While talking of the various Buddhist destinations in India, the name that comes first to the mind is that of Lumbini. It is the sacred place where the great Gautama Buddha was born. Among the four holy places of the Buddhists, Lumbini has a special mention. The place is located in Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas. There are many temples in Lumbini that are worth visiting. It is said that Gautama Buddha lived in Lumbini till the time he was 29 years of age. It is also interesting to see a Holy Pond or Puskarini in Lumbini. According to Buddhist history, it was in this same pond where Mayadevi, mother of Gautama Buddha, took the holy dip before Buddha’s birth. Even Gautama is said to have had his first bath in this pond only. The Ashokan Pillar and the Bodhi Tree are also important things to see in Lumbini.
Bodh Gaya remains one of the most sought after Buddhist destinations in India as well as Asia. Located in Bihar’s Gaya district, this religious destination is known for the place where stalwart spiritual leader Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment or nirvana. The legendary Mahabodhi Temple remains the key attraction of the place and in 2012, the UNESCO gave it the status of a World Heritage Site. To reach Bodhgaya, tourists can take buses from Patna or Gaya. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has 3 hotels in its wings, which can be useful for accommodation. Apart from the temple, devotees throng to see the Bodhi Tree. It is most likely the fifth incarnation of the tree, under which the sage attained nirvana. The best time to visit Bodh Gaya is the months between October and March.
Sarnath is considered as an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination in India. The place is known by many names, such as Sarangnath, Rishipattana, Isipatana, Mrigadava, and so on. Sarnath is located at a distance of 13 kilometers to the northeast of Benaras in Uttar Pradesh. The reason Sarnath is so special to Buddhists is that it is here that Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. The sermon was given to the Buddha’s five disciples, namely Mahanaman, Kaundinya, Ashvajit, Bhadrika and Bashpa. Sarnath is also the place where Sangha was founded, which is a new order of monks. Dhamma was also laid in Sarnath only. It is quite interesting to see that Sarnath is also a pilgrimage destination for the Jains.
Any Buddhist follower will definitely know about Kushinagar. It is a small town in Uttar Pradesh, but it has great significance in the life of every Buddhist. It is the place where Gautama Buddha attained parinirvana post his death. History reveals that Kushinagar was visited by Buddha earlier as well. After Gautama left for his heavenly abode, his bodily remains were cremated at Mukut Bandhan and the Mallas took the initiative of constructing a large stupa on his ashes. The stupa was renovated later by the Great Asoka, who was an avid follower of the Buddha. Unfortunately, Kushinagar was lost into oblivion. It was years later that a reclining statue of Buddha was found from the site after extensive excavations were done in the area.
Sravasti has been a favorite pilgrimage destination with the Buddhists. Known as the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom, the city has close connections with Gautama Buddha. It is said that the Buddha spent a considerable part of his monastic life in Sravasti. He first came to the city on invitation of Anthapindika. Almost 19 seasons of Buddha's life were spent in the Jetavana monastery, and six in the Pubbarama monastery. Various kinds of miracles were shown by the Buddha in this very place. It is here that Buddha was seen seated on a thousand-petalled lotus and water and fire radiated from his body. He also created many images of his own body at Sravasti only. Large numbers of sermons and discourses were given by Gautama Buddha at this spot.
Adjacent to the dug up ancient city of Nalanda, Rajgir is another city of India that has its past associated with the early days of Buddhism. While it may not be as closely associated with Gautama Buddha as Bodh Gaya, a lot of Buddhist followers and leaders have spent time here. It is a very scenic place and being a hill town, offers you plenty of visual splendors. It is believed that the spiritual leader Gautama Buddha spent a lot of time here. It is also believed that he used to stay at the Jivekarmavan monastery in Rajgir. The city is actually segregated into two sections. The new section was set up by Ajatshatru while the older part is encircled by seven hills. There are many sightseeing options here, including Venuvana, Rajgir Heritage Museum, and Jarashand ka Akhara. The tourists can pick from Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation-maintained bungalows here.
Among the major eight Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Sankassa is an important one. The Great Stupa of Sankassa is visited by hundreds of Buddhist pilgrims every year. Like many other Buddhist pilgrimage destinations, Sankassa is located in the Gangetic Plains in Uttar Pradesh. Various sources from Buddhist history reveal the fact that Sankassa is the place where the great Buddha came down after teaching his mother in Tushita Heaven for three months. Along with the Buddhist Stupa at Sankassa, there is another great attraction in the place in the form of great Ashokan Pillar. There are also noticeable ruins of Buddhist monuments and old monasteries in the place.
With its glorious past as a major center promoting the philosophies of Gautama Buddha, Vaishali is a city that is still regarded as a Buddhist religious destination. It used to be Licchavi’s capital city in its heyday. It was the place where Bhagwan Mahavira the 24th Jain Tirthankara was born. This is why it has become a major destination for followers of Jainism. The Buddha used to come to Baishali (as it was known back then) quite often and it used to be a prosperous city. Now it is an archaeological site and you can find an Archaeological Survey of India museum here. Major tourist-sighting places here are the Relic Stupa, Kutagarasala Vihara, World Peace Pagoda, and Coronation Tank. The pace can be reached from Patna and Muzaffarpur easily.
Last Updated on : December 19, 2013