Gaya is located 100 kilometers away from the capital city of Patna. Historically, Gaya was the part of the ancient Magadh Empire. The city is located on the bank of Falgu River and is considered among one of the most sacred cities for Hindus. Three hills Mangala-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni surround it from three sides and make at a safe and beautiful site. Gaya is an ancient place and has great heritage and history. Various modes of transportation connect Gaya with other major cities of Bihar along with rest of India
Gaya is sacred not only for Hindus but also for Buddhists, as the place has many Buddhist pilgrim destinations. These sacred places in Gaya correspond to physical features, most of which occur naturally. The bank sides of river Falgu and temples located on the bank are beautiful and attractive. A peepal tree standing on the bank of Falgu River called Akshayavat is considered sacred for Hindus. The tree is worshiped for its divinity
The Mangla Gauri shrine who is believed to be the first wife of Lord Shiva is worshiped here. The two rounded stones that symbolize the breasts of the mythological Sati have been considered sacred among Hindus. The most attractive destination in Gaya is Vishnupad Temple. The temple is located on the bank of river Falgu River and has footprint of Vishnu incised into a block of basalt. People believe that Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur by placing his foot on Gayasur’s chest.
The old temple of Vishnupad was later renovated by the queen of Indore, Devi Ahilyabai in eighteenth century. While Hindus claim that footprints in Vishunpad temple are of Lord Vishnu, Buddhists consider them the footprints of Lord Buddha. The temple is nevertheless a major pilgrim destination.
Nomenclature of Gaya is based on the myth of demon Gayasur who Lord Vishnu had killed in a dual. The place is so sacred for Hindus that even Lord Ram had performed Pindadanam here for his ancestors. Legend says that Lord Ram had come to Gaya to pay homage to his ancestors and Sita had accompanied him on his way. Gaya is equally important for Buddhists as this was the place where Lord Buddha preached the Fire Sermon i.e. Adittapariyaya Sutta to around 1000 agriculture workers who were fire-worshipers. The influence of Buddha’s discourse was so enormous that all of them converted to Buddhism.
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.
What to See :
Mahabodhi Temple: The temple stands in the east to the Bodhi Tree. Its architectural effect is superb. Its basement is 48 square feet and it rises in the form of a slender Pyramid till it reaches its neck, which is cylindrical in shape. The total height of the temple is 170 ft. and on the top of the temple are Chatras which symbolize sovereignty of religion. Four towers on its corners rise gracefully giving the holy structure a poise balance. This sacred edifice is like a grand banner unfurled by time to proclaim to the world the pious efforts of the Buddha to solve the knots of human miseries, to ascend above worldly problems and to attain transcendental peace through wisdom, good conduct and disciplined life.
nside the temple, in the main sanctum, there is a colossal image of the Buddha in sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand. In this posture the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment. The statue is of black stone but it has been guilder by the devotees. The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with large number of votive stupas. These stupas are of all sizes built during the past 2500 years ago. Most of them are extremely elegant in structural beauty. The ancient railings, which surround the temple, are of the first century BC and are among the very interesting monuments of the century.
Animesh Lochan Chaitya:
It is believed that the Buddha spent one week here looking towards the great Bodhi tree out of gratitude, without twinkling his eyes.
The present Bodhi Tree is probably the fifth succession of the original tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Vajrasana, the seat of stability, is a stone platform on which the Buddha is supposed to have sat in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi tree.
This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha’s meditative perambulations during the third week after pious enlightenment. It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.
The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed that five colors came out of his body.
Other Treasures of Bodhgaya: 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).
80 ft Statue of the Buddha –
The Great Buddha Statue popularly known as 80’ Buddha Statue was unveiled and consecrated on November 18, 1989 with a ceremony graced with the presence of His Holiness the XIV the Dalai Lama, who blessed the 25-meter statue. It was the first great Buddha statue built in the modern history of India. The statue is situated next to
Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya.
Visiting Hours: 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM, 02:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Archaeological Museum –
Possess interesting selection of Buddhist and Hindu artifacts from Bodh Gaya and other nearby excavation sites. Museum is generally closed in Fridays.
One of the oldest foreign monasteries built in the ornamental regal Thai architectural style. The grandeur of the exterior as well as the interior is utterly awe-inspiring. The temple reflects like a red and golden gem over a calm pool at the front patio. The splendid Buddha idol along with the mural paintings depicting Buddha’s life and some modern events like importance of planting trees painted in a stylized manner are utterly marvelous. It is situated next to Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya.
