Bodh Gaya – बोधगया
Bodh Gaya or Bodhgaya (बोधगया) is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district of Bihar. It is famous for being the place of Gautama Buddha’s attainment of Enlightenment.
Historically, it was known as the Bodhimanda (ground around the Bodhi-tree), Uruvela, Sambodhi, Vajrasana and Mahabodhi. The main monastery of Bodhgaya used to be called the Bodhimanda-vihāra (Pali). Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple.
For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Bodhgaya is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center in the world. It was here under a banyan tree, the Bodhi Tree, Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha,the Enlightened One. Born; in the foothills of the Himalayas as a Sakya prince of Kapilvastu (now in Nepal), most of the major events of his life, like enlightenment and last sermon, happened in Bihar. Buddhism as a religion was really born in Bihar and evolved here through his preaching and the example of his lifestyle of great simplicity, renunciation and empathy for everything living. Significantly, the state’s name of ‘Bihar’ originated from ‘Vihara’ meaning monasteries which abounded in Bihar. Several centuries after Buddha’s passing away, the Maurya Emperor Ashoka (234-198 BC) contributed tremendously towards the revival, consolidation and spread of the original religion. It is the monasteries, Ashoka built for the Buddhist monks and the pillars known as Ashokan Pillars erected to commemorate innumerable historical sites associated with the Buddha’s life, mostly intact to this day, that helped scholars and pilgrims alike to trace the life events and preaching of a truly extraordinary man. There is a magnificent Mahabodhi temple and the Tree from the original sapling still stands in the temple premises. The temple is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures and heritages. While its architecture has a distinct stamp of the Gupta era, it has later ages inscriptions describing visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China between 7th and 10th century AD. It is perhaps still the same temple Hieuen Tsang visited in 7th century.
“Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautama Buddha attained unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. It is a place which should be visited or seen by a person of devotion and which would cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence”.
Maha Bodhi Temple
The historical place at which the Enlightenment took place became a place of pilgrimage. Though it is not mentioned in the scriptures, the Buddha must have visited Bodh Gaya again in the course of his teaching career. About 250 years after the Enlightenment, the Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka visited the site and is considered the founder of the Mahabodhi Temple. According to the tradition, Ashoka, as well as establishing a monastery, erected a diamond throne shrine at this spot with a canopy supported by four pillars over a stone representation of the Vajrasana, the Seat of Enlightenment.
The temple’s architecture is superb but its history is shrouded in obscurity. It was constructed with the main intention of making it a monument and not a receptacle for the relics of the Buddha. Several shrines were constructed with enshrined images for use as places of worship.
The basement of the present temple is 15m square, 15m in length as well as in breadth and its height is 52m which rises in the form of a slender pyramid tapering off from a square platform. On its four corners four towers gracefully rise to some height. The whole architectural plan gives pose and balance to the observers.
Inside the temple there is a colossal image of the Buddha in the “touching the ground pose”, bhumisparsha mudra. This image is said to be 1700 years old and is facing east exactly at the place where the Buddha in meditation with his back to the Bodhi tree was enlightened.
Distance/Location of Bodh Gaya – Bodh Gaya is located about 13 km from Gaya, 450 km west of Calcutta, and 90 km south of Patna.
Temperature of Bodh Gaya (Max./Min.) Deg C: Summer 47/28 Winter-28/4
Rainfall in Bodh Gaya :186 cms (Mid-June to Mid-September)
Best Season to visit Bodh Gaya: October to March.
What to See in Bodh Gaya - Mahabodhi Temple, Animesh Lochan Chaitya, Bodhi Tree, Chankramana, Ratnagarh, 80 ft Statue of the Buddha, Lotus Tank, Buddha Kund, Rajayatana, Brahm Yoni, Chinese Temple & Monastery, Burmese Temple, Buddhist Monastery of Bhutan, International Buddhist House & Japanese Temple, Thai Temple & Monastery, Tibetan Monastery, Archaeological Museum. Sujata village (2 kms), Dungeshwari Hill (Prag bodhi) (22 kms by road), Maitraya Project (3 kms).
Mahabodhi Temple: 5 AM to 9 PM
Other Monastries: 5 AM to 12 Noon and 2 PM to 6 PM
How to Reach at Bodh Gaya
By Air: The nearest airport is at Gaya 7 Kms and Patna 135 kms. Indian Airlines and Sahara Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow and various other cities.
By Railways: The nearest railway station is Gaya (17km).
By Road: Bodhgaya is well connected by road to Gaya (17km), Nalanda (101 km), Rajgir (78 km), Patna (135km), Varanasi (252 km), Calcutta (495km)
Local Transport: Taxis, Tongas, Auto Rickshaws, Cycle Rickshaws are available.
Bus : Regular direct bus services are available from Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation run buses from Patna- Bodhgaya route twice a day.
Conducted Tour : Chartered buses or taxis are arranged from Ranchi and Patna by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation.