Quick Bytes :
Location : Bihar
Languages : Bhojpuri, Hindi
Climate : Tropical
Temperature : In summers, it varies between 28 and 47 degree Celsius; in winters, it lies between 4 and 20 degree Celsius
Altitude : 113 meters from sea level
Major Attractions : Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhi Tree
Best Visiting Time : Months between October and March
Bodh Gaya is a place of immense religious significance that serves as a pilgrimage center to Buddhist followers and carries a glorious past reflecting the grandeur of the religion. It was under the shade of a banyan tree that Lord Buddha got his enlightenment; the secrets of spiritual awakening were reveled to him here. It was, in fact, the origin of Buddhism which soon spread to other parts of the world. Preaching the lessons of simplicity, non-violence, austerity and love to all, the religion pared the message of peace to followers. Devotees from all religions arrive to this holy place in search of spiritual edification. It is believed that the visit to the site depletes your negative energy and takes you to higher levels of awakening.
Mahabodhi Temple : Located at a distance of 96 km from Patna, an exquisite temple complex is present in the premises of which Mahabodhi Temple is situated. The foundation of the temple is associated with Emperor Ashoka who is believed to have established it after the completion of 250 years of attaining enlightenment by Buddha. The emperor also established a diamond throne along with four-pillared structure as a symbol of enlightenment. Several other shrines were also constructed in the vicinity with enshrined images.
The base of the temple is a square shaped structure and carries a height of 52 meters. The structure is constructed in the shape of a pyramid; at each of the corners of the square, four towers stand majestically. The entire monument is gives a striking pose to the beholders. A gargantuan image of Buddha adorns the interior; he is depicted in "bhumisparsha "pose. It is believed that the sculpture is at least 1100 years old. The temple was refurbished during the reign of Kushana dynasty. As Buddhism declined, this exquisite monument of Bodh Gaya was forgotten and got buried under layers of soil. As the site was unearthed in 19th century, Alexander Cunningham restored it to its previous grandeur. The temple remains open between 5 in the morning and closes at 9 pm.
Bodhi Tree : Description of Bodh Gaya is incomplete without throwing a light on its immensely significant Bodhi Tree. He continued mediation continuously for seven days. In the second week, he started practicing mediation while walking. His contemplation continued for another week before getting enlightenment. As the event was of paramount importance to the life of Lord Buddha, the Bodhi or peepal tree under which he mediated also became significant for his followers. It is said the Emperor Ashoka's wife cut down the original tree in a fit of jealousy but another one grew there. A shoot of the original one was taken to Sri Lanka by Ashoka's Daughter Sangmitra and was planted in Anuradhapuram. The tree became so sacred for the followers that they used to take its leaves as well as seeds to be planted in their monasteries. Both Mahabodhi and Bodhi tree are protected by stone railings.
Chankramana : Another holy site that can be part of your visit to Bodh Gaya is Chankramana. It was at this place that Buddha made perambulations in his third week of meditation. It is said that places where he set his feet on ground while circumambulating, lotus flowers bloomed.
Other Temples : Buddhism gained popularity in many Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Japan, and Myanmar. A number of Buddhist followers visited Bodh Gaya in different periods of time and erected several monuments, temples near Mahabodhi Complex. These are known for their fascinating architectural styles and interior decoration. A statue of Buddha kept inside a Chinese temple is aas old as 200 years. Thai temple is constructed with a steep slope and a curved roof; here you can have the glimpse of a colossal image of Buddha in bronze.
Nearby Attractions :
Rajgir : It is linked with Mahayana preaching of Lord Buddha; a monastery named Venuvana present here is worth visiting. The site is laced with hot springs that common people are allowed to visit.
Nalanda : Famous for its renowned university; though only ruins have left behind, you can have the glimpse of it. Nalanda Museum is another attraction here.
Vishnupad Temple : Constructed by Ahilya Bai in late eighteenth century, this temple is present near river Falgu. The exquisite architecture of the structure is worth looking at.
Barabar Caves : At a distance of about 41 kilometers from Bodh Gaya, Barabar Caves are located. These are carved from rocks and let you have an insight into Buddha's life. Upon entering the interiors, you will notice polished walls. The dexterity with which the caves have been carved out is worth mentioning here. Thec structures were used by Buddha for doing meditation.
Pretshila Hills : These picturesque hills are located near Gaya. A Brahma Kund is also present nearby; people use it for bathing purposes. A number of rites and rituals are performed after having this religious bath. Atop hill, a beautiful temple is present and attracts tourists by its magnificent architecture.
There are many excellent cafes and restaurants where you can relish great food. Café Om, Be Happy Café, and Bowl of Compassion Café are a few nice ones.
Many cheap hotels are present that offer basic services. Several guest houses run by monastery can be booked at reasonable costs. The distinctive feature of these guest houses is that they do not take tariff from the guests but accept donations. Others tat offer good staying options are Burmese Vihara, Bhutan Monastery, Mahabodhi Society, rainbow Guesthouse, Hotel Sujata, and Siddhartha Vihar. Royal Residency is a mid range option; here you will find comfortable rooms along with hot tubs.
There are certain norms or you can say etiquettes that must be followed while visiting this sacred site:
While entering the temple complex, your shoes must be taken off. The circumambulation must be made in clockwise direction. Making loud noises is totally unacceptable here; you are expected to maintain the decorum; no damage of any kind must be made to the monuments, sculptures etc.
Every year, pilgrims arrive at Bodh Gaya in search of peace, performing circumambulations, and offering prayers to their Lord. A multitude of followers from countries outside India throng to this scared destination where Buddhism started in its nascence and evolved to become one of the torchbearers of enlightenment.