Bodh Gaya is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Gaya District of Bihar. Famous for the Mahabodhi Temple, It was here under the Bodhi tree that Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment.
It is now one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a lot of foreign countries, including Japan and China, have helped the Indian government in building facilities for the Buddhist pilgrims. The place is bustling with pilgrims all through the year from India and abroad who come to pay their homage in monasteries, temples and remnants of Bodhi Tree.
Located near the river Neranjana, Bodh Gaya was earlier known as Uruwela. It was also known as Sambodhi, Vajrasana or Mahabodhi until the 18th century CE. It is one of the four important Buddhist sites that include: Kushinagar, Lumbini and Sarnath.
Places to Visit
The Mahabodhi temple, also called the “Great Awakening Temple”, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Bodhgaya, Bihar. It is a Buddhist temple that marks the location where the Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Lord Buddha holds a very significant place in the religious history of India as he is believed to be the 9th and the most recent incarnation of Lord Vishnu to have walked the earth. The temple spreads over an area of a whopping 4.8 hectares and is 55 meters tall. The Bodhi Tree is situated to the left of the temple and is believed to be the direct descendant of the actual tree under which Lord Gautam Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment and laid down his philosophy for life. The original temple was built by Emperor Ashoka after he turned to Buddhism in order to seek peace and solitude from war and conquests.
The great Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya in around 260 BC. During his visit, he constructed a small temple by a tree, which was the Bodhi tree- the tree under which Gautam Buddha was sitting when he attained enlightenment. An inscription dated back to between the 1st century and 2nd century read that the temple built by Emperor Ashoka was replaced by a new one. Many monks and devotees can be seen performing countless prostrations to the tree. It’s a purificatory ritual, and some monks are known to do up to 1,00,000 prostrations at one time. The architecture of the temple and its overall silence and peace will surely enchant you as you visit it.
Great Buddha Statue
This statue of Lord Buddha is the tallest in India and was initiated by the XIV Dalai Lama in 1989. It is a meditating Buddha resting on a giant lotus, constructed using intricately carved sandstone and red granite.
Tibetan Refugee Market
This market is paradise for shopping lovers. It offers a large variety of winter-wears, handicrafts and souvenirs, etc.
The Bodhi Tree, located 100 kilometres to the south of Patna in the north Indian state of Bihar, is perhaps the most prominent and respected sacred places in Buddhism because of the rich historical significance attached to it. It is under this tree that Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who later became to be known as the Buddha, attained enlightenment. It is believed that Prince Siddhartha had to sit and meditate under this tree for seven days. Later on, a shrine known as Animisalocana Cetiya was erected on the spot where he had sat down. A small temple was also built near the Bodhi tree in the 7th century.
The Bodhi tree is a frequently visited destination spot by tourists and is one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. In fact, the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, both of which are again significant places that find mention in the history of Buddhism, are believed to have been propagated from this tree here at Bodh Gaya. The aura of the Bodhi tree and the temple complex in which this tree is located have attracted sages, meditators and yogis to it ever since the time of the Buddha. Great and renowned spiritual figures like Buddhajnana, Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Nagarjuna and Atisha, have lived and meditated underneath the historically and religiously significant Bodhi Tree. Bodh Gaya is also popular for its UNESCO World Heritage Site- the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, which is just beside the tree. Religious people, as well as lovers of history, find this place especially fascinating.
Well known for its curved roof covered with exquisite tiles of gold, the Thai Monastery houses a bronze statue of Buddha and another recently erected 25m high statue in the garden.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex Book Store
This book store offers a wide range of collections of Buddhist books, books on Buddhist culture and history of Mahabodhi Temple.
A popular site at Bodh Gaya, the Muchalinda Lake is located next to the main temple. It is associated with a mythological tale stating that Lord Buddha was protected from the storm by Snake King Muchalinda.
Royal Bhutan Monastery
The Royal Bhutan Monastery has been named so, as it was built by the King of Bhutan as a dedication to Lord Buddha. Clay carvings are seen on the interior walls of the monastery that depict different aspects of the Buddhist culture.
Devotees who wish to visit this temple must go through a grueling climb of 424 high stone steps to reach the top of the hill, atop which lies this temple.
Two caves namely Brahmayoni and Matreoni are also situated on the hill along with an ancient temple of Ashtabhuja Devi. Brahmayoni hill was the place where Buddha preached the fire-sermon to a thousand former fire worshipping ascetics and it is said that each ascetic became enlightened after hearing his teachings.
Situated along the Bodhi Temple, Cankamana is a holy shrine featuring a carving of Lord Buddha’s feet into the black stone lotuses.
Must Try Food in Gaya
1. Yo China
2. Masala Twist Cafe & Restaurant
3. Paprika Fine Dine Vegetarian Restaurant
4. Broods Play N Eat Restaurant
5. Pramod Laddoo Bhandar
6. Vandana Sweets
7. AR Expresso
8. Veg Plaza Fast Food Restaurant
9. Buddha Vihar
How To Get Here
The nearest airport is at Gaya (17 km) with regular flights to and from multiple cities. Gaya also has the nearest railway station which is accessible by bus or three-wheel taxis. Regular bus service is also available from Varanasi, Nalanda, Rajgir and Kathmandu. Journey by car can be very rough, and it is advisable to avoid the Gaya Market area.
The nearest airport is 17 km away in Gaya. The airport receives very few flights. So, it’s best to travel via Patna Airport which is 135 km away. You can hire a taxi from either of the destinations to travel to BodhGaya. There is a direct Druk Air flight from Bangkok Airport.
Nearest Airport: Bodh Gaya
You can take a taxi from Patna to Bodh Gaya. However, the roads are narrow making the journey slow and dangerous. It takes around 3 hours to travel from Patna to Gaya. Also, Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation regularly run buses to Gaya from towns like Varanasi, Nalanda, Rajgir and Kathmandu.
The Gaya Railway Station is located at a distance of 16 km from Bodh Gaya. You can hire a taxi or an auto rickshaw from the railway station. If hiring an autorickshaw, bargain for the prices as they tend to be variable.