One of the most prominent of religious sites in India is the pilgrimage land of Bodh Gaya. As the land that bears significance in harbouring the origins of Buddhism, one of the world’s oldest religions, this place in Bihar is a massive tourist phenomenon. Revered for its spirituality and celebrated for its sanctity, Bodh Gaya indeed is the land where you can attain enlightenment, much like the Buddha himself! In its tranquil peace and calm charm, Bodh Gaya presents itself as a land of numerous wonders that manifest mainly in mysticism. Here’s the list of best places to visit in Bodh Gaya if ever you happen to tread this land of enlightenment-
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mahabodhi Temple is the most prominent attraction of Bodh Gaya. It is here that the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment thereby rendering it an absolute tourist stopover. One of the four holy sites related to the life of Lord Buddha, the temple is one of the earliest brick Buddhist temples in India, having been built sometime in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Also one of the many prominent spiritual places to visit in India, this temple in Bodh Gaya is also as phenomenal a sight in its architecture as it is a site in its legacy.
Any visit to the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is incomplete if you do not take in an up, close and personal view of the Bodhi Tree. Said to be the tree under which the Buddha meditated prior to attaining enlightenment, the existing Mahabodhi tree is however only a direct descendant of the original. Apart from the central attraction of the tree, the Mahabodhi temple also leaves visitors wonderstruck with its wide grounds and serene meditation garden. The meditation place in the inner courtyard, the spiritual sounding of the bells, the calm emanating from the divine presence within all make the Mahabodhi Temple among the most important places to visit in Bodh Gaya.
Tibetan Refugee Market
It isn’t however only the sacred vibes of the place to immerse yourself in Bodh Gaya. To the north of the Mahabodhi temple, there dwells the Tibetan Refugee Market. The perfect place to get those souvenirs from your trip, the market present an exciting riot of colors in its woolens, artifacts and accessories. The Buddhist belief thrives largely even in the alleys of the open market as large and small Buddha statues in his many poses and moods wait to be picked up by home bound tourists. Shopping a piece of the Buddha’s legacy and the Bodh Gaya feel would never be more of a cultural experience at any place elsewhere.
Though a site within the Mahabodhi Temple premises, why we chose to single out the Cankamana as another of the places to visit in Bodh Gaya is its subdued importance. Considered to be the seat of Lord Buddha, the cankamana marks the trail along which he performed walking meditation while in deep contemplation. In fact, the site also features the many footsteps of the Buddha. Carved into lotuses made in black stone, the spots are considered sacred in the presence of the Buddha and therefore make for an extremely sacred site inside the temple.
Another of the must visit places in Bodh Gaya happens to be a location that is congruous to the Mahabodhi Temple. Sitting pretty to the temple’s right is the picturesque Muchalinda Lake or the Lotus Pond. Nestling in an ambience that rests in utter serenity, the lush green surroundings do further to up the natural appeal of the lake. A beautiful statue of a meditating Lord Buddha sitting on a snake coil graces the lake that which has quite a sacred legacy attached to it. Named after Muchalinda, the Snake King of the Lake, who is said to have protected the Buddha from a prodigious rain while on course his enlightenment, the lake is a very peaceful spot and embodies the sanctity so innate to Buddhism.
Mahabodhi Chinese Temple
Housing a 200 year old Buddha statue from China is the Chinese temple in Bodh Gaya which is one of the must visit places near the famous Bodhi temple. Three other golden statues of the Buddha also adorn the temple which has been standing since 1945. Different Chinese scriptures on spirituality and beautiful Chinese artwork adorn this historic Buddhist monastery in the heart of Bodh Gaya.
Great Buddha Statue
The tallest statue of Lord Buddha in India is the Great Buddha Statue of Bodh Gaya. Very prominent in its grandeur as well as in its importance as a tourist attraction, this giant 64 feet tall statue depicts the Buddha seated on a giant lotus in a meditation pose. In fact in being a symbol of Bodh Gaya, the intricately carved statue in sandstone and red granite is definitely one of the must visit places in the holy place.
