The life of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is associated with the small town of Bodhgaya. It is one of the four holiest cities of Buddhist faith. The Mahabodhi temple is the main attraction of this town and is located near the spot where Lord Buddha attained spiritual enlightenment. Bodhgaya is not only an important Buddhist pilgrim center, but it is also an important center for the study of Buddhism.
Bodhgaya is located in the central part of the state of Bihar, in the northeastern part of India. It is the part of the great Ganges plains. It is situated on the west of the Falgu River, which is a tributary of River Ganga (Ganges). It is 13 km south of Gaya and 113 km south of Patna city. The climate of Bodhgaya is tropical. Summers are generally hot (April-June), while winters are cool (October-February). It experiences southwestern monsoon rains from July until September.
The history of this small town is associated with Buddhism since ancient times. The region around Bodhgaya formed the part of the first small kingdoms of India in the 7th century BC. It came into limelight in 6th century BC, when a local prince Siddharth (also known as Gautam) renounced all material possession and, after practicing rigorous penances for years, attained Enlightenment or Nirvana under a Bodhi (Bo) tree here. After gaining Enlightenment, Gautam became Buddha (The Enlightened One) and spread his message of love and peace. To mark the spot where Gautam Buddha had attained Enlightenment, the great Mauryan ruler King Ashoka built a small shrine here in the 3rd century BC. Subsequent rulers left their mark on this shrine, which finally took the shape of the Mahabodhi temple that still stands.
The meditation institutes of Bodhgaya organize a number of conventions, special meetings and discourses. These are usually held in the months of January and February. Travelers seeking peace of mind and spiritual upliftment must visit these programs. Important Buddhist religious festivals are celebrated with great fervor in Bodhgaya.
The best time to visit Bodhgaya is during winter (October-February).
The main tourist attraction in Bodhgaya is the Mahabodhi temple. The original Bodhi tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment had died, but the present tree is a descendant of the original tree, which was obtained from Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, where it was taken by Sanghamitra, King Ashoka's daughter in 3rd century BC. The red sandstone slab under this tree is said to be the throne on which Buddha sat. The Mahabodhi temple stands on the 3rd-century-BC shrine, erected by Ashoka. It is intricately carved and houses a large gilded image of Buddha. The present temple has been restored to its past glory. A number of countries like Japan, Burma, China, Sri Lanka, Korea, Nepal, etc., where Buddhism is an important faith, have built their respective monasteries and temples in Bodhgaya. Theses monasteries and temples offer to the tourist different architectural styles of these countries. The Archeological Museum of Bodhgaya is another important place to visit in this small town.
Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world throng to Bodhgaya every year.
Bodhgaya is not only an important Buddhist pilgrim center and an archeological site, but it also for famous for the various meditation courses offered by a number of institutes, in and around the town. Most of the courses are conducted in winters (October-February).
The town of Gaya is 13 km from Bodhgaya, which is also located on the Falgu River. As Bodhgaya is for the Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrim place for the Hindus.