Bodh Gaya is one of the leading pilgrimage sites of Buddhism. It is in this place at the foot of a large Peepul tree, Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Every year thousands of devoted Buddhists as well as people of other religions visit this tiny town in north India to walk in the footsteps of Lord Buddha.
Location : State/District
The town of Bodh Gaya is located in the district of Gaya in the state of Bihar in North India.The latitude of Bodh Gaya is 24°42´N and the longitude is 84°59´E.
Bodh Gaya is a world famous pilgrim site devoted to Buddhist faith. It is a religious destination as well as a historical one which contains a number of archeological and historical points of interests.
Pilgrim Center & Family Spot
Thousands of devotees visit the shrine of Lord Buddha every year. It is essentially a family spot. Older couples come here for pilgrimage. It also attracts those with a philosophical bend of mind who are on a journey of self discovery. But in addition to the religious importance, Bodh Gaya has immense historical importance as well. Scholars who study Buddhism and its impact on the history of India, archeological enthusiasts and students are other regular visitors to this town.
Bodh Gaya enjoys a typical tropical monsoon type of climate. It is very hot in summer months which extend from March to May. Winters are cool and last from November to February. Fogs are common during the early mornings of winter. The area receives quite heavy rainfall during the monsoon season between June and September. The best time to visit this pilgrim center is in winter when the weather is crisp and cold, often relieved by bright sunny weather. However, the pilgrim season starts as early as September. Though the summer months are oppressively hot, the town attracts a number of devotees in May to celebrate the birthday of Lord Buddha.
Indian citizens do not require any special documents or permission to visit the town of Bodh Gaya. However, the town attracts a large number of foreign visitors who come to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Foreign tourists require valid passport and visa to visit this area. They should always keep their passport with them.
Places to Visit
There are a number of things to see in the small town of Bodh Gaya. The most important landmark is the magnificent Mahabodhi temple which was declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. It marks the hallowed ground where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The temple is marked by a 50m pyramidal spire. There is a 2m high statue of Buddha inside. The temple was built by emperor Ashoka 800 years earlier but underwent several invasions. It has now been restored. The manicured meditation park around the temple provides a peaceful vista. The tree under which Buddha sat in meditation is a highlight of the temple.
In addition to the Mahabodhi temple, there are a number of Buddhist temples and monasteries in the town. The Indosan Nipponji temple is a Japanese monastery while the Bhutanese monastery stands nearby. Another impressive monastery with a stunning collection of Tibetan art is the Tergar monastery of the Karmapa. The Thai monastery, Chinese monastery, Vietnamese monastery and the Nepalese monastery are also worth a visit.
At the end of the Temple street is located a 25m high statue of Buddha. It is hollow and is thought to contain 20000 bronze Buddha statues.
The Bodh Gaya multimedia museum documents the life of Buddha innovatively, using a set of multimedia files. The archeological museum contains a collection of Hindu and Buddhist relicts.
Perhaps the most important thing to do in Bodh Gaya is to wander around the monasteries and absorb the atmosphere of this august place where Buddha developed his philosophy. An unforgettable experience is to meditate in the park surrounding the Mahabodhi temple where you can easily soak up the atmosphere. The Root Institute for Wisdom culture holds meditation courses and yoga classes. The International Meditation center offers three day meditation courses. For the more serious minded, there is the ten day course run by the Bodh Gaya Vipassana meditation center.
Shopping for mementoes is an essential activity of any tourist experience. The Tibetan refugee market offers a collection of unusual items while the Kundan bazaar and the Mahabodhi book shop offers a variety of Buddhist literature.
The town of Gaya is located within a distance of 30 kms from Bodh Gaya. It is not a very clean or attractive town, but is an important Hindu shrine. The most important landmark is the Vishnu Temple said to be constructed on the footstep of Lord Vishnu. Gaya is known for the performance of last rites of Hindus. It can be easily reached by road.
Another excursion can be undertaken by road about 50 kms away. This is the Nalanda complex. This was a famous Buddhist seat of learning and today contains a number of ruins from this period.
The Barabar caves are one of the oldest caves with Buddhist carvings. It is located about 50 kms away and the collection of carvings is truly magnificent.
The more adventurous tourists can visit Rajgir by road at a distance of 70 kms. Gridhakuta here is a Buddhist shrine. Also known as Vulture Park, this is where Buddha used to preach during the rainy season. In addition, there are the beautiful Sonbhandar caves, Pipala caves and the Viswa Shanti Stupa which can only be reached by ropeway.
Food and Accommodation
The cuisine at Bodh Gaya is different from that in the places around it. It is imperative to try out the excellent Tibetan and Chinese food found in a number of eating joints. The Mohammad restaurant serves probably the best Indian food in the city. The To Kiy restaurant serves the best Tibetan food. If you are looking for Western dishes, the Be Happy café and The Olive are the obvious choice. The Café Om and the Hari Om café are good places for snacks and hanging out.
Hotels of different ranges are easily available in Bodh Gaya. Hotels Royal Residency and Tokyo Vihar are mid range hotels at Rs 1000 per night though the rates are highly negotiable, especially in the off season. The cheap but clean options are the Monastery guest houses. There are several mid level guest houses like the Suma house at Rs 600 to 1500 per night, Om Sony Family guesthouse at Rs250 etc. The most expensive options are Taj Durbar, Lumbini International, Om International, Galaxy International etc.
Safety and Security
The general level of peace and security is quite high in Bodh Gaya. However, foreign tourists may fall prey to people who cheat them by offering to help out and act as guide. As almost everything in the town is within a short walking distance, no such guides are necessary. It is also important to note that power cuts are quite common in the town. So, you should always carry a flashlight. It is imperative to show proper respect to the religious shrines and statues.