Bodhgaya is where the Buddha reached enlightenment and is thus the most important Buddhist pilgrimage destination in the world. Holding extreme religious importance to the Buddhists, Bodhgaya lies13 km south of Gaya, beside the river Phalgu. It was here, that the Lord Buddha sat under the Banyan tree and attained enlightenment, and a descendant of that original tree still flourishes there today. Bodhgaya is small and quiet town, which is the most important of all the Buddhist sites in the world.
Bodhgaya, in the state of Bihar, reckoned as the most important Buddhist pilgrimage center, is the place where Lord Sakyamuni (Gautam Buddha) entered into meditation after being moved by the sufferings of mankind. The giant Bodhi Tree (Peepal) that we see today is believed to have grown from the original Bodhi Tree under which, sitting on the raised platform, Prince Siddharth meditated and imally attained Nirvana
The Maha Bodhi temple of Bodh Gaya is one of the important places of worship for the Buddhists. Apart from being a vital Buddhist centre, it is also a significant archaeological site. Devout Buddhists and tourists from all over the world visit Bodhgaya, to study Buddhism and the art of meditation, or to simply absorb the aura of solemn splendour that surrounds the place.
Marking the holy spot of the enlightenment of the Master, this site is looked upon with greatest sanctity and became a flourishing Buddhist establishment with numerous temples, stupas and monasteries.
According to tradition a large number of shrines and memorials were erected at the site to commemorate the incidents before after enlightenment but only few now can be recognised. Of the earliest shrines, traditionally attributed to Asoka, only vajrasana or the sandstone throne with the characteristic Mauryan polish and decorative designs has survived and is seen beneath the holy Bodhi tree.
To the Sunga period belongs a portion of the sandstone railing carved with bas-reliefs, typical of the age. The remaining portion of the railing pertains to the Gupta period. The main brick-built shrine known as the Mahabodhi temple which appears to have been originally erected in circa 2nd
A.D., is encumbered with the heavy renovations, the four corner-towers being an arbitrary addition of circa 14th century. Its central tower, standing on a high plinth, is about 55m high and is a straight-edged pyramid of seven storeys, relieved by pilasters and chaitya-niches, substantially agreeing with its description left by the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang. The remaining shrines and stupas mostly belong to the Pala period (9th to 12th century).
Places to See
Towards the West of the Maha Bodhi temple, is the tree where Gautam Buddha did his meditation and attained enlightenment.
Before going in for meditation, Buddha took bath in this pond. This pond is situated towards the west of Bodhi temple. The pond is situated in a very attractive place and is worth visiting.
Towards North of the Bodhi Temple, is a platform with foot impressions of Buddha. Apart from these ponds and platforms, there are many temples built by the people of various nations like the Tibet temple, the Japanese, the Thai, the Lankan and the Bhutan temple. These temples are also a major attraction for the tourists and devotees, who visit Bodh Gaya.
EXCURSION FROM BODHGAYA
A place of religious sanctity for Hindus, Gaya lies 12 kms from Bodhgaya between Pretshila and Ramshila hills and is washed by the shores of river Phalgu. Gaya has a large number of Buddhist temples also. While Buddha was doing severe penance, he became weak, tired and hungry. He rested under a tree where, he was offered food by a condemned village woman named Sujata. To everybody's surprise Buddha accepted her offerings. Legend has it, that after having consumed the food, Buddha's countenance assumed a divine glow and he realized the Supreme truth; that neither extreme self indulgence nor self mortification is ever required. What is needed is to follow the Middle Path. Sujata Sthan or Durgeshwari Temple stands as a symbol commemorating this event.
Barabar Caves: 57 Kms from Gaya are some earliest carved out Buddhist caves. The interior of these caves is chiselled to a wonderful polish. The carvings in the caves reflect the skill with which these caves are carved out. These caves were built some where in the 3rd century and are fine examples of the skill, which the Indian mason had attained at that time. These caves are believed to be of Mauryan period and considered to be the origin of Indian cave architecture.
20 kms from Gaya is located the Sun temple of Deo. In fact, this place is famous for the 'Chhat' festival, which is held in the month of October-November.
The place is famous for the caves where Buddha had meditated for some time. It was in these caves that he concluded that the ultimate knowledge can not be attained through mortification of the flesh. These caves are 12 kms from the main town of Bodh Gaya.
Just 15 kms from Nalanda is located the complex of temples and monasteries. The place is called Rajgir. It is one of the most important tourist places in India. Being located in a valley, Rajgir is a very scenic place.
90 kms south of Patna, literally means the place that confers the lotus. It was one of the oldest universities of the world. It has nine million books, ten thousand students, two thousand teachers and was a center of great learning which reached its zenith between 5th and 12th Century A.D. Both Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira visited this place. Emperor Ashoka built a Vihara, while Emperor Harshvardhan donated a 26 mtr. High copper image of Buddha and Emperor Kumar Gupta built a college of fine arts. In 1951, an International Center for Buddhist Studies was established in Nalanda. Nava Nalanda Vihar, 2 kms from here, is a similar institution
HOW TO GET THERE
Rail: The Railways Department has provided Gaya, the neighbouring city, with a number of trains which connect the city with all the parts of India. The Rajdhani and Kalka Mail have their stoppages here. Gaya is a junction and one can change trains for the other train routes.
Road: Bodh Gaya is on the Grand Trunk Road and thus, is well connected by road, with all the parts of the country.