Bodhi Tree In Bodhgaya
Holiest Among The Holy
Situated by the banks of River Phalgu, Bodhgaya is the holiest of all Buddhist pilgrim destination in entire world. It was here an entire new religion was born out of one man who went on to be known as Lord Buddha and the religion was called Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha who renounced all worldly connections and set out in search of truth, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree here. The entire life of Bodhgaya revolves around this most revered tree in the world. A huge complex containing many international monasteries and temples have come up around the tree. Bodhgaya acquired importance during the period of Lord Buddha itself, but the temples started coming up only in the 7th century. During the 16th century, Buddhism here started declining. But once the excavations were started by British archaeologists and its true significance was established, Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world started visiting Bodhgaya. Thus making it the most important pilgrim site of international Buddhism.
The best time to visit Bodhgaya is between November and February when thousands of exiled Tibetans come here to attend the ceremonies and lectures under the Bodhi Tree. Buddhist monks from other Buddhist countries too come here during this period. And if one is looking for some solitary and peaceful holidays, then there is no place better than Bodhgaya for the purpose.
Faith of Millions Beautified
Bodhgaya is filled with places that are most revered by Buddhist pilgrims around the world. Apart from the famous Mahabodhi Temple, there are many international monasteries and temples built by Buddhist people from different countries.
Situated to the west at the rear of Mahabodhi Temple, the present Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya is a distant offshoot of the original Bodhi Tree. It is believed to be the fifth succession of the original tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The actual tree was destroyed by King Ashoka before he converted to Buddhism and non violence. Pilgrims tie red colored threads to its branches and decorate the tree with prayer flags. Under the tree, a sandstone slab is kept which is taken to be the 'Vajrasana' or the 'thunder-seat' on which Lord Buddha sat facing the temple.
Rising to a height of 55 m, Mahabodhi Temple is the most prominent structure in entire Bodhgaya which can be seen from any section of the countryside. Covering an area of 48 sq feet, the temple is in slender pyramid shape that becomes conical above neck. There are towers on all four sides of the temple which are sculpted with images of Lord Buddha. Inside the temple, you will find number of stupas of different shapes and sizes; in middle of which stands the main brick temple in a hollow encircled by a stone railing. The stone railing is believed to be the oldest structure in the temple. It was build by Emperor Ashoka in 1st century. Inside the main temple, a single chamber holds the gilded image of Lord Buddha on the ground floor and a meditation hall on the first floor. The statue is actually build of black stone and is gilded by devotees.
Situated just 13 Km from Bodhgaya, Gaya is another highly sacred place for Hindus. You will find a slightly different scenes than Bodhgaya. Gaya is densely populated and full of noise and excitement. Hindus come here to offer oblation for salvation of their dead parents and forefathers in the huge and magnificent Vishnupad Temple. Though it is splendid to look at, Non Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple premises.
Temples And Monasteries
Around the big Mahabodhi Temple, there are a number of modern monasteries belonging to different countries. The monasteries give the area around the Mahabodhi temple a splendid atmosphere of peace and calm. The most magnificent of all is the Thai Temple which, with its splendid roof and aura, dominates the premises. Another important monastery is the Gelugpa Tibetan Monastery. Every year from November till February, hundred of Tibetans come to Godhgaya who make a complete setup of a market with restaurants and cafes. The other Tibetan Monastery of Kagyu sect is further west and is famous for its spacious main prayer hall decorated with beautiful murals, Lord Buddha Images and a large Dharma Chakra, 'Wheel of Law'. Sakya sect and Nyingma sect too have their representation in Bodhgaya. There are temples belonging to Nepal, Bhutan and China as well.
Where To Stay In Bodhgaya
Due to huge number of Pilgrims and visitors coming to Bodhgaya, you will find good number of budget hotels in Bodhgaya. One can also stay in monastery guest houses, though strict rules have to followed during your stay. They charge a small price but are way cheaper than the hotels. This also gives the tourists a chance to talk to the monks and witness the rituals.
How To Reach Bodhgaya
Gaya has an international airport which is just 13 Km from Bodhgaya. There are regular flights from all the major cities in India to Gaya. From Gaya, you can either catch a bus or take an auto rickshaw.
The nearest railway station too is in Gaya. Take a bus or auto rickshaw from the railway station.
There is regular bus service between Bodhgaya and other major cities of Bihar. Apart from the state run buses, there are regular deluxe coaches too running to and from Bodhgaya.
Rickshaws and auto rickshaws are the major mode of transportation in Bodhgaya. There is bus service as well but is irregular.
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