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Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained Nirvana


Bodh Gaya is located nearby the bigger city Gaya in Bihar. It is famous for being the place of Gautama Buddha's attainment of Nirvana (Enlightenment). Thus it is a prime pilgrimage spot for Buddhist. In town there is a large Tibetan community and all the major Buddhist countries have here their own temple.

Mahabodhi Temple Bodh Gaya The Bodhi Tree Mahabodhi Temple Bodh Gaya
Left: Mahabodhi Temple
Right: Bodhi Tree in the Mahabodhi Temple
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Although Bodh Gaya is a major Buddhist pilgrimage destination, it's not on all travelers destination list, contrary to for example Varanasi. I liked Bodh Gaya much better. The atmosphere in town was much more relaxed and the place felt more sacred then Varanasi, It was (which helped me) less busy too.

Monks in the Mahabodhi Temple
Monks in the Mahabodhi Temple

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.

Pilgrims in Bodh Gaya Pilgrims in Bodh Gaya
Left: The Bhutanese temple
Right: Tibetans praying

I stayed in the Sri Lankan Guesthouse which was a good and clean deal. The town is a kind of "temple town" as I wrote in my diary. All Buddhist countries have here their own temples and many have a monastery. Should you wish to see the differences in Buddhism in the different countries, this is the place to be. All the temples are different and yet all breath the same atmosphere.

Tibetan temple Bodh Gaya

Place to visit here is of course the Mahabodhi Temple with the tree where the Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana - enlightenment.

Inside the temple, there is the Bodhi Tree. Although the tree is old, it is not the original tree under which the Buddha sat. In fact, with the decline of Buddhism in India, the temple itself has been lost for centuries.

 

Bhutanese temple Bodh Gaya The legendary seated Buddha from Bodh Gaya next to the Thai temple

The temple was later restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham as part of his work for the British Archaeological Society in the late 19th century.

In 1883 extensive renovation work was carried out to restore the complex to its former glory.

Today the town has a large Tibetan community dominating the pilgrims but you will find pilgrims from all nations here including. In that sense Bodh Gaya is truly a place for everyone. The place where you can experience that the best is the gardens. It's a meeting place and an excellent opportunity to see who comes here.

Pilgrims in Bodh Gaya
Pilgrims posing in the Mahabodhi Temple garden

You will see Japanese monks praying in the Tibetan temple, Indian Hindus paying respect in the Bhutanese temple, westerners hanging out in the gardens, Sri Lankan monks helping in the guesthouse. The Burmese monastery has a guesthouse for travelers who want to study here.

Pilgrims in Bodh Gaya

I spend New Years Eve in town with some Tibetan monks. It was an amazing evening with a lot of laughter and excitement.

This was partly because the Dalai Llama was expected in a couple of days, an event I had to miss because of a flight back home.

But it was also because the monks were drinking, and trust me, a drunk monk is a funny sight. You ask me, I would have loved to spend a week or two without any problems here.

Pilgrims in Bodh Gaya
Pilgrims in the garden of the Mahabodhi Temple

Getting there and stay

Bodh Gaya is 15 km south of the larger city Gaya and just over 100 from Patna. From here you can travel further to Varanasi, Patna, Kolkata, Sikkim and Nepal amongst the many other possible destinations. Gaya is on the railway line that connects Varanasi and Kolkata.

The town has a good range of hotels, check our recommended hotels. If you want to stay cheap, I recommend the Sri Lanka Guest House.

They have cheap rooms for, clean and nearby the main temples. It might be difficult to get a room because it is always busy. Alternative, you can stay in the Burmese monastery which is more basic but good.

pilgrims in Bodh Gaya

 

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