Then Ananda said to the Lord: "Lord, do not pass away into final Nirvana in this wattle-and-daub town, this jungle town, this town in the woods."
In the last year of his life the Buddha set out from Rajagaha and headed north on what was to be his final journey. He passed through Nalanda, Patna and Vesali, probably with the intention of visiting Kapilavatthu once more before his death. Being old and weak, his progress must have been difficult and slow. He said of himself: "I am now old, worn out, full of years, one who has traversed life's path, being eighty years old. I have reached the end of my life. Just as an old cart can only be kept going by being held together with straps, so too, the Tathagata's body can only be kept going by bandaging it up."
The Buddha and the monks who accompanied him passed through Bhandagama (not yet identified), Hatthigama (Hathikhala, near Hathua), Ambagama (Amaya, 10 kilometers southwest of Tamkuhi), Jambugama (Jamunahi, 13 kilometers northwest of Hathikhala) and Bhoganagara (Bodraon, 10 kilometers west of Amaya and Fazilnagar in Deoria district) before arriving at Pava. Here the smith Cunda gave the Buddha his last meal, after which "the Lord was attacked by a severe sickness with bloody diarrhea and sharp and deadly pain." Later, the Buddha told Ananda to visit Cunda again and, lest he be plagued by remorse, tell him that to offer a Buddha his last meal is a most auspicious act.
After recovering his strength, the Buddha continued some distance to where he met Pukkusa, who offered him a set of robes woven from golden thread. When Ananda put the robe on the Buddha's aged, sickly body, the body glowed with such a radiance that the golden robe appeared dull by comparison. The party crossed the Hirannavati River (now a small stream called Hirakinari) and arrived in Kusinara, which despite being the principal town of the Mallas, was only a small place. This was not the Buddha's first visit to Kusinara. During several previous visits, he had preached the Kusinara Suttas and the Kinti Sutta, and so enthusiastic and so numerous were the disciples he made that the Mallas council passed a resolution that anyone not welcoming the Buddha on his arrival in the town should be fined.
Now he had returned, and the Mallas, hearing that he was about to die, came in crowds to the sal grove where he lay to see him for what they knew was to be the last time. It so happened that Subhadda, a wandering ascetic, was in the district and he heard that Gotama, the famous teacher whom he had heard much about but never met, was to die that night, and so he hurried to the sal grove hoping to ask him some questions. When he tried to approach the Buddha, Ananda firmly held him back, saying that the teacher was tired. When the Buddha saw what was happening, he called Subhadda to him, and though he had only hours to live, taught him the Dhamma. Some months before, the Buddha had said that even if he was so old that he had to be carried about on a litter, he would still have the energy to teach the Dhamma, and now, as he lay dying at Kusinara, he was true to his word. Later, taking the instructions he had received to heart and meditating diligently, Subhadda attained enlightenment.
As the end drew near, the Buddha gave some last instructions on practical matters, and then reminded those gathered around that they could still practise the Dhamma even though he would not be there to guide them: "Ananda, you may think: The Teacher's instruction has ceased, now we have no teacher!' But it should not be seen like this. Let the Dhamma and the discipline that I have taught and explained to you be your teacher after my passing." Then the Buddha uttered his last words: "Now, monks, I say to you - all conditioned things are subject to decay; strive on with diligence" (vayadhamma sankhdra, appamddena sampadetha).
Those who were not yet enlightened wept and cried, saying: "Too soon has the Lord passed away, too soon has the Happy One passed away, too soon has the Eye of the World closed." Others remained calm and composed, reminding the others with both their words and example of what the Buddha had taught: "Friends, enough of your weeping and crying! Has not the Lord already told you that all things that are pleasant and delightful are changeable, subject to separation and to becoming other?" Then the monks spent the rest of the night discussing the Dhamma. Over the next few days, the Mallas made elaborate preparations for the cremation of the Buddha's body, and then on the seventh day the body was taken out of the town to the Makuta Bandhana Shrine and cremated.
Because of the important events that took place here, Kusinara must have attracted pilgrims and become a center of pilgrimage quite early.