Religious Spots in Gaya

Gaya is a very important landmark for Hindus and people who follow Buddhism. Thousands of devotees throng this small town every year for pilgrimage. Located in the central part of the state of Bihar, Gaya is a part of the great Gangetic plains. Gaya is 13 km north of Bodhgaya, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.

Gaya is known for its rich spiritual history and religious spots. Some of the major attractions are described below:

Jama Masjid

Built around 200 years back and located in the heart of city, the Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in state of Bihar. This mosque is known for Shabina and Tabligh, Shabina being the special worship, which is done on 27th night of Ramadan.

Mahabodhi Temple

One of the main attractions of the religious township, the Mahabodhi Temple dates back to 7th century. The history of this structure dates back to 2,500 years and was destroyed during 11th century, when Muslims invaded the destination.

The structure has been built around the Bodhi tree and was built by a Burmese King. The shrine was constructed by Emperor Ashoka and is similar to the stupa. The main temple houses a statue of Lord Buddha in a cross-legged seating position and earth touching. Stone railings encircle the entire temple and it has seven distinct spots. The seven spots signify the seven stages that led to Lord Buddha's process of enlightenment.

Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree has great religious and spiritual significance as it is believed that Lord Buddha attained enlightenment at this spot. Many tourists travel to Bodh Gaya to visit the Bodhi tree. Approximately 80 feet in height, the tree is estimated ti be about 115 years old and is located south of the Mahabodhi temple. There is a stone platform present under the tree where Lord Buddha is believed to have sat in meditation, looking in the east direction.

Some tales from the past say that the original Bodhi tree had been uprooted by the wife of Emperor Ashoka as she felt that her husband devoted too much of his time there. Then, a sapling was carried from Sri Lanka where Saghmitra, daughter of King Ashoka had taken a branch of the original tree and planted it there in Anuradhapur. This tree can still be seen in Anuradhapur. A 3 metre high stone wall was built around the tree by the emperor to protect the tree.

Great Buddha Statue

Gaya has many spiritual monuments related to the life of Lord Buddha. One of these is the Great Buddha Statue standing erect and at an elevation of 80 ft, making it one of the tallest Buddha statues in the country. It was installed by the XIV Dalai Lama in1989 and depicts his meditation (dhyana mudra) posture, resting resting on a giant lotus in open air. The statue has been constructed using sandstone blocks and red granite and showcases intricate artwork.

Chinese Temple

Located close to the Bodhi temple, the Chinese temple is a beautiful Buddha temple erected by Chinese Buddhist monks. The exteriors of the temple complex indicate Chinese designs and architecture and the Buddha statue placed inside dates back to atleast 200 years, with popular belief being that it was brought from China. The temple also houses another three golden statues of Lord Buddha. Many travelogues written by Chinese scholars who have travelled to India in search of knowledge and spiritual bliss can be seen at the temple. The temple was renovated in 1997.

Barabar Caves

Located at a distance of about 25 kms from Gaya and developed in the second century BC, the Barabar caves are famous for their architectural beauty and were carved during the first phase of development of Buddhism. As per Buddhist literature, these caves were meant for Ajivika Buddhists. Made out of rocks and finely cut, the caves have a fine glassy and shining polish. Divided into three types, the first cave is Nagarjuna and the other two are caves of Pandavas and Hut caves. Another cave, the Lomas Rishi cave are beautifully carved caves that have a rectangular chamber. Being very intricately carved, with sharp edges, the caves showcase an illusion of laser cutting and on the walls of the caves are several Jataka stories.

Gaya Pind Daan

Gaya Pind Daan is a ritual performed by Hindus to free the spirits of their deceased ones, thus liberating them from the bondage of the materialistic world. During the Pitra Paksha time which takes place during 18 auspicious days of Pitra Paksh mela between mid-September to mid-October are considered as the best days to pay respect to departed souls, many Hindus visit. The rituals are performed on the bank of the Ganga River and prayers are offered for the peace of their souls. It is believed that Lord Rama, along with his brothers, came to Gaya to offer Pind Daan to his father, King Dashratha.

Vishnupad Temple

This shikhara style temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and was reconstructed by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1787. Religious scriptures and texts say that the temple bears footprints inside which are ofLord Vishnu, the footprints being 40 centimeters long and enclosed by a basin made of silver plates.
Being a large complex, the temple contains images and statues of several Gods and Goddesses and several shrines too. The Narsimha temple and Vishnu temple located inside the complex are important structures. The eastern side of this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who resides here in the form of Phalgwisvara. This form of Lord Shiva is known as the lord of the River Falgu.

