Buddhist Destinations in India

Buddhism is an ancient and one of the most followed religions in the world, which has its roots in India. Buddhism very simply gets its name from the Buddha, or the enlightened one. Buddhism is at least 2500 years. Today, Buddhism has about 500 millions followers worldwide and the main teachings of Buddhism are based on Four Nobel truths and Eightfold path that would lead believers to Nirvana or to enlightenment. India is blessed with the fact that Lord Buddha walked on its land, preached to its people and attained Mahanirvana on its humble ground. There are in fact so many destinations in India that have Buddhist significance and amongst them Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar hold great importance for the devotees.

Start with his birth in the kingdom of Kapilavastu near the present day border of Nepal and India to Lumbini, where he was actually born.

Lumbini

Lumbini the birth place of buddha

One of the most important place of Buddhist pilgrimage is Lumbini, located near the Nepal-India border. This is where Gautam Buddha was born to a royal family in 556 B.C.E. Many auspicious signs accompanied the Buddha’s birth, including the sprouting of the bodhi tree. It is listed in the World Heritage Site. Famous places of Lumbini are Sacred Garden, Maya Devi Temple, Puskani Pond, Nepal Buddha Temple.  There is also the Ashoka pillar in Lumbini, established by the Emperor Ashoka some centuries later and this has gained immortality by becoming India’s emblem as well.

Know More: About Lumbini

Best For You: Buddhist Tour With Nepal (10 N / 11 D)

Bodhgaya

mahabodhi temple bodhgaya

Bodhgaya is the most the holiest pilgrimage center for Buddhists from all over the world. It is famous for Mahabodhi Temple. This temple is listed in the World Heritage Site list. It has a number of monasteries, which were constructed by devout Buddhists of Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Here at Bodhgaya, Buddha attained Nirvana or enlightenment. He meditated here under the Bodhi tree and after three days and nights was rewarded with an answer to most of life’s questions.

Sarnath

buddha stupa sarnath

Sarnath is a city located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi near the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati rivers in Uttar Pradesh. Buddha delivered his first sermon or Maha Dharma Chakra Pravartan at the Deer Park in Sarnath after attaining enlightenment. Today, Sarnath is one of the most important Buddhist places of worship in India. The main attraction here is the stupa that was erected by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BC. Other major attractions in Sarnath are Chaukhandi Stupa, which is believed to have been constructed during Emperor Ashoka’s period.  Mulagandha Kuti Vihar and Sarnath Museum are yet other major attractions for the tourists in Sarnath.

Sravasti

sravasti buddha

Sravasti is situated 34 km from Balrampur and 134 km from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. Lord Buddha preached here after he got his enlightenment. It is believed that Lord Buddha and his disciples stayed and preached 24 years in Jetvana Gardens at Sravasti and has performed some miracles here. The most popular is the story of the woman who came to resurrect her dead son. There are many other stories, related to Sravasti, basically confirming the supremacy of Lord Buddha and proving him as a legend. This city has several age-old stupas, monasteries and temples. After the death of Buddha, this monastery got royal patronage. Famous place of Sravasti are Gandha-Kuti, Kosambi-Kuti, Ananda Bodhi Tree.

Sankasya or Sankisa or Sankisa

sankasya world peace bell

Sankasya is 47 km from Farrukhabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is also known as Sankisa. As per to Buddhist mythology, it is believed that Buddha descended at this very place along with Brahma and Devraj Indra after giving discourses to his mother in heaven. The Buddhist traditions also say that all Buddhas descend to earth at this place. Saniska is known for a temple dedicated to Bisari Devi and an excavated Ashoka’s elephant pillar. There is a Buddha Temple, which is believed to be at the spot where Lord Buddha descended from heaven.

Rajgir

Shanti Stupa Rajgir

Rajgir is another place in the Ganges Valley where the Buddha walked and preached. Surrounded by five holy hills, the picturesque little town of Rajgir is important for Buddhists as well as Jains. Here the two rock-cut caves were the favourite retreats of the Buddha and it was on this hill that he preached two of his most famous sermons. Buddha converted Emperor Bimbisar to Buddhism at the Griddhakoota Hill in Rajgir. The teachings of Buddha were written down at Rajgir and it was also the venue for the First Buddhist Council.

Kushinagar

Kushinagar buddha

Kushinagar is 51 km from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Kushinagar is important because it is the place where Buddha attained the state of Mahaparinirvana or Permanent Bliss at the age of 80. Kushinagar also expresses the common thread of all sects of Buddhism through its magnificent Viharas, Chaityas, temples and Tibetan monasteries. In ancient times, the town was also known as Kushinara and Kasiar. Three great Chinese scholars Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsing, who traveled to India, also visited Kushinagar. After the Buddha’s death, the entire village was turned into a memorial site with stupas, containind the holy relics of the Buddha.

Nalanda

nalanda buddhist university

Nalanda is located in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. It is well known as the ancient centre of learning which has the remains of the great Nalanda University and several monasteries and temples in the 4th-5th century CE. The scholars of the Nalanda monastic university such as Bodhidharma and others took Buddhism to other parts of the world, China, Korea and Japan to name a few. Both Lord Buddha and Mahavira visited this place and it remained a renowned learning centre till 12th century.

Vaishali

Vaishali lion pillor

Vaishali is 36 km from Muzaffarpur in the state of Bihar. Lord Buddha regularly visited this place and preached his last sermon at Kolhua, a nearby place. The mass induction of people into Buddhism after the Lord had shown some extraordinary and divine presentations of his spiritual superiority is the major reason for the popularity of this place. Emperor Ashoka erected one of his well-known lion pillars here in the 3rd century BC commemorate the event. Vaishali is also important for the matter that here, for the first time, women were inducted into the Sangha.

Ladakh

Buddha statue outside Diskit Monastery Ladakh

The population of Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist and Ladakh has been deeply influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, which follows the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. In these forms of buddhism, Buddha is worshipped a deity who has attained Nirvana. It is a place where all occasions- marriage, birth, harvesting or even the flowering of plants are marked by feasting, dancing and the singing of folk songs. The mythology of Tibetan Buddhism has many tales of various spirits and demons. There is large number of beautiful monasteries that one can visit here and amongst the most famous ones are Shey, Hemis, Thiksey Monastery, Diskit Monastery, Lamayuru, Spituk, Alchi, Phyang and Rangdum.

Sanchi

sanchi stupa

Sanchi is significant for Buddhist around the world despite the fact that Lord Buddha himself never paid a visit to it. The Sanchi stupa, built in and around 283 BCE by Ashoka, the famous Indian emperor who converted to Buddhism, is better known for its scriptures. It is surrounded by a railing with four carved gateways facing towards all four directions. A noteworthy thing here is that Buddha is not represented in figures but in symbols, indicating a tradition followed in the early Buddhism, Hinayana. In this Buddha is regarded a human and not a god.

Recommended Tours For You

Other Buddhist Sites in India

Apart from Sarnath and Gaya, there are many other significant Buddhist pilgrimage centres in India like Dharamshala and Tabo Monastery in Himachal Pradesh; Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh;  Nagarjunakonda, Bavikonda, Thotlakonda, Salihundam, Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh; Ajanta & Ellora in Maharashtra; Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri in Odisha also have great importance as a Buddhist education sites in India. Each of these Buddhist places in India is worth visiting as they offer an insight into the life of Buddha.

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