Buddhist pilgrims from around the world are drawn to Bodh Gaya or Uruvela as it was known during the Buddha’s times. The reason is not far to seek. Located on the bank of river Niranjana (modern Falgu) in the state of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is the holiest pilgrimage site for the Buddhists. It was at Bodh Gaya that the Buddha obtained Enlightenment some 2,500 years ago.
Tradition has it that Siddhartha Gautama by which he is generally referred to in Buddhist literature renounced the worldly possessions by performing “Great Going Forth” (Mahabhiniskramana) and became an ascetic.
After spending six years as an ascetic, Gautama or Tathagata came to realize that asceticism make no sense to free ourselves from the sorrows of the world. Thereafter he sat beneath a papal tree on the outskirts of the Gaya town. After sitting through forty eight nights under the Bodhi Tree (Tree of Wisdom) he became enlightened at the dawning of the forty ninth day of his meditation.
Places of attractions
The focal point of any visit to Bodh Gaya is the 170 feet UNESCO listed Mahabodhi Temple which is one of the oldest shrines in India. Its art and architecture has been described in glowing terms by the 7th century Chinese traveler Huien Tsang. In all probability the main tower of the temple was built in the sixth century AD. The entire complex of the Mahabodhi Temple is dotted with several stupas built in different periods in the last 2500 years ago.
The Bodhi Tree (The Tree of Wisdom)
A pipal tree known as the Bodhi tree (Tree of Wisdom) under which the Buddha obtained Enlightenment at the age of 35 is a prime attraction in Bodh Gaya.
The Buddha was born at Lumbini near Kapilavastu, the capital of the Sakyan republic which was ruled by his father Suddhodana at that time. After the death of his mother, Mahamaya, which took place seven days after his birth, Siddhartha was brought up by his stepmother Gautami.
Gautama as a child was reared in palaces that were full of delight so that he would never know the sorrows of the world. At the age of 16 he married Yasodhara, whom he won at a contest by defeating all the contestants including his wicked cousin Devadatta.
However, all these delights and prosperity did not appeal to the Buddha who left his home at the age of 29 to lead the life of an ascetic. After six years he obtained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya. Since then the Bodhi Tree has been a place of pilgrimage for the Buddhists from around the world. Sanghamitta, daughter of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, had carried to Sri Lanka the cuttings of the original pipal tree and planted in Anuradhapura.
How to reach Bodh Gaya
Air: the nearest airport to Bodh Gaya is at Patna which is 97 km away from the place.
Rail: Gaya, 13 km away from Bodh Gaya, is a major railway station that is connected by rail with all the major cities and places in India. A whole lot of trains depart Indian Capital for Gaya. Kalka Mail, Sealdah Rajdhani Express and Mahabodhi Express are some of trains that connect Gaya with Delhi.
Road: Bodh Gaya is well connected by well-maintained roads with different places in India. Some of the important cities connected with Bodh Gaya by road are Varanasi (250 km), Allahabad (375 km), Kolkata (489 km) and Kanpur (570 km).
Best Time to Visit Bodh Gaya
You will find temperatures extreme in Bodh Gaya during winters and summers. October to March is the best time to visit Bodh Gaya when the daytime temperature remains mild and pleasant.