Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gurupāda / Kukkutapāda Giri / Cockfoot’s Mountain, and the Maitreya Buddha

The place where Maha Kassapa is waiting for the future Buddha (Maitreya)

Pali literature is silent about the last days of the Maha Kassapa, but Xuanzang has provided us the details of  his visit to the Gurupāda (On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, Thomas Watters Vol-II, P-144-145). Maha Kassapa and Ananda survived the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha. About thirty years after the assembly of the First Council, Maha Kassapa entrusted his duties to Ananda, and handed over the Buddha’s alms-bowl to him as a symbol of continuing the faithful preservation of the Dhamma. Then Maha Kassapa went to the Buddha’s Stupa to pay homage and make offerings. He returned to Rajgriha to pay last respects to King Ajatsatru, but the guards told him that the king was sleeping and should not be disturbed. Maha Kassapa went his way and arrived at Kukkutapādagiri. The Kukkutapāda Mountain has the shape of three feet of a cock as there are three small mountains standing on it
Gurupada- the Cock-foot mountain from a distance


When Maha Kassapa arrived at this mountain, the three mountains split and formed a seat to receive him. Maha Kassapa covered it with grass and sat down. He decided, ‘I will preserve my body with my miraculous power and cover it with my rag-robes.’ Then the three mountains enclosed his body. King Ajatsatru was deeply grieved by the news of Maha Kassapa’s departure. He went to Kukkutapāda Mountain with Ananda. When they reached there, the three mountains opened and they saw Maha Kassapa sitting up straight and meditating. Some Buddhist texts mention that Ajatshatru built a stupa on the top of the hill. 

Remains of  Ajatsatru Stone stupa a the top of the Gurpa Hill
Maha Kassapa image to mark the place where he took Samadhi on Gurupada Hills

Xuanzang mentions that, Kassapa did not die; he dwells in the Kukkutagiri Mountains, wrapt in samādhi, awaiting the arrival of Matriyea Buddha. Gurupāda is the place where the future Buddha i.e. Matriyea Buddha will arrive and receive the robes of Gautma Buddha (Historical Buddha), that Gautma Buddha exchanged with Maha Kassapa while on way from Bahuputtaka Nigrodha to Rajgriha. 

Fahein (4th CE) and Xuanzang (7th CE) both mention that Maha Kassapa still dwells at the hill. And will take Parinirvana only after handing over the robes to the Future Buddha (i.e. Matriyea Buddha)

Fahein further mentions that Gurupāda place was visited by monks from various Buddhist countries (Records of Buddhist nations, Fahein- James Legge, chapter-XXXIII). By the end of 10th century this was so popular among the devouts in China and South-East Asian countries that the then emperor of china decided to create a Kukkutapāda in China to prevent the Buddhist devouts from taking this arduous pilgrimage that was full of perils.
Jizu Mountain, Yunan (Jizu Mountain- the cockfoot mountain of China) is the Gurupāda as per the traditions in China.

Jizu Mountain

Jizu Mountain

Jizu Mountain

Jizu Mountain

Identification of Gurupada (25° 32’ 57 N, 85° 18’ 13 E)

Identification of the Gurpa as Gurupāda is done on the basis of the antiquities found at the site. Details of the Hill, its shape, size and the path etc at the Gurpa is same as mentioned by Xuanzang and Fahein. Xuanzang and Fahein both visited the place and the details of its location are contradictory. While Xuanzang mentions it to be in the direction further of Niranjana River, but distance mentioned by Xuanzang is incomplete. He talks about hermitage place of Udra-ramaputra and a stone pillar to mark his hermitage on other side of river Moha and Gurupāda   is 100 Li East, from this stone pillar ((On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, Thomas Watters Vol-II, P-143). Fahein maintains Gurpa to be just three Li South of Bodhi Tree (Records of Buddhist nations, Fahein- James Legge, chapter-XXXIII).

Various identifications of Gurupada (Auriel Stein, Cunningham and Banerjee (the Accepted one))
This led to many identification of Kukkutapādagiri, but eventually the Gurpa hill (25° 32’ 57 N, 85° 18’ 13 E) identified by R.D. Banerjee in 1906 was accepted as the actual site of Kukkutapādagiri (The Antiquarian remains of Bihar, Dr D.R. Patil, P-157). The detailed description of the hill by Xuanzang was the basis of this identification. In 1901, Auriel Stein wrongly identified Hasra Kol (85°12’56”E, 25°46’57”N) as Kukkutapādagiri (The Antiquarian remains of Bihar, Dr D.R. Patil, P-164).  Alexander Cunningham in 1860’s visited Kurkihara, a village 35 Km NE of Bodh Gaya. According to him Kurkihara (85°15’ 11”E, 25°49’52”N) was corrupted from Kurak-Vihara, and Kukkuta in Sanskrit is same as Kurak in Hindi. This is how Cunningham concluded Kurkihara to be the site of Kukkutapādagiri. One Kilometer NE of Kurkihara is a hill which, Cunningham associated with the hill mentioned by Xuanzang (The Antiquarian remains of Bihar, Dr D.R. Patil, P-225) 

View from the top of the Hill

Final few steps to the top of the Gurpa  Hill as described by Xuanzang



Gurupāda is one Buddhist place that has the same name since the times of Xuanzang and Fahein. This hill is  now a pilgrimage place for Hindus who visit this place in the month of Sawan (July-August) as a part of annual pilgrimage. The place according to local Hindu tradition is Vishnupāda, and the Footprints on the top of the hill as per the traditions are of Lord Vishnu. This is a strong link of how the Gurupāda of Buddhist times became Vishnupāda after the Buddhism declined in India. And the pilgrimage character of the place continued even after that probably the pilgrimage never ceased just a change of the colour of the robes.

Footprints (Gurupada) with Pala period Inscription being worshiped as Vishnupada

Votive Stupa on the top of the Hill

Footprints on the top of the Hill

3 comments:

Marina said...

Thank you so much for you post. Can you please provide some information on how to get to Kukkutapāda Giri from Rajgir/Nalanda. Thanks.

bhanu19 said...

please let us know how to go to kukkutapada giri from gaya.how can i take the public transportation from gaya...?

JJ Kim said...

No public transportation from Gaya and Rajgir. You can hire rent car from Bodhgaya and say to the driver "Take me to Gurupa." It takes around 2 hours from Bodhgaya by car. The road condition has been improved dramatically. After getting off in front of Gurupa railway station, crossing the railway then climb up to the top of the mountain. It takes one and half hour to the top. But you have to be careful so this area is still dangerous. When I visited there in 2011, I met robbers with guns on the road even in daytime. Hope to help you.