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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Sujata Temple
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is also pit like an empty well where we can throw our hairs or nails to get rid of our past negative accumulations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is place where two brothers after realizing the vastness and practicality of Lord Buddha’s teachings, they ordained and became monks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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