In 528 BC Prince Siddhartha Gautama came here in search of truth. After seeing sorrow, misery, pain and death he decided to probe into their causes and find out means of overcoming their occurrences. He renounced the life of a prince and traveled from place to place until finally attaining enlightenment by meditation under the Bodhi Tree (peepul tree). It is also famous for its Mahabodhi Temple and is reckoned as the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centre.
Bodhgaya, 14 km south of Gaya; is the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage center in the world.
The region around Bodhgaya formed the part of the first small kingdoms of India in the 7th century BC. It is the place where is the place where Gautam Buddha entered into meditation after being moved by the sufferings of mankind. After gaining Enlightenment, Gautam became Buddha and spread his message of love and peace to th whole world. To mark the spot where Gautam Buddha had attained Enlightenment, the great Mauryan ruler King Ashoka built a small shrine here in the 3rd century BC. After that the subsequent rulers left their mark on this shrine, which finally took the shape of the Mahabodhi temple that is still there.
FESTIVAL: Buddha Jayanti:- This festival is celebrated on a full moon day in April/May as Buddha's birth anniversary as well as enlightenment. On this occasion devotees come from all over the world.
Nyingma Monlam Chenmo:- This festival held in January-February for about three weeks, this festival is celebrated for world peace often attended by the Dalai Lama as well.
The pilgrimage season starts in September but the best time to visit Bodhgaya is between November to February when the climate is comfortable.
Deo: 20 km from Gaya, the Surya temple, here, is the site of the famous Chhath Puja in November.
Parasnath Hill: 40 km from Gaya, they are the earliest Buddhist rock cut caves. It is believed that 22 'tirthankaras' out of 24 attained salvation here, and is deemed one of the most sacred pilgrim centres for the Jains.
The Bodhi Tree: At the western side of the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya stands the large and historic Bodhi Tree under which Shakyamuni Buddha, then known as Gautama, attained enlightenment some 2540 years ago.
Ranchi: The erstwhile summer capital of Bihar, Ranchi, is 676 m in altitude, and is a wonderful hill station. Its significant landmarks are a hill - top Shiva temple, with the Ranchi lake at the foothills.
Chotanagpur: The Chotanagpur plateau is one of the most beautiful areas in Bihar. Studded with hills 300 - 900 m in altitude, and covered with verdant virgin forests, this expanse of rivers, lakes, meadows and valleys is an ideal retreat. Rich in wildlife, these forests are an anthropologist's delight, as the clutch of ancient tribes, like Santhal, Ho, Munda, Oraon, Koi, Chero, Kharia, Paharia, dwelling within them, still retain their intriguing traditions and rituals.
Bodhgaya Temple - Bodhgaya
The Vajra Throne - Bodhgaya
Attractions and Places to Visit in Bodhgaya
Archaeological Museum At Bodh Gaya: In the Bodh Gaya complex one should not miss the archaeological museum that houses the relics of the old temple, sculptures and objects excavated from the site.
The best time to visit the place is during winter when thousands of Buddhists from all over the world pour in.
The Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans, migrates to Bodh Gaya and takes up residence for two months. The environment is phenomenally calm and quiet. The extremely disciplined monks robed in various colours (Tibetans in burgundy, Sri Lankans in saffron, Burmese in amber, Japanese in black) contribute to this atmosphere of mysticism and an almost tangible love for mankind.
Buddha's message preached thousand of years age can still be seen and felt. Chantings echo. "May all beings be happy." (2125 words)
The Exquisite Carvings:
The richly carved massive stone railings around the temple are the oldest remains of Bodh Gaya. The railings with carvings such as sculptured panels, medallions and other ornamental patterns were constructed in two parts. The sandstone part, dating back to the first century B.C., consists of inscriptions while the granite portion, embellished with scenes from Buddha's life, is a later addition of 7th century A.D.
What we see today is a mixture of the original panels and recent reconstructions in its original design. The railings represent the best of the Sunga art and architecture of Bihar. Some of the Jataka scenes are delicately sculptured and as in all periods of high culture, the art lies in the daring, not in the repetition.
The different Rashis have been artistically expressed, besides there are sculptures of Sri Ma and Gajalakhshmi that illustrate the beauty and grace of the female form. In the depiction of Salibhanjika the artist seems to emphasize more on female beauty and its sensuous appeal rather than realistic anatomy. Some of the love scenes are simply impressive.
Entry to the temple is through a Buddhist gateway, on the east, consisting of two ornamental pillars supporting an architrave. At the entrance of the temple hangs a huge bell that is customarily rung by everyone upon entering. Giant lamps illuminate the entrance before the sanctum sanctorum, housing the massive gilded image of Lord Buddha in the earth-touching pose. This is the meditative posture in which he attained enlightenment with one finger touching the earth, calling it to witness his awakening. Steps from either side (now closed) lead to the top chamber which houses a figure of Buddha's mother, Maya Devi. A passage runs round the tower, ornamented with rows of panels with images of Buddha and small shrines containing smaller figures of the Buddha.
Buddhapada: Tradition states that Buddha stayed in Bodh Gaya for seven weeks after his enlightenment. Each week was spent in a different part of the temple complex. The first week was spent under the Bodhi tree. For the next seven days he remained standing and gazing uninterruptedly at the tree for having helped him in his quest. This spot is marked by Animeshlocha Stupa (unblinking shrine) in the north east which houses a standing figure of the Buddha with his eyes fixed towards the tree. The third week was spent in meditation, walking to and fro from the tree to the unblinking shrine spot.
How to Reach Bodhgaya
AIR: Patna is the nearest airport with regular flights to Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai. Calcutta, 482 km, has an international airport.
ROAD: Bihar State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) has bus services to Gaya, Patna, Nalanda and Rajgir. The main bus stand is opposite the Mahabodhi Temple. Private buses and taxis are also easily available.
RAIL: Gaya is the nearest railway station. Several superfast as well as express trains are available from Gaya. Gaya is on the main Delhi to Calcutta line and there are direct trains to Delhi, Calcutta, Varanasi, Puri and Patna.