Buddhists believe that there are four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites which if visited in their lifetime, enable them to attain enormous merit and nobleness. The sites are internationally popular.
These four Buddhist pilgrimage sites are the place where Prince Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was born, the place where He gained enlightenment, the place where He first taught and the place where He attained nirvana.
Gautama Buddha was born in 623 B.C. The birth of Gautama Buddha is celebrated based on the Asian Lunisolar calendar. It falls on a full moon of April or May by the Gregorian calendar. In East Asia, we call this day, ‘Buddha Purnima’. In South-East Asia it is called Vesak.
‘Buddha Purnima’ is on 26th May this year 2021. To commemorate the auspicious day, I would like to share some details of these sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
Lumbini in Nepal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed that Siddhartha was born to Mayadevi at Lumbini. The Mayadevi Temple is said to be built at the spot of his birth. The holy site has numerous ruins of ancient temples and monasteries. There are many stupas, the sacred pond called Pushkarini and an age-old sacred tree. Archaeologists had discovered a stone pillar from 345 B.C. This is an Ashokan Pillar which was built to commemorate the visit of Emperor Ashoka to worship at Lumbini.
Lumbini is a pristine, green forested monastic zone, situated at the foothills of Nepal Himalayas. It is 122 kilometres from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India; taking about 4 hours to reach by road. Indian citizens do not require a Visa. Lumbini is 250 kilometres from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India, is the most significant and popular among all the Buddhist pilgrimage sites of the world. The Mahabodhi Temple houses that holy Bodhi Tree which is where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Buddha means ‘the enlightened one’. The Mahabodhi Temple is UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first temple here was built by Emperor Ashoka. The present Mahabodi Temple is age old and is built of ancient bricks.
The complex has the sacred lotus pond and ‘Jewel Walk’, the path, where according to legends, lotus flowers sprung when Buddha walked by. 80 feet high statue of Lord Buddha stands beside the temple. There is an enriching museum. For centuries people have visited this sacred site from all over the world. Numerous monasteries have been later built near the Mahabodhi Complex. They are Cambodian Monastery, Burmese Monastery, Tergar Monastery, Chinese Pagoda, Japanese Temple, Karma Temple, Royal Bhutanese Temple and more. Bodh Gaya is a pilgrimage site for the Hindus too.
Gaya is an important town, just 20 kilometres from Bodh Gaya. Gaya has an international airport and an extremely busy railway station.
Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, India, is situated 10 kilometres northeast of Varanasi. It is one of the most significant four Buddhist pilgrimage sites as Buddha’s first sermon was held here. The Deer Park is the holy site of His first preaching. Buddha taught ‘Dharma’ (Buddha’s philosophy) and Buddhist ‘Sangha’ (Community or Assembly) was formed for the first time. This spot is marked by a majestic stupa, The Dhamek Stupa, built during 500 C.E. Ruins and remains are scattered all over the vast area. There is an Ashokan Pillar. Sarnath also has a spectacular Thai Temple and garden of modern times with an 80 feet tall statue of the Buddha.
Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport at Varanasi and Varanasi Junction are the nearest airport and railway station respectively.
Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, is another of these Buddhist pilgrimage sites where it is believed that Buddha breathed his last and attained Mahaparinirvana. Ramabhar Stupa, a huge stupa (49 feet high), stands on the spot where he was cremated. His ashes lie underneath the stupa. The serene Mahaparinirvana Temple stands amidst ruins of various ancient monasteries. The temple houses a 20 feet long statue of Lord Buddha lying down. The Kushinagar Museum should not be missed. Excavated statues, sculptures, seals, coins and relics are preserved here.
The Gandhara style Stucco idol of Lord Buddha in the museum is iconic. There is an ancient Sun Temple from the Gupta Era. The idol of Sun God was carved out of black stone. Hieun Tsang to Fa Hein, the Chinese explorers have all mentioned the significance of Kushinagar in their texts. From ancient times Kushinagar is one of the most significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites. There are some modern day temples built near the Mahaparinirvana Temple Complex like the Vietnamese Temple and Japanese Temple.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.