Kesaria (or, Kesariya, or Kesaputta) in Champaran is associated with Buddha’s first spiritual teacher Alara Kalama in whose hermitage, Buddha lived for some time in his early ascetic phase after renunciation. It is here Lord Buddha had delivered the celebrated discourse called Kessaputtiya Sutta or ‘Kalama Sutta’ in which He advised people to rely on their own experience and exerted them to adopt and apply the (scientific) approach of ‘’ observation, analysis and reasoning’’ instead of blind belief and faith. Emperor Ashok comemmorated the site by building a stupa which still exists.
|IMPORTANCE OF THE PILGRIMAGE SITE OF KESAPUTTA (or Kesaria)|
|1. Kesariya (or Kesaputta which was the chief town of people of semi-independent clan called Kalama around Buddha’s time) is associated with Buddha’s first spiritual teacher Alara Kalama in whose hermitage (in the present day Kesariya and Areraj area in Champaran) Buddha lived for some time in his early ascetic phase after renunciation.|
|2. Kessaputtiya Sutta (popularly known as Kalama Sutta) : During a visit to Kesaputta, Lord Buddha had delivered the celebrated discourse called Kessaputtiya Sutta or ‘Kalama Sutta’ in which He advised people to rely on their own experience and exerted them to adopt and apply the (scientific) approach of ‘’ observation, analysis and reasoning’’ instead of blind belief and faith. He said, ‘It is good to doubt, Kalamas. Doubt has arisen in a matter that is doubtful. Do not be led by revelation, by hearsay or by lineage. Do not be led by the sacred scriptures, by logical conjecture or by inference. Do not be led by analogies, by speculation, by probability or because you think, He is our teacher.” But when you yourself know, “These things are skillful, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise and when acted upon lead to welfare and happiness,” then follow them.’|
|3. Towards the end of his life, Lord Buddha delivered his last sermon and announced his parinirvana in Vaishali. On the last journey from Vaishali to Kushinara, He was followed by emotionally charged people knowing that it was His last journey. Buddha had spent a night at what we call Kesariya today. When the unconvinced followers did not turn back to Vaishali, it was here in Kesariya that the Lord decided to hand over his alms bowl to the distressed people to dissuade them from following him. This poignant event was commemorated by the Licchavis of Vaishali in the form of construction of what we call Kesariya Stupa which is said to be built over Lord Buddha’s alms bowl. Obviously, this pilgrimage place is holy and highly sacred for followers of Buddha worldwide.|
|4. The Stupa (or tope) pre-dates Ashoka’s reign (as it was founded by Licchavis of Vaishali) but Ashoka the Great did contribute to its splendour and magnificence as an Ashokan Pillar with a sejant lion capital was discovered here in 1862 by Capt. Markham Kittoe.|
|Google map link||https://goo.gl/maps/R36S7kuMKKrrYcoc8|
HISTORY & PAST EXCAVATIONS:
There were ample mentions in the Buddhist chronicles as well as in the travelogues of the Chinese monks Faxian and Xuan Zang of the Stupa constructed by the Licchavis of Vaishali in the ancient Kesaputta to commemorate the poignant event of Lord Buddha handing over his alms bowl to dissuade the distressed people from following Him while on His last journey from Vaishali to Kushinara but the significance and the exact location of the stupa was lost from the collective conscience of Indians after Gupta period when Buddhism became practically extinct in the region.
With the dwindling number of admirers and followers of Lord Buddha, the sacred Kesaputta Mandala Stupa got lost in oblivion deep buried unmarked in the sands of time for over fifteen centuries covered with the wild vegetation in one of the several hill-like Earth mounds (locally called Dih) commonly seen in the region of Champaran.
|TIME- LINE OF KESARIYA MANDALA STUPA|
|c.593 BC (Given Buddha was born|
in 623 BC as per UNESCO)
|Siddharth Gautama & Alara Kalama: |
In the early ascetic phase of his life after renunciation, Siddharth Gautama lived in Kesaputta in the hermitage of his first spiritual teacher Alara Kalama. (Thus, the site also has association with Alara Kalama).
|c.543 BC |
Lord Buddha delivered last sermon and announced His parinirvan in Vaishali. On His last journey from Vaishali to Kushinara, Lord Buddha spent night in Kesaputta (in Champaran) and handed over his alms bowl to dissuade the distressed people from following Him in His last journey to Kushinara. Probably, earthen mound existed during Buddha’s time.
|Licchavis of Vaishali: |
The Licchavis of Vaishali constructed the Stupa at the site in Kesaputta to commemorate the poignant event and to honour alms bowl (the great personal belonging) of Buddha.
|Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BC):|
The core of the Stupa existed during Emperor Ashoka’s reign. He expanded and added magnificence to the stupa as Markham Kittoe had discovered an Ashoka Pillar with a sejant lion capital in 1862.
|Construction Phase 1: The Stupa was simple and small in the beginning which was expanded gradually subsequently|
|4th – 5th |
Construction Phase 2: Expanded to multi-terraced circular or cruciform plan surmounted by a stupa superstructure with four staircases
|Fa Xian: |
In his travelogue, the Buddhist monk Fa Xian mentions about a stupa which was built over Buddha’s alms bowl.
|6th – 7th |
Construction Phase 3: Stupa was modified from a circular or cruciform terraced plan to a circular hexagonal terraced form.
