to the management of Myanmar monk in 1991. However, the major renovation and expansion of the old temple could not be done, since the temple lies within the archaeological site. The ownership of old Myanmar Vihara is still under dispute at the Indian Court.

sravasti-mmr_vihara-entry_gate-web.jpgIn 1997, after establishing the Late Mahinda Bhikku Memorial Buddha Society and with the support of pilgrims from Myanmar and other countries, a new land was acquired along the main road and a new Myanmar Vihara has been constructed. Acquisition of the land was finalized and the Vihara building was also completed in 2003. Sayadaw U Awbatha is managing both old and new Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Temples since then and helping the pilgrims.

There was a Burmese Buddhist Monastery called “Daw Dwe Dhammasala (Rest House)” built in early 1930 by a Myanmar Nun, Daw Dwe from Thaton, who got a land from Maharaja Durbi Jai Singh. The place was taken by Indians for some period and in late 1960s, a Sri Lankan monk had taken over it and used it also as a private primary school.

Another Myanmar Vihara existed since mid-1940, at Balrampur built by Sayadaw U Ersaya, who migrated to Nepal and later came to India and went to monkhood . When he died in late 1960s, the Vihara had been managed by Myanmar monks, like Sayadaw U Withuddi and U Rewata Dhamma. After Sayadaw U Rewata left for England in 1975, the Vihara had no resident monk for some period. Myanmar pilgrims who visited Sravasti around 1970s-1980s used to stay at this Vihara in Balrampur, rather than the main Myanmar Vihara in Sravasti. This temple is now no longer a monastery, and fully controlled by the family members of late U Ersaya.

There is a Sri Lankan temple with being replaced with a new structure in 1969 by the well-known Sri Lanka monk venerable Metivala Sangharatana of Sarnath. The temple shrine contained some of the best contemporary Buddhist paintings representing incidents in the Buddha’s life, especially that took place in Sravasti.   Another was built by a Chinese monk, a seven-storied pagoda with a number of surrounding buildings, but not occupied due to the dispute of ownership.



Address of Myanmar Vihara

Venerable Ashin U Awbatha

Myanmar Buddhist Vihara

PO Box Katra – 271845

Sravasti, UP, India

Phone: 91- 5252- 265244



1)    Sayadaw U Awbatha, Efforts for maintaining Sravasti Myanmar Buddhist Vihara, June 2003

2)    Sayadaw U Awbatha, Images of historical sites of villages and towns in Majjhimadesa, June 2003

3)    Ven. S. Dhammika (1999), Middle Land Middle Way, A Pilgrim's Guide to the Buddha's India, Second Edition (Revised 1999), Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka

4)    Rana PB Singh (2003), Where the Buddha Walked, A companion to the Buddhist Places of India, Indica Books, Varanasi, India

5)    Revan Hart (New Edition, 2005), Where the Buddha Trod,  A Stamford lake Publication (1954), Sri Lanka

Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 January 2008 )


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