Visiting Hours: 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM, 02:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Sujata Garh / Sujata Village
This ancient stupa is believed to be the place where Gautama Siddhartha meditated following severe penance of fasting before he attained enlightenment. The legend goes as that a village lady, Sujata, offered a bowl of rice pudding when she saw meditating Gautama severely emaciated. Gautama accepted the offer and realized the futility of the self deprivation. After this incident He went to meditate under the Bodhi tree and was enlightened and became the Buddha. It is about 2 kms from Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya.
Dungeshwari Temple / Dungeshwari Hill
Gautama Siddhartha is believed to have meditated at this place for 6 years before he went to Bodhgaya for the final realization. Two small shrines are built to commemorate this phase of Buddha. A golden emaciated Buddha sculpture memorising the rigid penance is enshrined in one of the cave temples and a large (about 6’ tall) Buddha’s statue in the other. A Hindu goddess deity Dungeshwari is also placed inside the cave temple.
Baba Koteshwarnath Temple
Baba Koteshwarnath Temple is situated in Village Main, Block Belaganj, District Gaya. The temple is situated on the confluence of the river Morhar & Dargha in Gaya, is famous for highly sacred Lord Shiva Temple. Located 90km south of Patna, Koteshwarnath temple is believed to have been build around 8th century AD.
Koteshwarnath temple’s sanctum is carved in a single piece of red stone and within it is installed a large sized Shivalinga with around 1,008 miniature Shivlingas around 1200 years back.
It says that Vanasur’s Main & DevKund was situated in a deep forest. Usha used to visit the temple to offer prayers during which Lord Shiva appeared & told her to establish a Sahashtra Linga to get her wish full filled. After that Usha established the Shiva Linga. In result of that Lord Shiva granted her wish and she got married with Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna her husband with whom she went on to live her life.
The place is known as “Shiv Nagar” in ancient times. There is a reference that Sahastra Shiv Ling idol was established at the end of Dwapar Yuga. This Shiv Ling was established by Usha, daughter of King Vanasur of Sonitpur. It’s a belief that a pilgrimage to this place is powerful enough to full fill all the wishes and desires of the one who comes here. Quite Evidently, Every year In the month of Saawan devotees throng this temple to offer prayers.
It says that Vanasur’s Main & Dev Kund was situated in a deep forest. Usha used to visit the temple to offer prayers during which Lord Shiva appeared & told her to establish a Sahashtra Linga to get her wish full filled. After that Usha established the Shiva Linga. In result of that Lord Shiva granted her wish and she got married with Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna her husband with whom she went on to live her life.
Usually all the holy places of Lord Shiva have large number of devotes coming all the year round but during the holy months of Saawan this increases. It is well connected through Pitch road from the sides of Makhdumpur, Shakurabad-Ghejan, Tekari and Bela Rampur.
Architecture of Koteshwarnath Temple –
The temple is east facing. The main components of the temple are a Garbhagriha (sanctum), a stambh-mandap (pillared haal) and Mukhmandapa (frontal porch). The temple has a new Shikar (spine) recently constructed in the South Indian style popularly known as “Dravidian Style”. However its internal structures are still preserved in original by and large partial changes have been made in its Garbhagriha and Mukhmandapa. The temple is basically built in bricks and granite stones which is evident in it’s entrance, antral (vestibule) and pillared hall.
Dungeshwari Temple / Dungeshwari Hill
Dungeshwari Cave Temples, also known as Mahakala caves, is situated 12 km north-east of Bodhgaya, Bihar. There are three caves containing Buddhist shrines, where the Buddha is believed to have meditated. Dungeshwari Cave Temples are the ancient caves. These are caves Lord Buddha underwent years of self-mortification before descending to Bodhgaya. Three main caves contain several shrines for Buddhists and one for Hindus. Dungeshwari cave temples are also popular as Sujata Sthan to local people. An interesting story is being famous on this temple. It is believed that when Buddha was doing his self-mortification, he became frail, feeble and starved. When he rested under a Banayan tree, a doomed village woman named Sujata offered him food. Buddha accepted her offerings and consumed the food, his explicit approval presented him with a divine truth that neither extreme self indulgence nor self-abasement is the right way to attain enlightenment. Buddha attained the knowledge that folow the middle path was require to attain the supreme nirvana. Sujata Sthan or Dungeshwari Temple stands as a symbol commemorating this event.
Importance of Dungeshwari Cave
Gautama Siddhartha is believed to have piously meditated at this place for six years before he went to Bodhgaya for the final realisation. Two small shrines are built to commemorate this phase of Buddha. A golden emaciated Buddha sculpture memorising the rigid penance is enshrined in one of the cave temples and a large (about 6’ tall) Buddha’s statue in the other. A Hindu goddess deity Dungeshwari is also placed inside the cave temple.