Ajapal Nigrodha Tree

Ajapala Nigrodha Tree is a major tourist attraction and also a spot visited by Buddhist followers. Located in front of the Mahabodhi temple, the entrance for this tree is from the eastern gate.The popular local belief in Gaya is that this tree was planted by a shepherd boy to protect Lord Buddha and it is also believed that under this tree, Lord Gautam Buddha meditated for the entire duration of the fifth week.

Royal Bhutan Monastery

Built by the King of Bhutan, the Royal Bhutan Monastery was built as a tribute to Lord Buddha and depicts his life. Every year, thousands of Buddhism followers from all over the world visit this monastery. Incidents related to Lord Buddha's life are preserved in the monastery and there are several clay carvings, which depict several aspects of Buddhism.

Animesh Lochana Chaitya

The place where Lord Buddha spent seven days looking at the Bodhi tree is Animesh Lochana Chaitya. This is another significant tourist attraction as it is related to the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha. As a gratitude to the Bodhi tree for providing him shelter, Lord Buddha is believed to have spent seven days without batting his eyelids. He spent another seven days walking in between the Bodhi Tree and the Animesh Lochana Chaitya,  the route between two places is popularly known as Ratnachankrama or the Jewel Walk.

Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple
Another famous temple of Bodh Gaya is the Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple, located at a distance of 15 km from the heart of the city. A beautiful temple carved out of wood, the temple showcases Japanese architecture and is carved with tales of Buddhist preaching. Constructed in 1972, this shrine also contains a gallery with Japanese paintings showcasing some of the notable events from the life of Lord Buddha. The Japanese government is supporting various projects and initiatives to preserve and spread Buddhism.

Thai Monastery
The Thai Monastery, a unique structure with golden tiles is known for its architecture and gorgeous environment. It is adorned with curved and sloping roofs and houses a beautifully carved statue of Lord Buddha, which is made from bronze. Recently, a statue of Lord Buddha, which is 25 m in height, has been installed in the garden located near the Thai Monastery.

Cankamana
Cankamana, a pathway, was utilized in the third week of enlightenment by Lord Buddha for meditation. It got purified by the pious presence of Lord Buddha. Black stone lotuses have been carved at the spots where it is believed that Lord Buddha set foot and the pathway is located towards the northern fringe of the Bodhi temple complex.??Surya Kund
To free yourself from all sins committed, it is said that a holy dip in the pond of the Surya Kund temple is required. Located on the west side of the Vishnupad temple, is  one of the most prominent tourist attractions of Gaya. Two festivals are held in the temple, one in the month of March and April and the other in September and October and during these times, the destination is flocked by tourists. Another popular time for tourist visits is during Chhath Puja as the Sun God is worshipped.

Muchalinda Lake

With references to mythological tales, the Muchalinda Lake is located on the right of the main temple. This structure is famous for the sculpture of a hood protecting Lord Buddha, placed right at the centre of lake. The deity of Lord Buddha present at this lake is shown meditating on a snake coil.??Hindu mythological scripts say that during the sixth week when Lord Buddha was meditating near the lake, a strong storm broke out and Sheshnag or Snake King Muchalinda protected the Lord from the fierce waves. It is believed that Lord Buddha was the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Rajayatna Tree

Lord Buddha is said to have spent the seventh or the penultimate week of enlightenment at this site. This tree also provided shelter to Burmese merchants and is located to the south-east of the Bodhi temple.

Akshayabat

Akshayabat, situated 12 km away from Gaya, is situated in Bodh Gaya. It is a tree under which Gautam Siddhartha meditated in search of eternal truth and is situated inside the temple complex.

Shrine of Hazrat Makhdoom Syed Shah Durwesh Ashraf

The shrine of Hazrat Makhdoom Syed Shah Durwesh Ashraf is 10 km away from the main city and is on the Gaya-Patna route. ??Popularly known as Bitho Sharif, Hazrat Makhdoom Syed Shah Durwesh Ashraf, the great Sufi saint of Chishtia-Ashrafi order established Khanqah-e-Ashrafia. He settled here in around ninth century Hijri. Urs of Hazrat Makhdoom Durwesh Ashraf, one of the most important festivals, is celebrated from 10th to 12th Islamic month of Shabaan every year.

Tibetan Monastery

The Tibetan Monastery, looked after by and regularly visited by by Dalai Lama is an old and revered monastery in Gaya. This monastery also houses a colorful Tibetan temple along with special wheel of Law and is famous for the Maitreya Buddha, which is the future Buddha.??Owing to its location in  proximity to Mahabodhi Temple, this monastery is visited by large influx of scholars to attend two months meditation course. In addition, the monastery also houses books of literature related to several aspects of Buddhism and guidance for the followers.

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