Bodhgaya : Site of
Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world.
Apart from being a significant archaeological site, it is also a
vital Buddhist centre. It's the site where Buddha attained enlightenment.
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 grandeur that surrounds the place. It is a quiet
and peaceful place. Buddhists from all over the world flock to Bodhgaya,
along with non-Buddhists who come to learn about Buddhism and meditation.
The best time to visit is during winter when Tibetan pilgrims come
down from Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama also often spends December
Bodh Gaya is located about 13 km from Gaya, 450 km west of Calcutta,
and 90 km south of Patna.
Places to See -
Mahabodhi Temple - is the focal point
of Bodhgaya. It marks the spot where Buddha gained enlightenment
and set out on his life of preaching. It stands adjacent to a descendent
of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha meditated on the excesses
of life and formulated his philosophy of a balanced approach to
it. There is a red sandstone slab under the tree that is said to
be the 'Vajrasan', or diamond throne, on which Buddha sat. This
temple is a place of pilgrimage for all Buddhists. Topped by a 50m
high pyramid, the ornate structure houses a large gilded image of
Bodhi Tree - The Bodhi tree here is said to be
a descendent of the tree under which Budhha attained enlightenment.
A sapling of the original bodhi tree that the Buddha sat under was
carried by Emperor Ashoka's daughter (Sanghamitta) to Sri Lanka.
That tree is at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. A cutting from that tree
was planted in Budha Gaya when the original tree died. Under the
tree is a red sandstone slab that is said to be the Vajrasana, the
diamond throne, that Buddha sat on and attained nirvana. The tree
is located behind the temple and is about 80 feet high and about
115 years old.
Monasteries - most countries with
a large Buddhist population have a temple or a monastery in Bodhgaya
usually built in a representative architectural style. Thus, there
is a Thai temple that looks very much like the colourful wats of
Thailand. There is a Tibetan temple and monastery that contains
a large prayer wheel. The Burmese who had led a campaign to restore
the Mahabodhi temple in the 19th century also built their monastery.
There is a Japanese temple (Indosan Nipponji) that has a very beautiful
image of Buddha brought from Japan. There are also Chinese, Sri
Lankan, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Korean, Taiwanese and Bangladeshi
monasteries. There is also a Tai Bodhi Khan monastery built by Buddhist
tribes from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Vajrasana - Vajrasana, the seat of stability. Buddha
supposed to have say in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi
Tree, where the Vajrasana, the stone platform is kept.
Chankaramana - This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha's
meditative perambulations during the third week after pious enlightenment.
It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang
Arimeshlochana - It is believed that the Buddha spent one
week here looking towards the great Mahabodhi Tree out of gratitude,
without twinkling his eyes.
Ratnagar- The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed
that five colours came out of his body.
Archaeological Museum - here has a small collection
of Buddha figures, and pillars that were discovered in the area.
Other Places -
The Mohanta's Monastery, located right next to the Mahabodhi Temple,
is a Shaivite monastery. It is said that Adi Sankaracharya spent
days here in a heated debate with buddhist philosophers.
At the Tibetan Mahayana Monastery (1938) there is a large Dharma
Chakra, or wheel of law. It is believed that you will be freed of
sin if you spin this wheel three times in succession from left to
right. It is a 10m high metal drum painted gold and red.
Budha bathed in the nearby Niranjana (now called Lilanja) River
after attaining enlightenment. The Niranjana River is about 250m
east of the temple. Prince Siddharta crossed this river to reach
the Bodhi tree.