Saturday, September 8, 2007


The most important Buddhist pilgrimage centre in the world, Bodhagaya, is where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under a giant Bodhi (Peepul) Tree. The tree seen today is believed to have grown from the original Bodhi Tree. To the east of the Tree, is the magnificent 170 feet high Maha Bodhi Temple: an architectural amalgamation of many cultures, stone Stupas dot the temple courtyard. Also of interest is the Chaukramana, Animeshlochan Chaitya, Ratnagar Lotus Tank, a Tibetan Monastery with a large Dharma Chakra and the Thai, Japanese, Korean and Chinese Buddhist Temple built in recent times. 123 Km from Bodhgaya at Sasaram are the Buddhist Rock-Cut Caves. Rajgir holds special significance to Buddhists, as the Buddha spent several years here, delivering many of his sermons from the Gridhakuta Hill, which can be reached today Sby a cable ropeway. On the hill is a beautiful stupa, built by the Japanese. 12 Km away is Nalnda, one of ancient world,s Centre. It contained nine million books, ten thousand students and two thousand teachers. Both Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira visited this place. Emperor Ashoka built a monastery to commemorate Buddha,s visit to Nalnda. Vaishali was where the Buddha delivered his last sermon, announcing his impending departure from the mortal world. Later Emperor Ashoka erected a huge pillar to commemorate the spot. A mere 10 km from the holy city of Varanasi is Saranath, in Uttar Pradesh. It was here that Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining Nirvana. The 34 metre high Dhamekh Stupa, is believed to mark the spot from where Buddha proclaimed his faith.

The Mahabodhi Temple close to the Dhamekh stupa, contains rate Buddhist relics from different parts of India. Emperpr Ashoka who convered to Buddhism after the Kalinga war also visited sarnath and laid the foundation of the Buddhist Sangha. The Ashoka pillar commemorates the event. 54 Km from Allahabad the ancient Buddhist Centre, Kaushambi was visited by Buddha in the sixth and ninth years after his enlightenment. He delivered several emons here. A revered place for Buddhist pilgrims, Kushinagar, 55 km from Gorakhpur, was where Buddha breathed his last. The Mahaparinirvana Temple, standing amidst a serene sal grove, is dedicated to this event. The temple has a huge statue of the Reclining Buddhism excavated in 1876. The Mata Kunwar shrine here contains a 10th century image of Lord Buddha. The Rambhar stupa is believed to mark the spot where Lord Buddha was cremated and his ashes divided into eight equal parts. Also of religious significance to pilgrims are the Chinese Temple, the Buddhist Temple, the Tibetan Temple, and the indo- Japan-sri Lanka Buddhist Centre. 110 km from Gorakhpur, Kapilavasu, was where Buddha spent his childhood. It was also from here that he embarked on his journey, in the quest of truth and salvation. There are several Stupas here. Archarological excavations have also revealed stone caskets containing relics, believed to be that of Lord Buddha,s. The Jetvana Gardens of Sravasti, 134 km from Lucknow had the honour of sheltering the Buddha for 24 rainy seasons. Besides stupas, monasteries and temples, Sravasti also has the famous Anand Bodhi Tree, an offspring of the original Bodhi Tree, said to have been plated by Buddha,s main disciple Anand. 47 km from Farrukhabad , Sankisa is believed to be the place where Buddha, along with Lord Brahma and Devraj Indra descended. At the spot of the descent stands a Temple with a statue of Buddha. The place is also known for a temple dedicated to Bsari Devi, an excavated Ashoka Elephant Pillar and a colossal Shiva Linga.

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