The four most holy places associated with the Buddha are Lumbini, his birthplace, in Nepal; Sarnath, near Varanasi, where he preached his first message; Kushinagar, near Gorakhpur, where he died; and Bodhgaya, where he attained enlightenment. Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world. Apart from being a significant archaeological site, it is also a vital Buddhist centre. 

Devout Buddhists and tourists from all over the world visit Bodhgaya, to study Buddhism and the art of meditation, or to simply absorb the aura of solemn grandeur that surrounds the place. Bodhgaya is a quiet and peaceful place. You could visit Bodhgaya in a day, or even plan a long study leave, depending on your inclination. 

Places To See 

The focal point of Bodhgaya is the Mahabodhi Temple. A 50 metre high pyramidal spire crowns the Mahabodhi temple, inside which, is a large gilded image of the Buddha. The temple is believed to be standing on the site of a shrine, erected by Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. Although the current temple was restored in the 11th century, and again in 1882, it is said to be the same as the one standing here since the 7th century. The Bo tree growing here is believed to be the direct descendant of the original tree, under which the Buddha sat, meditated and attained enlightenment. A sapling from the original tree, was taken to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitra (Emperor Ashoka's daughter), when Ashoka took Buddhism to the island. The tree now flourishes in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. A cutting of this tree was brought back to Bodhgaya, when the original tree here died. A red sand stone under the tree is said to be the Vajrasan, or diamond throne, one which the Buddha sat on. 

Most countries with a large Buddhist population have a temple or a monastery here, usually built in a representative architectural style. 

The archaeological museum houses a small collection of Buddha figurines, and pillars that were discovered in the area. The Hindu Shankaracharya Math has a temple here, and across the river are the Dungeshwari and Suraya temples.  

Meditation Courses 

Courses and retreats take place in winters, mainly from November to early February. Some of the most accessible courses are run by the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture (Tel. +91-631-400-714), set in a peaceful location on the edge of Bodhgaya. Courses are also run here by the Magadh University and some monasteries. 

When to Visit 

The best time to visit is during the winter months. 

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