The Buddha sculptures in the cells were probably sculpted in the post-Gupta or seventh century AD.
In his travelogue, the Buddhist monk Xuan Zang mentioned visiting Stupa site about 50 km northwest of Vaishali where Buddha had related to a great congregation. He had found the place to be deserted which is line with the chronology of the stupa.
|ERA OF GREAT PARALYSIS|
(FOR OVER THOUSAND YEARS)
|EXPLORATION BY THE BRITISH OFFICERS|
Reuben Burrow, the mathematician in the employ of the East India Company, had visited the stupa at Kesariya
The earliest intrusive investigation was conducted involving cutting of a gallery on the east side of drum; believed to have been conducted by Kashi Nath Babu probably under orders from Lt. Col. Mackenzie of Madras Engineers.
Prepared and published the earliest available survey account of the site. As per the published sketch, the only visible structure was the cylindrical tower atop the mound. The rest structures being totally concealed underneath the mound.
In the course of his first season’s tour (1861-62) Cunningham identified Kesariya with the memorial stupa that was built over the spot where Buddha had announced that in one of his former existences, he had been a Bodhisattva and had reigned over that town as a Cjtakravartti Raja named Mahadeva. Cunningham gave a somewhat detailed account of the site but he refrained from digging the mound.
Markham Kittoe discovered an Ashoka Pillar with a sejant lion capital in Kesaria
|20th century||POST INDEPENDENCE INDIA|
Proper Archaeological excavation starts for the first time in 1997
First meticulous excavation of the stupa mound was commenced under K. K. Muhammed, ASI Patna Circle.
|21st century||ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATION BY ASI CONTINUING|
|2018-19||Excavation continuing under ASI Patna Excavation Branch|
KESAPUTTIYA SUTTA / KALAMA SUTTA
Kesaputtiya Sutta / Kalama Sutta – Part 1
Kesaputtiya Kalama Sutta – Part 2
Kesaputtiya Kalama Sutta – Part 3
- Dhammika S., 2008. Middle Land, Middle Way: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Buddha’s India. Buddhist Publication Society.
- Huu Phuoc Le, 2010. Buddhist Architecture – Page 171. Google Books
- Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha. UNESCO
- Cunnigham A., nd. Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65. Archaeological Survey of India. Available on
- Imam A.,1963. Sir Alexander Cunningham and the Beginnings of Indian Archaeology. Thesis Presented for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of London.
- Sinha I., 2019. Kesariya Stupa: Recently Excavated Architectural Marvel. Proceeding of the International Conference on Archaeology, History and Heritage, Vol. 1, 2019, pp. 27-3.
- Chemburkar S. Stūpa to Maṇḍala: Tracing a Buddhist Architectural Development from Kesariya to Borobudur to Tabo
- Chemburkar S., 2016. Borobudur’s Pāla forebear? A ﬁeld note from Kesariya, Bihar, India. Esoteric Buddhism in Mediaeval Maritime Asia- Networks of Masters, Texts, Icons, ed. Andrea Acri, ISEAS: Singapore, 2016. Chapter 8.
- Chemburkar S., 2018. Visualising the Buddhist Mandala: Kesariya, Borobudur, and Tabo. In India and Southeast Asia: Cultural Discourses, ed. by Dallapiccola, Anna L. & Verghese, Anila, Mumbai: K R Cama Oriental Institute, pp. 197-222, ISBN 978-93-81324-12-7. 2018.
- Indian Archaeology 1997-98 A Review Excavation at Kesariya District East Champaran pp 21-22
- Indian Archaeology 1998-99 A Review Excavation at Kesariya District East Champaran pp 10-11
- Indian Archaeology 1999-2000 A Review Excavation at Kesariya District East Champaran pp 17-19
- Indian Archaeology 2000-2001 A Review Excavation at Kesariya District East Champaran pp 18-27
- I Sinha and K P Tucunan 2021. Evidences in resemblance of archaeological structures of Kesariya and Borobudur Stupa. IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 778 012036.
- Mishra R., 2022. A Stupa of Declivity and a milieu of the Kalama Sutta in Lichhavi Kingdom
- KK Muhammed – Interview 2023
1. The largest Stupa In the World | Buddha Stupa | Kesaria | Bihar