Long back a boy got so much disturbed on seeing the people suffering in the vicious cycle of life and dying. One fine day he left his house in search of divine knowledge which can provide freedom from the cycle of life and death. The name of the boy was prince Siddhartha. He travelled relentlessly across places in search of that knowledge. Finally, he decided to sit in deep meditation to attain that wisdom under a tree. Legend says the demons of darkness, illusion and ignorance were unleashed onto him, but his wisdom conquered all the devilish forces. By now prince Siddharth had become “Lord Buddha”, meaning the Enlightened one. And the place where he attained the enlightenment was Bodhgaya.
Far from the eyes of the popular travel itineraries lies the town of Bodhgaya, the most revered destination for Buddhists worldwide. Mahabodhi temple complex is the spot where Buddha had attained enlightenment. It is one of the earliest built Buddhist temples, still standing.
References found shows that the temple was initially built by king Ashoka around 246 BC and was further revamped in 5th -6th century during reign of Gupta dynasty. The main temple is 50 m. high structure built entirely in brick is a classic example of ancient Indian architecture.
Beautiful statue of Lord Buddha in this temple...
There are also a lot of small temples spread around the Mahabodhi temple complex.
Next to Mahabodhi temple is the giant 25 m. statue of Lord Buddha in meditation pose. The statue took 7 years for construction and unveiled in 1989 in the presence of Dalai Lama.
And of course there is a giant tree under which price Siddhartha attained enlightenment. However, the present tree is the 4th generation direct descendent of the original tree.
Ashoka Pillar at the premises; There were a series of pillars erected by king Ashoka across Indian sub-continent. However only nineteen pillars survive now with inscriptions, and only six with animal capitals as these were a constantly targeted by invaders.
Walking around the temple campus provides references to important events from life of Lord Buddha. Likewise, Buddha had spent 3rd week after enlightenment while walking around at Chakraman Sthal. Wherever he put his feet on the ground lotus blossomed out of the ground. Raised lotus platform depicts the place where Buddha had walked.
Muchalind Tank: Buddha was meditating (6th week after enlightenment) in sitting posture at this place. Legend says that snake king Muchalind protected Buddha during meditation from intense storm and rains sent by dark forces.
Statues of bodhisattvas stand in one of the gardens…
Since Bodhgaya is the most esteemed of the all the sacred Buddhist sites, devotees from all over the world come to this place to seek peace and freedom from life and death cycle, attain “Nirvana”. Countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Tibet and others have constructed temples at this place.
Thai monastery was built by monarch of Thailand in 1956. It is the only Thai temple in India and displays the beautiful Thai architecture.
Statue of Lord Buddha in the Thai temple...
Tibetan Mahayan monastery was built in the year 1938. Tibetan monastery conducts various courses on Buddhism principles and also provide shelter to Buddhist tourists from around the world.
Festivals related to Lord Buddha are celebrated in these monasteries. Especially the Buddha Jayanti (birth of Lord Buddha) festival on a full moon night in the month of April-May to commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment. Prayers, lessons on the Buddha’s life, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, meditation and worship of the Buddha's statues are conducted in these festivals.
Other than Bodhgaya Lumbini in Nepal (Birth place), Sarnath (first teaching place) and Kushinagar (Mahaparinirvana) are important and sacred Buddhist places. After Buddha had attained enlightenment, he went to Sarnath to give his first teachings of Buddhism.
Gaya is situated along the Falgu River, a tributary of the river Ganga, it is also a major Hindu pilgrimage centre. People come here for an offering to free their ancestors from the cycle of birth and death. Vishnupad temple is the main temple which was built by the Maratha princess Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1787. It is believed that temple contain a footprint of Lord Vishnu.
To reach Gaya:
By Train: Gaya is located on Delhi-Patna/ Kolkata route and most of the express trains have a stop at Gaya. Bodhgaya is 16 km. from Gaya.
By Air: Closest airport is Gaya Airport, approx. 21 km. away. Patna Airport is about 130 km and a 4-hour drive by road.
By Road: Gaya is well connected by roads to all major cities.
To stay in Gaya: There are a number of hotels within the town centre suitable to all budgets.