Bodhgaya (Buddhist Pilgrimages )
"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".
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha-to-be, had been dwelling on the banks of the Nairanjana River with five ascetic followers for six years practicing austerities. Realising that austerities could not lead to realisation he abandoned them. His five ascetic companions disgusted at his seeming failure, deserted him and left for Sarnath.
He then moved towards the village of Senani where he was offered rice milk by a Brahmin girl, Sujata. Accepting from a grass-cutter a gift of kusa grass for a mat, the Bodhisattva took a seat under a pipal tree facing east. Here he resolved not to rise again until enlightenment was attained.
"Here on this seat my body may shrivel up, my skin, my bones, my flesh may dissolve, but my body will not move from this seat until I have attained Enlightenment, so difficult to obtain in the course of many kalpas".
The Bodhi Tree
The Bodhi tree is an auspicious ficus tree, the fifth generation plant of the original one, under which prince Siddhartha had attained enlightenment or the perfect knowledge. Under the tree is the Vajrasan, the platform on which Siddhartha had sat in meditation. Close to Vajrasan is Buddhapada, the footprints of the Buddha on stone and Chaukramana, the Jewel Walk, where it is believed that the Buddha strolled while in deep thought. Many sacred trees in India and other countries are originally raised from seeds brought from the ancient Bodh Gaya tree. Bhikkhuni Sanghamitra, daughter of the Indian emperor, Ashoka had taken a shoot of the original Bodhi tree to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE, where it was planted by the Sri Lankan ruler, Devanampiya Tissa at the Mahavira monastery in Anuradhapura, and is still a sacred place for the Buddhists.
The Maha Bodhi Temple
Bodh Gaya is the home to the ancient temple of Lord Buddha, located just east of the Bodhi tree. The temple's architecture is superb and has a beautiful stone railing around it. The Maha Bodhi temple has a 150 feet high tower, which contains a gilded colossal image of the Buddha in the 'bhumisparsha mudra' or touching the ground pose. The original shrine here is believed to have been raised by an Indian emperor Ashoka. Depicted on the walls of the temple are scenes from Buddha's life. 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. A museum in the vicinity has gold, bronze and stone images of the Buddha.
The Maha Bodhi Temple
In the north of the Maha Bodhi temple lies a large tank full of lotus plant. The Buddha is believed to have spent a week at this site.
The Shaivite monastery is situated adjacent to the Maha Bodhi temple, and has a cluster of four temples. These temples are surrounded by enchanting greenery and marked by architectural marvels and have several 'samadhis' in their vicinity.
Bodh Gaya Museum
The Bodh Gaya museum fulfills the requirement of religious art lovers as it initiates one into the age of the Buddha's centered art forms. The museum houses artistic Buddhist sculpture collection from 1st century BCE to the 11th century CE.
A number of Tibetan, Japanese and Burmese monasteries are located around the Maha Bodhi temple. The Tibetan monastery houses the massive Dharma Chakra or the Wheel of Law, while the Japanese monastery is famous for conducting vital discourse on Buddhism.
The Jagannath temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, and has a statue of the deity, carved in glistening black stone.
Gaya and Barabar cave are two of the major attractions near the holy place of Bodh Gaya. Gaya is a place of religious sanctity for the Hindus and lies 12 kilometers from Bodh Gaya between Pretshila and Ramshila hills. It has a large number of the Buddhist temples. The Barabar caves are 32 kilometers away from Bodh Gaya and presents a vivid picture of the Buddhist architecture.