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.
Mahabodhi Temple: 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.
Great Buddha Statue: This statue of Lord Buddha is the tallest in India and was instated 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.
Bodhi Tree: The Bodhi Tree, located 100 kilometers 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.
Thai Monastery: 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 bookstore offers a wide range of collection of Buddhist books, books on Buddhist culture and history of Mahabodhi Temple.
Muchalinda Lake: 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.
Cankamana: Situated along the Bodhi Temple, Cankamana is a holy shrine featuring a carving of Lord Buddha’s feet into the black stone lotuses.
Best time to visit Bodh Gaya
October to March is ideal for a visit according to the weather conditions, but tourists flock here throughout the year. Post-October, a lot of monks, flock from Dharamshala to Bodh Gaya and the city is colored with maroon robes. Dalai Lama himself spends some time here during December and January. Visitors also flock here in the month of Vaisakh (April-May) to celebrate the Buddha Purnima, the auspicious day when Siddhartha had attained enlightenment.
How to reach Bodh Gaya
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 Bodh Gaya. There is a direct Druk Air flight from Bangkok Airport.