Gaya is located on the bank of Phalgu river, which is considered to be a sacred river for both Hindus and Buddhists.
Hindus : Gaya is mentioned in the Ramayana as the place where Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana, came to offer *pind-daan of their father, Dasharath. It continues to be a pilgrimage site for the pind-daan ritual till date.
Buddhist : One of the four holy sites for Buddhism, the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment is situated in the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya.
Let the trip to the ancient town begin :
Day 1 : Sightseeing around Bodhgaya
The Royal Bhutan Monastery derives it’s name from the fact that it was built by the King of Bhutan as a dedication to Lord Buddha. The grandeur of the monastery can be witnessed from the outside itself. Once you finish praying inside, you can come out and take a round of the monastery. You also get to see 3D artwork on the walls depicting the life events of Lord Buddha. This is a must visit place in Bodh Gaya.
We had our breakfast at a cafe called Alice in Gaya, just 5 mins walk from the monastery.
The Mahabodhi temple is an ancient Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. It was build by Emperor Ashoka in 260 BCE. However, some of the major restoration work is done since 19th century. The temple is made of bricks and is also one of the oldest brick structures to survive in the eastern India. The central tower is 180 feet high, surrounded by 4 smaller similar style towers.The temple also contains a Bodhi Tree, which is the spot where Lord Buddha is said to have attained the enlightenment. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the temple complex, meditating. All these seven spots are marked and you can see them up close.
1. Temple is open for visitors between 5am – 9pm on all days.
2. Mobiles phones are not allowed inside the temple complex, but you can pay a small fee and take your cameras inside.
The Grear Buddha Statue is located adjacent to the Mahabodhi Temple. The 80ft high statue depicts Lord Buddha sitting in a meditation pose on a lotus in open air. The main statue is in the centre surrounded by the statues of his disciples. It was consecrated by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama in the year 1989 and now is a famous landmark in the Bodh Gaya city.
This is a famous Buddhist temple located very close to the Great Buddha Statue. The temple is an example of the Japanese architecture brilliance. It was built in the year 1972 in order to spread Buddhism all over the world. You can see the important life events of Lord Buddha beautifully and intricately engraved on the walls of the temple.
1. Monasteries usually close for 2 hours in the afternoon between 12-2 pm. So plan your day accordingly.
2. There are many canteens, restaurants and cafes in the area with diverse lunch options.
Day 2 : Ruins of Nalanda
This is one place that has been in my bucket list for the longest time; since the day I heard about it from my parents, I wanted to visit Nalanda University. However what is left now of this place is just the ruins of Nalanda.
Nalanda University was founded in 5th century AD and is one of the world’s ancient universities. The university excelled under the emperors Ashoka and Harshvardhan, who built many temples and monasteries in the complex.
This was one of the first residential universities and hence attracted scholars from all over the world. At one point of time, it housed thousands of monks who used to study subjects like theology, philosophy, astronomy, metaphysics and medicine. The architecture is built in such a way that there are huge courtyards surrounded by small cells wherein the monks used to study in the courtyard and live in the cells.
This place was attacked and burnt to ruins by a Muslim invader in the 12th century. The libraries that were stocked with many ancient and precious books and manuscripts were set on fire. It is said that there were so many books that the fire burnt continuously for 6 months.
Ruins of Nalanda is a World Heritage site, very well preserved and an important destination for the Buddhists.
We had an amazing time exploring Gaya, post which, we headed to Bhutan. Given the deep connect of Buddhism between Gaya and Bhutan, there are direct flights from Gaya to Bhutan.
Also Read : ” 3 Days in the Most Happiest Country in the World”
Happy Reading and Happiest Traveling !!
The Seeking Soul..