Lord Buddha spent 25 rainy seasons in Sravasti. The rainy season is known as Vassavasa in Buddhist referring to the monsoon months when the entire Buddhist Sangha congregated in one place since the monks could not travel during that time due to inclement weather. Most of the Tripatakas(3 categories of teachings) viz Sutras, Abhidhamma and Vinaya followed by the various Buddhist texts were created here. Located 151 kms away from Lucknow, Sravasti named after King Shravasta of Mahabharatha is the place where Lord Buddha performed miracles.
Lord Buddha promised to perform a miracle under a mango tree in Sravasti on a full moon day. His detractors uprooted all the mango trees to prevent him but he was unfazed. On the promised day he went to the king’s garden, ate a mango and planted the seed from which a tree sprouted and flowered immediately which is known as the Gandamba Tree. Lord Buddha created a jewelled walk in the air by the side of the Tree and stood on it to perform the Twin Miracle (Yamaka Patihariya). He emanated flames from the upper part of the body and streams of water from the lower and alternatively from the left and right side of the body. The miracle lasted for a long while (nearly 16 days) during which he preached to the large gathering and appeared individually to each of them.
After demonstrating the miracle, Lord Buddha made his way in three strides to Trayatrimsa (the cosmology belonging to the 33 named devas) heaven to deliver the Abhidhamma discourse to his mother Mahamaya who was born as a Deva. It is believed that he descended through a ladder embellished with precious jewels stones in Sankissa (nearly 450 kms away)accompanied by Lord Brahma and Devraj Indra. An Ashoka pillar was erected with a elephant head to mark this spot but only ruins remain now.
Most visitors head to Jetavana first and we were no exception. It is a huge garden named after local prince Jetakumar who gave away the place to Anathapindaka, local merchant and ardent disciple of Lord Buddha in return of a gold coins that would cover the entire place. A short distance away from the gate is the Ananda Bodhi Tree which was grown from a branch of the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya. I sat near the tree listening to the chants of the monks and the mild flutter of the flags on the tree.
I walked along the paved road from the gate to the Mulagandhakuthi which is nearly in ruins and sat around in the garden feeling the master’s presence. Some pilgrims were decorating the kuthi with bright marigold and incense which was perhaps a place for meetings and discourses during olden times. On certain days, pilgrim groups organize for special worship in the Mulaganda Kuthi and also light up the place in the evening with thousands of tea lights and candles. Consider yourself lucky if able to witness the divine off season Diwali in Jetavan like me.
Kacchi Kuti and Pakki Kuti are part of the ancient fortified Mahet area. Kacchi Kuti is identified as the stupa of Anathapindaka or Sudatta which was discovered after cutting through dense foliage and mud hills. We climbed up the stairs and got a sense of this one time multi storeyed spacious structure which is believed to have had all facilities.
Pakki Kuti is the Stupa of Angulimala (robber who wore garland of chopped fingers) and is located a few feet away.
The highlight of the stupa is the robber Angulimala’s cave or dungeon where he is said to have spent his life in penance and repentance after being intercepted by Buddha and subsequently ordained by him. The play of light in the cave appears such that you feel Angulimala was transformed bit by bit, moment by moment.
Mostly visited as a part of a Buddhist Pilgrim Package to all importance locations. If not then take a Car or Bus from Lucknow. Lotus Nikko Sravasti is the only luxury option in Sravasti. This 2 storey hotel is located off the Highway and located close to the main sites and Jetavana is about 10 minutes walk away. The Sri Lankan Guest House is perhaps the only option for stay in the budget category. The monasteries of Burma, China, Korea, Sri Lanka also have limited accommodation.