Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from ‘budhi’, ‘to awaken’. The origin of Buddhism points to one man, Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, who was born in north India during the 5th century BCE, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35. He is recognized as the awakened or enlightened teacher, who shares his insights with the people and helps them eliminate ignorance and craving understanding and the seeing of dependent origination.

There are 2 major sects of Buddhism: Theravada (The school of elders) and Mahayana (the Great Vehicle).

Bodh Gaya

This very place is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. It is famous as it is the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment (Bodhimandala). For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Historical Significance

Bodh Gaya is a holy place for the Buddhists from all over the world. Located by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela. King Ashoka was the first to build a temple here. At this place, Siddhartha found enlightenment; it is the state of having infinite knowledge and being able to accomplish noble and universal truths. Siddhartha claimed to have attained enlightenment and insight, and the answers that he had sought. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience. The day of enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama is called as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree.

Mahabodhi Temple

The chief monastery of Bodh Gaya used to be called the Bodhimanda-vihāra (Pali). Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple. This is not only a place where Buddha attained enlightenment but it is elaborately crafted and immaculately maintained complex and has a very soothing and serene ambiance, which people from all walks of life can soak up and appreciate.

This temple was marked by Emperor Ashoka with one of his trademark inscribed pillars, with an elephant capital. The ground level of the temple is 45 meters square, stretching up in a pyramid shape that ends in a smaller square platform and inside the temple is a colossal image of a seated Buddha touching the earth with his right hand (a gesture known as the earth-witness mudra). In this posture the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment.

Immediately next to the Mahabodhi Temple is the Bodhi Tree, a descendant of the very tree under which the Buddha was enlightened, and the Jewel Walk, marking the place where the Buddha is said to have practiced walking meditation for seven days after his enlightenment.

Other Important Buddhists Places

Bodhgaya Multimedia Museum, Located next to the Mahabodhi Temple, Open all 7 days of the week. Museum provides the historical and Geographical context for the life of Buddha through a set of Multimedia films and 3D Animation movie.

Archaelogical Museum, possesses a small but interesting selection of Buddhist and Hindu artifacts from Bodh Gaya and other nearby excavation sites.

Thai monastery or Buddhist temple at Bodh Gaya was built in 1956 by Thailand Monarch.  It is a unique and the only Thai Temple in India. This temple displays the elegance of Thai architecture.

The 80-foot Buddha Statue, The unveiling and consecration of the Great Buddha Statue took place on November 18, 1989. The Statue is now a symbol of the holy place Bodh Gaya, next to Mahabohdi Temple which is a World Heritage site, and enjoys constant visits of pilgrims from all over the world.