Bodh Gaya: The Cradle of Buddhism
Bodh Gaya: The Cradle of Buddhism

Bodh Gaya: The Cradle of Buddhism

Bodh Gaya is a village in the state of Bihar in northeast India. Considered one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, this ancient brick dominates the Mahabodhi temple complex, designed to mark the site where Buddha attained enlightenment under the sacred Bodhi tree. A direct descendant of the tree today sits within the complex along with six other sacred sites including the lotus pond.

Brief History

  • For centuries, religion, politics, myth, and history have converged around a small town on the banks of the Phalgu River just south of the state capital Patna in India.
  • This extraordinary place—Bodh Gaya—is understood to be the site of the enlightenment, or “great awakening” (Sanskrit, Mahabodhi), of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.
  • The events of the Buddha’s life are understood to have taken place sometime in the 5th-century B.C.E.
  • More than 2,500 years later, Bodh Gaya is a sprawling pilgrimage town dense with ancient, medieval, and modern shrines, monasteries, temples, and hotels. The historical and archaeological record at this sacred Buddhist centre stretches back to at least the 3rd-century B.C.E.

State/District/Capital

The Mahabodhi Temple or the Mahabodhi Mahavihar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an ancient, but much rebuilt and restored, Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Bodh Gaya is about 96 km from Patna, Bihar state, India.

How to reach Bodhgaya?

By Air

The nearest airport is Bodhgaya international airport located 17 kms from Bodhgaya. The other airport is at Patna (135 kms away) and has better connectivity.

By Road

A main road connects the town of Bodhgaya to the city of Gaya. One can hire cab or take a bus.

By Train

Gaya junction is the nearest railway head located 13 kms away.

When to visit Bodhgaya?

Owing to its huge Buddhist following, tourist and scholars often visit Bodh Gaya irrespective of the season. However, the peak tourist season in Bodh Gaya is between October and March when the temperature is moderate and the weather is pleasant for visiting different attractions in the town.

Official Language

The official Language of Agra is Hindi. Bhojpuri is also spoken by local people.

Weather

  • Summer Season: April to June
  • Average Temperature: 28°C to 40°C
  • Monsoon Season: July to September
  • Average Temperature: 18°C to 32°C
  • Winter Season: December to February
  • Average Temperature: 4°C to 10°C
  • Spring Season: January to February
  • Average Temperature: 15°C to 17°C

Fairs and Festivals

Buddha Jayanti

An annual festival that celebrates the birth anniversary and enlightenment of Prince Siddharth as Buddha. It generally falls in the month of April or May, depending on the Hindu calendar. 

Nyingma Monlam Chenmo

A three-week annual festival celebrated from fourth till the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month around January/ February is also known as Prayer Festival and the main idea behind it is to promote and celebrate World Peace. His Holiness Dalai Lama also visits the City around this time to attend the festival.

Buddha Mahotsava

A three day annual festival in Bodh Gaya that focuses on various cultural and religious activities and sees participation from various countries around the World.

Maha Kala Chakra Puja

An annual religious event that focuses on performing puja and reciting verses and chants over a period of 7 to 10 days and is believed to remove the obstacles and welcome the coming year on a positive note.

Transportation/Stay to prefer

Bus facility is provided by the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) in the city of Bodhgaya. However, three wheeler auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are preferred more than buses.

Places to visit in Bodhgaya

Barabar Caves

It consists of a cluster of four caves, namely Karan Chaupar, Lomar RIshi, Sudama and Vishwakarma, known as the Barabar cave. Carved out from a monolithic granite rock, these are supposed to have been constructed by emperor Ashoka for the use of Ajivika ascetics.

Archaeological Society of Indian Museum

It is an excellent collection of various buddhist and Hindu relics, mostly related to the Pala period (8th to 12th centuries). Located inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, one can find eexhibits of bronze statues of, terracotaa items, images of Lord Buddha and stone sculptures, along with pillars, railings, panels, rods, plaques, etc.

Mahabodhi Temple

Mahabodhi Temple is a UNESCO world heritage site. This is one of the four holy sites related to the life of Lord Buddha, and mark the spot where he attained enlightenment.

Bodhi Tree

On the left of Mahabodhi Temple lies the Bodhi tree, a central symbol in Buddhism. It marks the spot where the original Bodhi tree once stood, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. For more than a month, Siddharth (as Buddha was earlier called) meditated beneath a sacred fig tree in Bodhgaya.

Great Buddha Statue

The great Buddha statue is an awe-inspiring sight, standing at a height of about 25 m. It is believed to be one of the largest statue in India and shows lord Buddha sitting on a lotus in a meditative pose.

