Altitude: 113 metres.
Climate (deg c):
Max.47, Min.28. Winter- Max.28, Min.4.
Rainfall: 186 cms ( Mid. June to Mid. September ).
: October to March.
The four most holy places associated with the Buddha are Lumbini, his birthplace, in Nepal; Sarnath, near Varanasi, where he preached his first message; Kushinagar, near Gorakhpur, where he died; and Bodhgaya, where he attained enlightenment. 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.
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. Bodhgaya is a quiet and peaceful place. You could visit Bodhgaya in a day, or even plan a long study leave, depending on your inclination.
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.
Gautama, had been practicing austerities for six years in the area of the Niranjana River near Bodhgaya. Finally understanding that this could not lead to realisation, he abandoned his austerities and in the nearby village of Senani (now also known as Sujata) the Brahmin girl Sujata offered him milk-rice. Strengthened by this, he took some kusha grass for a mat and sat under the pipal tree facing east. He resolved not to rise until he attained enlightenment.
As he sat in deep meditation, Mara, Lord of Illusion, symbolising the delusions of one's own mind, tried tirelessly to distract him from his purpose. Gautama then touched the earth, calling it to bear witness to the countless lifetimes of virtue that led him to this place of enlightenment.
The earth shook confirming the truth of his words. Mara unleashed his army of demons to distract and tempt Gautama from his purpose, but Gautama triumphed over the inner obstacles and the power of his compassion transformed the demons' weapons into flowers.
His mind was utterly subdued. For seven days after the enlightenment, Buddha continued to meditate under the tree without moving from his seat. Another week passed in walking meditation, and for a third the Buddha contemplated under the Bodhi Tree. The earliest records on the tree are in the
'Kalingabodhi Jataka', which gives a vivid description of the
tree and the surrounding area prior to the enlightenment, and the
April September which relates the story of King Ashoka's (3rd century B.C) conversion to Buddhism.
His subsequent worship under the sacred tree apparently angered his queen to the point where she ordered the tree to be felled. Ashoka then piled up earth around the stump and poured milk on its roots. The tree miraculously revived and grew to a height of 37-metres. He then surrounded the tree with a stone wall some three-meters high for its protection. Ashoka's daughter
Sangamitta, a Buddhist nun, took a shoot of the tree to Sri Lanka where the King,
Devanampiyatissa, planted it at the Mahavihara monastery in
Anuradhapura. The fourth direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree still flourishes today and is the oldest continually documented tree in the world.
In 600AD, the tree was again destroyed; this time by the zealous King Sesanka. The event was recorded by Hiuen T'sang, along with the planting of a new Bodhi Tree sapling (taken from the original) by King
Purnavarma in 620AD. At this time, during the annual celebration of
Vaisakha, thousands of people from all over India would gather to anoint the roots of the holy tree with perfumed water and scented milk, and to offer flowers and music. Hiuen T'sang wrote,
"The tree stands inside a fort-like structure surrounded on the south, west and north by a brick wall. It has pointed leaves of a bright green colour. Having opened a door, one could see a large trench in the shape of a basin. Devotees worship with curd, milk and perfumes such as sandalwood, camphor and so on."
Much later the English archeologist Cunningham records, "In 1862 I found this tree very much decayed; one large stem to the westward with three branches was still green, but the other branches were barkless and rotten. I next saw the tree in 1871 and again in 1875, when it had become completely decayed, and shortly afterwards in 1876 the only remaining portion of the tree fell over the west wall during a storm, and the old pipal tree was gone. Many seeds, however, had been collected and the young scion of the parent tree were already in existence to take its place."
The present Bodhi Tree is most probably the fifth descendant of the original tree to be planted at this site. It still performs a very important role to Buddhists of all traditions. Being viewed as the actual Buddha by some, it is a reminder and an inspiration, a symbol of peace, of Buddha's enlightenment and of the ultimate potential that lies within us all.
The Mahabodhi Temple stands east to the Bodhi Tree.
This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha's meditative perambulation during the third week after pious enlightenment. It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.
It is belived that the Buddha spent one week here looking towards the treat Mahabodhi Tree out of gratitude, without twinkling his eyes.
The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed that five colours came out of his body.
The sacred tank where it is believed that Buddha had spent one week.
How to get there
Air : Nearest airport is Gaya 12 kms. However convienent airport is Patna. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Bombay,Calcutta,Delhi,Ranchi & Lucknow.
Rail The nearest railhead is at Gaya, 12 kms.
Road: Bodh Gaya is connected by road to Gaya 12 kms, Nalanda 62 kms, Rajgir 46 kms, Patna 152 kms, Varanasi 215 kms, Calcutta 482 kms.
Road : Daily bus services connect Bodhgaya with Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi etc.
Cycle Rickshaws, Tongas, Auto Rickshaws are available.
13 km. from Bodhgaya, Gaya
is a very sacred pilgrim centre for Hindus. Gaya is one of the most important pilgrimage places for the Hindus. It is believed that a Hindu will reach heaven if his last rites are offered under the celebrated 'Akshayabat' or immortal banyan tree, standing in the yard of Vishnupad temple. Believed to be built on the footsteps of Vishnu, the grand temple was renovated by Ahalyabai, queen of Indore.
The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu attracts a very large number of pilgrims.
The Barabar and Nagarjuni Hills are situated about 41 km. from Bodhgaya (25 kms north of Gaya) and contain, in all, seven rock-cut caves of which four are in the Barabar hills. Barabar Caves is an important achaeological site. The caves carved out from solid rocks bear details of the life of Buddha.
Two of the caves, dedicated by Ashoka to Ajivika monks, are in the form of a plain rectangular outer hall. At one end of which is an inner chamber with carved wall and over hanging caves.
The Karan Chaupa cave
The entire interior of the cave, excluding the platform, bears a high polish. The entrance is in
The Sudama cave
The cave entrance is in 'Egyptian form' and consists of two chambers.
The Lomas Rishi cave
The entrance is in 'Egyptian form and only walls of the outer rooms are polished.
The Visva Zopri cave
Consists of an outer apartment, bearing the high polish on its walls and flat roof. On the right hand wall, is an inscription record.
Other Places of Interest
Tibetan Monastery, Thai Monastery, Myanmar Monastery, Chinese Monastery, Bhutanese Monastery, Japanese Monastery and Sri Lankan Monastery etc.
The Temple Artistry
The temple is built on a slightly raised terrace paved with granite stone slabs with large size bluish bricks plastered all over. The exterior walls of the lofty spire are covered with horizontal rows of niches, each holding a stucco image of the Buddha, gilded in gold. At the four corners of the temple are replicas of the central spire believed to be later Hindu influences. This is evident from the Shiva Lingam installed by a local ruler within the sanctum sanctorum.
This Shiva Lingam also makes the place equally significant for the Hindus. In fact the temple is jointly managed by the Buddhists and the Hindus, who worship Buddha as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu.
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.
Gaya in Bihar is an important railway junction. Bodhgaya is 12 kms away, which can be reached by regular buses, tangas and other road services. The nearest airport is Patna, 109 kms away.
Besides tourist hotels and rest houses one can also consider staying in various foreign guest houses for which special permission is required. Hotel Siddharth Vihar and Hotel Buddha Vihar are the two B.S.T.D.C hotels.
Heavier wools should be kept in mind if travelling in December or January. the best time to visit.
Buddha jayanti is celebrated in May. It marks his birth anniversary.
Around Bodhgaya, one can consider Rajgir hills and the adjoining Nalanda, the ancient seat of learning. (117 words)