Bodh Gaya – Place where Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment


Last updated on August 6th, 2017

Bodh Gaya is one of the four principle places which Buddhists believe they must visit at least once in their lifetime. These places are associated with the four major moments of Lord Buddha’s life. These are:

  • Lumbini in Nepal – birthplace of Lord Buddha
  • Bodh Gaya – Gautama Buddha Enlightened
  • Varanasi – Lord Buddha gave first preaching
  • Kushinagar – Gautama Buddha passed away

Lord Buddha after meditating for six years across Niranjana (present Phalgu) River, he went to Bodh Gaya. He sat under the Bodhi tree.

monks sleep near Mahabodhi temple

Monks remain in those enclosures awake whole night praying

During meditation, local temptors assaulted Buddha with weapons of flood, fire, thunder and lightning. Young girls came to distract him. But nothing was successful as he was into deep contemplation.

On 15th day of lunar calendar, his long quest finally ended. He attained Super Knowledge, the enlightenment. Therefore, Bodh Gaya is a spiritual home of Buddhists.

lake in Bodh Gaya

Lake where Buddha spent his sixth week in Bodh Gaya

Lord Buddha have spent seven weeks around Mahabodhi temple. A pond to the south of the temple is where he has spent sixth week.

Bodh Gaya and its related historical beliefs

People believe Mahabodhi Temple as a center of the world. It houses the statue of Buddha. People believe that it was built mystically by a sculptor after remaining locked inside the sanctum for 6 months. Buddhists revere it as the most exact model of Buddha.

Mahabodhi temple best image

Top of Mahabodhi Temple shot from a distance

The chamber at the top has a figure of Maya Devi, the Lord Buddha’s mother. The temple complex is full with small stupas. They also hold relics of great masters of the past.

stupas at Bodh Gaya

Mahabodhi Temple complex is dotted with small stupas

I was told that King Ashoka has built one temple during his reign in 3rd century. It’s also said that the King Ashoka has also built sandstone pillars as fencing posts. They are now in Bodh Gaya Museum of Archaeological Survey.

Peripheral entrance of Mahabodhi Temple

Peripheral entrance of Mahabodhi Temple

Buddhists believe that Guru Padmasambhava also visited Bodh Gaya manifesting into Singye Dradok to convert heretics into Buddhists. And Nagarjuna installed pinnacles of stupa.

Muslim invaders had destroyed the temple in 12th century. However, Burmese king restored in 14th century. Earlier Mahabodhi Temple was under Hindhu Priests.

Buddhist pilgrimage at Bodh Gaya

Monks from Thailand paying their respect to the great master

In 1953 with the formation of Mahabodhi Society of India, Buddhists could claim the temple. And today it still continues to be the principle religious site in Buddhism.

Bodh Gaya and its related religious temples

There are many religious sites nearby Mahabodhi Temple. They also represent events occurred when Lord Buddha was in Bodh Gaya.

  1. Sujata Temple
  2. Neranjana
  3. Shavari
  4. Nalanda
  5. Barabar
  6. Rajgir
  7. Gridhakuta

All above religious sites are located only few miles from Mahabodhi Temple. Some Buddhist pilgrims cover at least three sites just in a day.

#1 Sujata Temple

When Buddha was undergoing penance for six years, a local Brahamin girl called Sujata has offered the Buddha with milk of thousand cows.

sujata temple

Sujata Temple, spot where Sujata offered Buddha with Milk

On this spot, a temple houses a statue of Lord Buddha with the girl Sujata beside him. 2-3Km from there, we can see the ruin of Sujata’s parental house.

#2 Neranjana

There is a Bodhi tree and an image of Buddha to represent his acts of practicing austerities. It was on this spot, he has spent 6 years in meditation.

Neranjana temple

Spot where Lord Buddha mediated for six years

I was told that somewhere nearby, there is a spot where a village man has offered Lord Buddha with grass as mat during meditation. I couldn’t visit it.

Neranjana Buddhist temple

A Hindu temple was built in reverence to the great master

There is also pit like an empty well where we can throw our hairs or nails to get rid of our past negative accumulations.

#3 Shavari

It’s around 30 mins drive from Neranjana. Near the top of a rocky hill is a meditation cave of Shavari. In the entrance, there is a life tree of Mahakala. You cannot pluck leaves or twigs. Mahakala is one of the principle protective deities of Bhutan.

Shavari, past life of Lam Drukpa Kuenley

Shavari, past life of Lam Drukpa Kuenley

We can also see OM and AH letter carvings on the rock. Buddhist people believe they are special letters. In a temple, we can also see the statue of Lord Buddha with his two principle disciples.

#4 Nalanda

People still consider it as one of the principle centers of Buddhism. It’s the site where once popular Buddhist University stood. We can now see only the ruins.

Ruins of Nalanda university.

Ruins of Nalanda university. Pic courtesy:

Buddhist masters like Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Chandrakirti and many more were once students of the university.

Lord Buddha has also visited this place many times. There is also museum of antiques and other remains of the university.

#5 Barabar

This is place where two brothers after realizing the vastness and practicality of Lord Buddha’s teachings, they ordained and became monks.

Barabar cave.

Barabar cave. Picture coutesy:

King Ashoka has built two caves and another one in later centuries. These caves are still there. If we go little farther towards a hilltop, there is a small museum of antiquity.

#6 Rajgir

This place is not only popular of being religious site but also popular among non-Buddhists because of its hot spring. We can also see ruins of ancient enclosures.

On the top of hill, there is a Japanese stupa. When the king Bimbisara and his entourage went to pay homage to Buddha, the wheel of their chariot got struck. We can still see it.

#7 Gridhakuta

Buddha made second preaching in this place. We have to go by foot for few minutes from the road point to reach the exact spot where Buddha turned second wheel of Dharma.

Gridhakuta peak

Gridhakuta peak from where Rajgir valley appears vast

I was told that there is Japanese stupa little far from the spot. There is no road, and we have to go uphill on small cable cars. I wasn’t feeling well. So I didn’t go to see Japanese stupa.

Buddha statue inside Mahabodhi temple

Buddha statue in Mahabodhi temple, the most accurate statue of Buddha

Bodh Gaya as a place of Enlightenment, is a spiritual home for Buddhists across the globe. Monks, nuns and religious people come every day to pray their homage to the great master.

offerings at Mahabodhi temple

Devotees offer garlands and garlands of beautiful flowers

Otherwise for nagging beggars, popular stinky Indian dusty roads and noisy traffics, Bodh Gaya can be a good place for non-Buddhist tourists too. They can observe people from different countries with various cultural background in one place.

Mahabodhi during night

Beauty of Mahabodhi temple in evening

There are also good number of hotels, restaurants, temples, museum and transportation services to meet requirement of people from different countries, cultures, principles, traditions, religions and age groups.

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About Author

An auditor by profession, but a traveller, blogger and photographer by passion. This site was created to share travel stories of various destinations within Bhutan and also travel tips of travelling to Bhutan. Read More>>

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