The twin city of knowledge & religious sanctity is situated in the state of Bihar, India. While Bodhgaya is celebrated as a place where Tathagata- theLord Buddha got enlightenment; Gaya is revered for Vishnu Pad Temple. In Bodhgaya; Lord Buddha got enlightenment on Vaishakh Purnima beneath a Peepal Tree which transformed him into a manifestation of one who is called the Buddha literally means the all-knowing one, the all compassionate one. The seat under which he got enlightenment is called Vajrasana or the Diamond Throne & the sacred Peepal tree is called Bodhi Vriksha.
Just front of this Bodhi Tree is a magnificent temple which is dedicated to Lord Buddha called the Mahabodhi Temple Complex. After attaining enlightenment; Lord Buddha spent seven more weeks in meditation at seven different places near Bodhi Tree. The holy city of Gaya is situated beside the Falgu River which is well known for its 18th century’s octagonal Vishnupad Shrine. Pilgrims from remote places of India & abroad visit here for commemorating (Pind Daan) their ancestors.
Explore Bodhgaya & Gaya
Mahabodhi Temple- Situated at the place where Lord Buddha got enlightenment, this 3nd century B.C temple complex was initially built by the King Ashoka. Probably Mahabodhi Temple (height- 50 meter) is the first brick temple of India which surmounted to its full architectural beauty in the period of Gupta dynasty and is still functional today.
The temple wall has an average height of 11 m and it is built in the classical style of Indian temple architecture. It has entrances from the east and the north and has a low basement with moulding decorated with honeysuckle and geese design. Above this is a series of niches containing images of the Buddha. Further above there are mouldings and chaitya niches, and then curvilinear shikhara or tower of the temple surmounted by Amalaka and Kalasha.
The majestic temple complex & the greatest remains (4.8600 ha.) are encircled by a high passage platform which encloses different places related to the historical episode of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment. Important remains inside the Mahabodhi Temple Complex are Bodhi Tree, Animeshlochan Chaitya, Ratnachakrama, Ratnaghar Chaitya, Ajapala Nigrodh Tree, Lotus Pond, Rajyatna Tree & Vajrasana (the Diamond Throne).
Sacred Bodhi Tree- The Bodhi Tree (Tree of Awakening) under which the prince Siddhartha Gautam got enlightenment after 49 days of meditation is a direct descendent from the original specimen planted in 288 B.C. As Lord Buddha got supreme knowledge under the tree it has associated religious significance for lots of monks & believers who come across the world at this place and meditate & contemplate about the teachings of the Tathagata.
Muchalinda Lake- Lord Buddha spent the 6th week after his enlightenment in sitting posture. The snake king named Muchalind living in this tank saved Lord Buddha during meditation form heavy storm & rain spent by the dark forces.
Animesh Lochan Chaitya- During the second week of enlightenment within the cycle of meditation Lord Buddha spent seven days at this place looking at the Bodhi Tree. While contemplation it’s believed that he did not blink his eyes even once.
Great Buddha Statue- the 64 ft. high in meditation pose or dhyana mudra seated on a lotus statue of Lord Buddha is a major attraction point of Boddh Gaya. It took seven years to complete it in a mix of sandstone blocks and red granite. It is possibly the largest built in India.
Sujata Kuti- Sujata Kuti is an 11 m high Stupa near Niranjana River at a short distance from the main town of Bodhgaya. Archaeological excavations done here in recent years have unearthed numbers of artefacts of great value belonging to ancient period in this area. It is believed that while meditating for six long years without much food Lord Buddha was starving to death; Sujata the daughter of the Village’s chief offered him a bowl of milk-rice pudding here. At that moment only he turned from the hard ascetic penance towards the middle path of attaining enlightenment.
Dungeshwari Hills- Also known as the Pragbodhi Caves; this low mountainous forested area along Falgu river is equally revered where Lord Buddha did meditation for six years before moving towards Bodhgaya (Uruvela) for attaining the decisive enlightenment. The Dungeshwari Hills is not much crowded with people and has not much to explore but the serenity of the place really call upon selective visitors here to contemplate about the powerful presence. At the hills there are few fissures or caverns which must have provided shelter to the Lord Buddha for meditating. Along the caves there are few temples and ruins of stupas as well.
Vishnupad Temple- The famous Vishnu Pad Temple along Falgu River is known for the footprints of Lordh Vishnu. It’s believed in ancient period there was a demon named Gayasura who performed hard penance to bestow salvation whosoever saw him. As salvation was easy to achieve without doing good deeds Lord Vishnu put his right foot on his chest that put him beneath the earth & corrected the course of achieving salvation. Since he prayed Lord Vishnu; he gave him boon that whosoever will put water at the foot prints will get salvation which is adorned by nine auspicious symbols & if for once he won’t get water he will come out.
People from far off corners of India come at this place to commemorate their demised family members for their salvation. The octagonal shrine is continuously soothed by water. The original construction date of temple is unknown and it is believed that Lord Rama along with Sita has visited this place. Current Shikhara temple is built by the Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore in 1787. Several legendry saints as Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, Sankaradeva and Chaitanya Mahapabhu have visited this shrine. With the temple stands the immortal banyan tree (Akshaybat) where the final rituals for the dead takes place. Visitors prefer to go to the top of Brahmajuni Hill to see the view of temple from the top.
Things to do in Bodhgaya & Gaya
~Perform morning SIL at Bodhgaya.
~Pay homage at the Mahabodhi Temple.
~Explore the marvellous Mahabodhi Temple Complex.
~Pay homage at Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
~Explore the Giant Buddha Statue & other monasteries of Bodhgaya.
~Visit Niranjana River&Sujata Kuti where Lord Buddha was offered milk-rice pudding.
~Explore Pragbodhi Caves where Lord Buddha meditated for six years.
~Visit archaeological museum at Bodhgaya.
~Pay homage at Vishnu Pad Temple.
~Perform Pind Daan at Gaya.
~Ascend up to Brahmajuni Hills for sanctimonious views.
Excursion from Bodhgaya
Barabar Caves(APPROX. 65 KMS. – 1 & ½ HRS.)- The chief architectural remains in stone of fine specimen before Gupta period except Stupas & their surrounding railings and gateways are carved caves, excavated mostly for religious purposes. Barabar Caves are in the form of a plain rectangular outer hall, at one end of which there is an inner chamber with a carved wall and overhanging caves. The inner walls of all the caves are finely polished, no doubt workmen of the school of that was responsible for the polish of the Ashokan columns.