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Bihar: Bodh Gaya
Bodh Gaya, previously known as Uru Bilba village, is the most important among the main four pilgrimage sites of the Buddha community and is situated 12 kilometers from Gaya railway station. It is a cleaner and better place to stay than Gaya. Other points of attraction, like Rajgir , are also closer from BodhGaya. Other three imperative pilgrimage spots of the Buddha community are Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. The temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. Bodh Gaya is situated on the banks of the Falgu River which was previously known as Niranjana River.
Dalai Lama, the Buddhist saint, comes to Bodh Gaya from Dharamsala during December-January and he stays here for one month. It is also said that the king Ashoka came here in Bodh Gaya. If you want to visit Bodh Gaya then the best time to visit is Buddha Jayanty because of the festival. Kalchakru festival is another carnival which attracts a lot of Buddha followers.
It is believed that the tree, Bodhi Briksha (Tree of knowledge), is a direct descendant of the one under which the Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment. The footprint on the rock around the tree is known as the footprint of Goutam Buddha. It is believed that this is the place where Goutam Buddha meditated. The spot is well appreciated by the Hindu communities as well because the ninth birth of Buddha was Vishnu, the Hindu deity. The adjoining Sujata dighi (pond) and Sujata temple also have enormous magnitude and importance to the Buddhists.
The Mahabadhi temple depicts the Hindu architectural delicacies and excellences. The 180 feet tall pyramid-shaped two storied temple has a width of 60 feet. There is an 80 feet long Buddha idol, at the downside of the temple and the temple also has a prayer hall on its 1st floor. The temple depicts the prominent south Indian architecture on its entry gate, situated at the eastern side of the temple. The temple has four peaks at its four sides. The different postures of the Buddha idol and the ornamentations on the walls of the temple are the chief attractions. Arguably, the temple was built by the Sunga kings. Another group of people opine that the temple was built with an aid of 1, 00000 rupees which was given by the king Ashoka. In 1105, the temple was reconstructed when the temple lost its charm and appeal. General Kanninghum took the initiative to reconstruct the temple in 1880 and he spent as much as 2, 00000 rupees for the reconstruction. The archeologist Rajendralal Mitra was given the responsibility to renovate the temple by Kanninghum. Chakramana, at the northern side of the temple, is a place where Goutam Buddha meditated.
Mohantar monastery and Ratnagar (The store room of ornaments) are worth seeing.
The stupa, amidst the jungle, about 2 km away from Bodh Gaya, at the banks of the River Niranjana, is known as the residence of Sujata, one of the devotees of Goutam Buddha. The Muchlind Sarabar (Water reservoir), at a distance of 3 km from the residence of Sujata and the adjoining renowned Magadh University are the other coveted places of Bodh Gaya.
There is a Tibetan monastery of Gelug-pa (Yellow cap), built in 1938, at the north-west side of Mahabodhi temple. There are also 2 two storied monasteries. The mural architecture on Dharmachakra, kept in the monastery, weighs 200 quintal, is eye catching. It is believed that the roundabout tour of the monastery absolves the sin.
China Buddhist temple, built in 1945, depicts Indo-Chinese architecture and the idol of the monastery was brought from China. The zoo and the adjoining archeological museum, situated at the opposite side of the China Buddhist temple, depict Buddha architecture.
Thai monastery, Pagoda-type Bhutan monastery, House of International Buddhist Brotherhood Association, Tibetan Buddha temple and Japanese Buddha temple are the other sought after destinations of Bodh Gaya. All of these monasteries are famous in the vicinity for their architectural grandness and ornamentations. The 150 feet tall Buddha idol of the Japanese Buddha temple was brought from Japan. The idol is made of gold.
Bodh Gaya has temples which were built by the Governments of Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Vietnam. The Jai Bodhi Kham monastery is constructed in collaboration with Assam and Arunachal Government. The Nepalese temang monastery was built by Nepal in 1992. The 25 meters tall Buddha idol, situated at the end way of Bodh Gaya, was inaugurated by Dalai Lama in 1989. Another Buddha Idol is built in Bodh Gaya as a symbol of world peace. You can take a walk to see the famous places of Bodh Gaya but for a comfortable journey it is always sensible to hire a rickshaw which will cost you 200 rupees. Spend a whole day to see different places of Bodh Gaya.
The best time to visit Bodh Gaya is during the month of October-March. It would be wise to avoid the summer.
How to reach: Gaya rail station is well connected from Kolkata. A lot of express trains go to Gaya from Howrah and Sealdah railway stations, Kolkata. Avail government bus to Buddha Gaya from rail station or private bus from state school bus stand, about 1 km towards the southern side of Gaya railway station.
Where to stay: Hotel Bodh Gaya ashok, Hotel Buddha Vihar, Hotel Sidhhartha Vihar, Hotel Sujata Vihar, Hotel Kintika, and Hotel Buddha International are some of the options. Refer to the hotel booking link below to book online.