Bodhgaya India (also written as Bodh Gaya) is in northeastern India in the
state of Bihar. It is thought that the Enlightenment of Buddha occurred here
under an asvatta or bodhi tree (the Tree of Awakening) where the Mahabodhi Temple
now sits. It is the most important Buddhist temple of the four holy Buddhist
pilgrimage sites, one of which includes the temples
and ghats of Varanasi on the mighty Ganges
River where Prince Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon in nearby Sarnath.
The two other sites are his place of birth at Lumbini in Nepal
and Kushinagar where he left his body. The site of Bodhgaya India is also sacred
to the world's Hindus because Buddha is is the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Both the Bodhgaya Temple and the tree are sacred in Buddhism. "Bodhi" means enlightenment, and the tree itself was actually a kind of ficus (or pipal) tree, which has been propagated from a sapling of the original tree under which he sat. The current living tree is 80 feet high and about 115 years old. Under the tree is a red sandstone slab that is said to be the Vajrasana, the diamond throne that Prince Gautama sat on when he attained nirvana.
Each year, millions of Buddhist pilgrims make the trip to Bodhgaya India, as
Christians go to Lourdes in France. In
the height of the pilgrimage season, in the cool winter season between December
and March, monks in colorful robes will be seen in meditation, studying, performing
prostrations, and making offerings to the many statues and stupas. You will
also see the monks and other faithful circling around Mahabodhi Temple in a
continuous circumambulation. Destitute families (Bihar Province is one of the
poorest in all of India) are also drawn to the site, and can be seen begging
for alms outside the temples and monastery grounds.
The main Buddhist Temple of Mahabodhi, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
boasts a huge, intricately-carved, and embellished tower 170 feet high, and
was restored about 1880. Parts of the railings
to the south and west pre-date the destruction by Muslims in the eleventh century.
The Mahabodhi Temple is not the only Buddhist temple in the area. Buddhists
from around Asia, including the Dalai Lama from Tibet, have frequented this
place and built monasteries and temples. These attractions
are all within walking distance of the Mahabodhi Temple. There are temples from
Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand,
Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal.
Another of the Buddhist attractions is a colossal, 80-foot-tall Great Buddha Statue, completed in 1989 by scores of masons. You can also visit the Archeology Museum with an extensive collection of antiquities excavated in around the region. If you're deciding when to go to Bodhgaya India consider the month of April or May (depending on the lunar cycle), when the Buddha Jayanti Fesitval occurs to celebrate the appearance (birth) of Lord Buddha, his enlightenment, and the day he attained nirvana and left this mortal world. Other things to do in the city include visiting the Archeological Museum.