Vajrasana

The red sandstone slab between the Bodhi tree and the Mahabodhi Temple is said to have been erected by emperor Ashoka to mark the exact position where lord Buddha sat. It is traditionally called Buddha’s Vajrasana (meaning diamond throne of thunder seat). It is said Lord Buddha sat here in meditation gazing eastwards.

Sujata Garh

An ancient Stupa, Sujata Garh is believed to be the place where lord Buddha meditated, following several penance of fasting before he attained enlightment. As per legend, a loady called Sujata, a cow-herder, offered Buddha a bowl of rice when she saw him emaciated from all the meditating. Buddha realised the futility of self-deprivation and accepted the lady’s offer.

Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple

Built in the year 1972 with the help of international Buddhist communities, Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple is beautifully carved out of wood and looks very much like a Japanese shrine. It is a fine exsample of both Japanese architecture and Buddhist culture.

Pragbodhi

Around 7 km from Bodhgaya, on a hill, is located Pragbodhi (meaning prior to enlightenment). It is believed that Lord Buddha spent 7 years living an austere life in a cave in this hill before he attained enlightenment.

Monasteries of Bodhgaya

The spiritual town of Bodhgaya is home to many Buddhist monasteries that have been set-up by various nationals. The Thai monastery and the Tergar monastery are some popular monasteries.

Cuisines to taste in Bodhgaya

  • Litti Chokha
  • Kadhi Badi
  • Dal Peetha
  • Mutton and Reshmi Kebabs
  • Chana Ghugni
  • Rasia
  • Khurma
  • Kesar Peda
  • Thekua
  • Pedakia
  • Malpua
  • Khaja
  • Laung Latika

Things to do in Bodhgaya

  • Visit meditation park
  • Visit Bodhgaya Multimedia Museum
  • Visit Archaeological Society of India Museum
  • Shopping in the local market

Souveniers to buy

Bodhgaya Handicrafts

Bodhgaya Handicrafts is a shop that sells handcrafted, personalized sculptures in various materials, made by the skilled craftsmen. The shop is one of the oldest shops in Bodhgaya. You find sculptures of various deities here. The shop is owned by two men, Deo and Pura, who employ more local artisans to create sculpted marvels.

The sculptures of Lord Buddha in various poses, various Hindu deities, wildlife animals, Mahabodhi temple replica, are the popular articles available in the shop. The Buddhist and Hindu faith ritual articles, Indian national emblem and some good luck charms are other sold here. One can get these in various materials like sandalwood and stone as per customer needs. They also sell various sculptors and articles online.

Kundan Bazaar

Kundan Bazaar is not a marketplace but a small shop that is located inside the very famous Kundan Bazaar Guest House. The place is a small bookshop that sells books related to Buddhism, souvenirs, clothing, gift articles and Lord Buddha statues. The shop can be reached within 5 minutes by bicycle.

A person who’s interested in reading books about religion will be a happy soul here. The goods sold here are reasonably priced, but one can bargain to get some more discount. The shop has gained more publicity due to the reviews shared by tourists regarding the place.

Mahabodhi Bookshop

Mahabodhi Bookshop is a heaven for book lovers, especially for readers interested in spiritual or religious readings related to the Buddhist faith. The bookshop is housed inside the Mahabodhi temple complex and is a store that boasts of one of the largest collection of books on Lord Buddha, Buddhist faith and the history of the Mahabodhi temple.

As the shop is located inside the Mahabodhi temple, it is very approachable for people visiting the temple. The books that are available at Mahabodhi Bookshop are reasonably priced. The location of the bookshop in the temple is near to the entrance of the temple. Going through the books in the peaceful and pure ambience of the temple complex is an experience in itself, and also provides the joy of spiritual literature enrichment from this place.

Tibetan Refugee Market

Tibetan Refugee Market is the best place to buy a souvenir in Bodhgaya. Located in the heart of the town, this market is a colourful display of woollen wears, Buddhism souvenirs and various artefacts and accessories. A visit to this market is never boring, and it is not complete without buying something from here. One can spend a couple of hours just looking at various handicraft articles of the Tibetan faith.

The statues of Lord Buddha are available in materials like sandalwood or metal and various poses. All the shops are mostly run by people belonging to Tibetan culture. Everyone has a small stall or a makeshift shop with various articles on the display to lure the shoppers. Bargaining with the shopkeepers is a fun activity that both the sellers and buyers enjoy. The articles that are commonly sold here include souvenirs representing Buddhism, woollen wear, statues of Lord Buddha and various accessories.

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About Vishal Kumar

Aspire to inspire before I expire. Part-time blogger, full-time learner.

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