The Majestic and The Magnificent Kesariya Stupa

Read this travelogue on the Kesariya Stupa, written by Richa Bakshi and Pragati Bakshi. They narrate their travel experience and insights about this beautiful historic place in India.

kesariya stupa bihar travelogue

Introduction and Location of Kesariya Stupa

The magnificent Kesariya Stupa is estimated to be the biggest excavated Buddhist Stupa to date. Located in the East Champaran district of Bihar, This Stupa epitomizes the glorious past of the era of Buddhism. The distance of the monument from the state capital Patna is approximately 110 Kilometres. The Stupa Derives its name from the town of its location. The old town of Kesriya lies to the east of the Gandak River, 42 to 48 kilometers to the northwest of Besarh or Vaishali. It therefore corresponds exactly with the position of Hiuen Tsang’s description of an ancient town, where the Licchavis of Vaishali took leave of Gautam Buddha.

The Architectural Marvel of Kesariya Stupa

kesariya stupa bihar travelogueMeasuring 123 meters in diameter at the base, the visible height of Kesariya Stupa is 31.5 meters. The edifice is built with solid bricks and rises up to six terraces with a cylindrical drum adorning the top of the magnificent Stupa. Besides a four-meter-thick wall forms a kind of circumambulation path along the circular base of the Stupa at a distance of 18 meters from the base. The dimension and distinguishing features of Kesariya Stupa are in fact its multi-terrace character. Each terrace has been provided with a round pathway for circumambulation. Every terrace is adorned with a large number of cell shrines containing stucco images of Buddha. Therefore, the Kesariya stands as a class of its own in terms of Stupa architecture. The unique and remarkable Kesariya Stupa is of its own kind and appears unparalleled in the realm of Stupa architecture.

The chronological evidences of its construction reveal that the first phase of construction was carried out during the Sunga Kushan period. The second phase, the most dominant at the site, belongs to that of the Gupta period which marks the extensive expansion and elaborate ornamentation of the stupa with characteristic mouldings of the Gupta period. The shrine cells on each terrace were also built during the Gupta period. Each cell houses the stucco images of Gautam Buddha.

Prior to excavation, this place was visible as a circular mound of mud nomenclature as “Raja Ben ka Garh”. During the colonial period, Britishers tried to reveal the antiquity and identity of the structure but digging of sites was not initiated due to unknown reasons. However, the excavation of a smaller mound adjoining the site was done by Alexander Cunnigham, wherein he found ruins of old temples, a colossal statue of Gautam Buddha, and an old Buddhist monastic establishment. The meticulous excavation of the site started in the years 1997-98, thereby unearthing this majestic Stupa.


History and Significance of Kesariya Stupa

This Stupa records a very consequential significance in the emergence of Buddhism as a religion. Gautam Budha is said to have revealed his “Mahaprinivaran” three months prior to the incident that occurred, to his disciples namely Ananda at Vaishali. The people of Vaishali were moved by their reverence and affection for Buddha and followed him as he left for his journey to “Mahaparinirwana”. Tathagata requested the citizens of Vaishali to return back as they reached the border of the town. As a mark of commemoration, he presented them with his Alm bowl. This was the very place where the Kesariya Stupa stands to date with its all glory and magnificence. This is very likely the place of the Stupa en route from Vaishali to Kushinagar, the place of Tathagat’s Parinirvana. Relying upon this narration, Kesariya Stupa is believed to be a Paribhogik (memorial) Stupa, not a Saririka (Relic) Stupa. In his account of the 5th century CE, Fa Xian mentions a Stupa which was built over Buddha’s alms bowl. Later the faint mention of this Stupa can be ascertained in the travelogues of other Chinese travellers. As per historical records, the antiquity of Kesariya Stupa is 2nd century BC.

The Archaeological Survey of India is preserving the site and developing it as a prominent place of the tourism circuit with an expectation that the past glory of the Buddhist era will be unearthed and the world will recognize the rich heritage that endows the state of Bihar.

How to Reach the Kesariya Stupa

The monument is well connected to Chakia-Kesariya-Sattarghat road (State Highway) [west], and the monument is directly accessible from here. The Chakia railway station (23km, NE), is the nearest railway station, which is connected to all the major cities and places. Jaya Prakash Narayan International Airport, Patna, at a distance of 105 KM, is the nearest Airport. The closest rail and road destination is Muzaffarpur. The preferred mode of transportation is by own vehicle or hired cab. Though there are bus services available from the State Capital to the site of the monument yet frequencies and availability of such services are not seamless. The best seasons to visit the Stupa are during Autumn, Winter, and Spring ( from the month of October to February).


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