A stand out structure in Bodh Gaya is the spectacular Thai monastery that is a vision in itself. In its stunning architecture that boasts of a sloping roof covered with exquisite tiles of gold, the monastery has been an enduring attraction in the sacred site. Housing a 25 meter high bronze statue of the Buddha, the monastery is also home to a Thai temple and is quite a sight to devour with the eyes. Buddhist scriptures, symbols and other auspicious objects find expression within the monastery, rendering it all the more enriching a spiritual experience. Equally encapsulating is its pristine confines, that harbours a peace and calm so characteristic of the Buddha’s sacred presence.
The largest mosque in Bihar that has been in existence for 180 years now is the Jama Masjid. Built by the royal family of Muzzafarpur, this is one of the 11 Jama Masjids in India. A wonderful diversion from the prominently Buddhist vibes of Gaya, the Jama Masjid encompasses the spirit of Islam and is quite a popular religious site there.
Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple
Another Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya but this time reflecting the architectural influence of Japan is the Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple. A beautifully carved wood shrine, the temple is one of the must visit places in Bodh Gaya and is a wonderful blend of Japanese architecture and the Buddhist culture. Be it in the idol of Lord Buddha or the many Japanese paintings that depict important events of Buddha’s life or the many inscriptions that deliver the Buddha’s many teachings, the temple is a total exploration of Buddhism and has been standing grandly for almost half a century now.
Even when it spells bazaar very discernibly in its very name, Kundan Bazaar isn’t a market per se. In fact a small shop located within a namesake guest house, the place however is no less a Buddhist haven than any other in Bodh Gaya. From books and souvenirs, gift items and Lord Buddha statues, this small space has everything in store for tourists who want to bring a little part of the spiritual sanctity of Gaya back home.
A peaceful statue of the Buddha instantly imparts a quaint peace to the Vietnamese temple in Bodh Gaya. In housing the Alovakiteshwara Buddha or the Smiling Buddha, this spiritual sanctum exudes a salubrious calm in also its beautiful confines. An amble along the extensive gardens surrounding the monastery is guaranteed to make even the queasiest of visitors relaxed and at peace, making it one of the must visit places in Bodh Gaya.
Another of the many religious places to visit in Bodh Gaya in serving also as a tourist attraction is the Brahmayoni Temple. Located inside the Brahmayoni gufa, the temple however is not the easiest of sites to access. A gruelling climb through some 424 high stone steps is what you must endure to visit this temple that lies atop an eponymous hill. Whether you visit the temple for its sheer sacred essence or to marvel at the spectacular view of the surrounding vistas, this definitely will be one of the more arduous pursuits of your Bodh Gaya trip.
Royal Bhutan Monastery
Built under the royal patronage of Bhutan, the Royal Bhutan Monastery is yet another of the sites in Bodh Gaya that serves as a continuing source of Buddhism. Splendid in its architecture, the monastery also houses a temple with a seven feet tall statue of the Buddha. One of the most popular of monasteries in Bodh Goya, this definitely should be one of the features in your itinerary.
It becomes easy to decipher why Dungeshwari Hills is one of the must visit places in Bodh Gaya when you understand its sacred importance. As the place where the Buddha spent a few years before embarking on the path of enlightenment, the hills have gained tremendous attention. More famous for its many caves that house a number of temples, the hills have been a focal point in Lord Buddha’s spiritual journey. In its scenic surroundings and trudgeous landscape, the hills make for a well known trekking destination in Bodh Gaya. A trek up the hills leads one to a golden emaciated Buddha sculpture commemorating his rigid penance enshrined in one of the cave temples. While another cave houses about a 6 foot tall statue of Lord Buddha reasserting the prominence of this particular site in serving as fodder to the Buddha’s onward journey.