Bodh Gaya (once Uruvela village) is the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrim center in the world. It was here that Gautama (Prince Siddharth) finally attained nirvana under the bodhi (banyan) tree and became Buddha, the enlightened one. Siddhartha Gautama was born in 566 BC in Lumbini Nepal), as a Sakya prince of Kapilvastu. He renounced the royal heritage and faced hardships in search of the Truth’ – the causes of human suffering. Some of the most important events associated with his life, like enlightenment and the last sermon, happened in Bihar and thus the State is regarded as the ‘cradle’ of Buddhism. Today, Bodh Gaya is an international center for Buddhism and has temples and monasteries built by various countries like China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Mahabodhi Temple: The sacred temple complex set amidst lush lawns, marks the site where Buddha attained enlightenment or spiritual illumination. The original temple at this site was built by emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. It was rebuilt during the 7th century A.D., by the Pala kings of Bengal. The shrine was rediscovered in 1883, by eminent archaeologists and is now a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The present structure is a blend of architectural styles of different periods and cultures, but the style of the Guptas and later stages is evident. The exquisitely carved 54 meters high pyramidal spire of the main temple dominates the landscape. The main sanctum enshrines a golden image of Lord Buddha in a sitting posture. The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with a large number of beautiful stupas, in different sizes and built during the past 2,500 years.

Bodhi Tree: Lord Buddha is said to have attained nirvana while meditating under this sacred tree. It lies towards the left in the Mahabodhi Temple Complex. The tree was destroyed and replanted at least five times. The present tree grew from a sapling brought from the Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, which was planted by Emperor Ashoka’s son Mahinda, who took a sapling from the original tree to Sri Lanka, on one of his missions to propagate the teachings of Lord Buddha. The holy tree is surrounded by small, but beautifully carved votive stupas and chaityas.

Vajrasana: The ‘seat of stability’, a red sandstone platform beneath the Bodhi tree marks the site where Buddha is believed to have sat in meditation gazing east. It probably dates back to šrd century B.C. In 1993, the then Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa gifted a golden canopy and a golden railing around the Vajrasana as a gift from the people of Sri Lanka.

Animesh Lochan Stupa: It is believed that Buddha spent the second week after enlightenment over here.

Ratnagarh Chaitya: Lord Buddha spent one week here to attain Abhidhamma Naya (deep meditation), a higher mode of exposition.

The Ratnachakarma or Jewel Walk: The third week after pious enlightenment was spent here by Buddha in meditative perambulations. The sacred site is marked by a recently made brick platform with 18 lotus flowers representing the footsteps of Buddha mark the sacred spot.

Bodhisarovar: The sacred pond lies to the west of Bodhi temple. It is said that Buddha bathed here before going into the meditation under the bodhi tree.

Japanese Temple: The beautiful pagoda-shaped shrine with a splendid image of Lord Buddha, is set amidst a well laid out garden.

Thai Temple & Monastery: This brightly colored shrine has gold lacquered tiles and a sloping roof, ending in curled dragons. It has a huge image of Lord Buddha.

Muchalinda Lake: The sixth week was spent here by Lord Buddha.

Archaeological Survey of India Museum: This fine museum exhibits a rich collection of Buddhist and Hindu relics, terracotta seals, scriptures, and railings/pillars dating back from the Ist century B.C. to 11th century A.D.

Magadh University: The prestigious international university is well known for its studies in history, culture, and philosophy.

Shaivite Monastery: It lies near the Mahabodhi temple and has a cluster of four temples amidst lush surroundings.

Around Bodh Gaya

Deo (32 km)

It is famous for the beautiful temple of Sun God and ‘Chhat’ festivities (Oct./Nov).

Gaya (12 kms.)

This important Hindu pilgrim site lies between the Pretshilla and Ramshila Hills, on the banks of river Phalgu. Gaya along with Varanasi and Allahabad is regarded by Hindus as the three most sacred sites for performing the funeral rites. Hindus offer oblation here for the salvation of their ancestors. Gaya also has a large number of Buddhist temples. According to legends, a completely fatigued Lord Buddha rested here under a tree and was offered food by a condemned lady named Sujata. To everybody’s surprise, Buddha accepted her offerings and after consuming the food, he assumed a divine glow and realized the ‘Supreme Truth’, that neither extreme self-indulgence nor is self-mortification ever required. What is needed is to follow the Middle Path. The Sujatha Sthan or Durgeshwari Temple built here marks this important event in the life of Buddha. Other attractions are Vishnupad Temple, on the banks of river Phalgu, Pretshila Hill, and Brahma Kund.

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