Gaya is an important tourist destination dotted with various relics and manifestations of Lord Buddha’s omnipresence out there once upon a time. For Buddhists, Gaya is indeed an important destination of pilgrimage. If you too wish to feel the same peace and serenity that we often feel after going through the Buddhist scriptures, Gaya is one place that you should definitely visit. The region is full of must-see places connected to the life of Lord Buddha. Before you plan your trip to Gaya, go through this travel information guide below to make yourself travel-ready.
Religious Significance of Gaya
Gaya is the holy seat of three religions; Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Many temples line the banks of the Phalgu River which flows in Gaya. Akshayavat and Pipal trees dot the whole town and thousands of women pilgrims come here to visit the shrine of Mangla Gauri. This shrine has two round stones that represent the breasts of Sati; Lord Shiva’s wife. Vishnupad Temple in Gaya is adored alike by Hindus and Buddhists.
Gaya is very important to devout Hindus from the perspective of salvation as Lord Rama came to Gaya with Sita for Pind Daan. When Rama went to bathe before offering Pinda Dhanam; Devi Sita saw a vision of Dasharatha who told her to offer the Pindam as he was feeling very hungry. Devi Sita compiled but this angered Rama when he came back. It was then that Phalgu river, Branhmin, Banyan Tree and cow were called by Sita to validate her story. Apart from the Banyan tree everyone denied supporting Sita. Sita cursed the Phalgu River which then lost its water and became a stretch os mere sand dunes. At the same time the Banyan tree was blessed to become evergreen and immortal.
According to Jainism 22 out of 24 Tirthankars attained immortal salvation in Gaya and this is why Gaya is very important to the Jain followers. Jain pilgrimage Pawapuri where Mahavira attained Moksha is also reachable from Gaya. Gaya Jain temple is very beautiful with a huge idol of Bhagwan Chandraprabhu in it. Parasnath Hills in Gaya is also an important spiritual destination.
For Buddhists, the Brahmayoni hills where Gautam Buddha preached the immortal Fire Sermon to one thousand saints, holds a special significance. All the fire serving saints attained enlightenment post the sermon and the hill was christened as Gayasisa.
For Muslims too Gaya is an important place as it has the biggest Mosque in Bihar. Jama Masjid in Bodh Gaya was built about 190 years ago by Muzaffarpur Royal Family and it has the capacity to accommodate more than 1000 people at once. The Mosque is now an important heritage site.
History of Gaya
Gaya has a rich and chequered history which saw the rise and fall of many dynasties and was the seat of important events. Broadly the history of Gaya can be divided into three phases; ancient, middle and modern history.
The earliest known history of Gaya concerns the enlightenment of Gautam Buddha. Just 10 km away from Gaya town is Bodh Gaya where Buddha attained immortality. Since then the areas like Nalanda and Vaishali near Gaya became centers for spiritual discourses and pursuit of knowledge. These areas grew in importance under Mauryan rule. Gaya was originally an important part of Magadh.
Gaya in early 1810 AD had two distinct parts; Gaya and Allahabad. While Gaya was dominated by priests, lawyers and traders stayed in Allahabad. Bihar Vibhuti awardee and the first C.M cum Finance Minister of India Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha was from Gaya. Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who was a thought leader and creator of Kisan Andolan also lived in Gaya. Gaya quickly became an important place of politics in the pre independence era. Indian Congress leaders used to visit Gaya frequently to talk to Kisan Andolan leaders. During the struggle for Indian Independence, the All India Session of Congress was conducted under leadership of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das in the year 1922. Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad all attended political sessions in Gaya. Ishwar Chaudhuri, Jeetan Ram Manjhi and other political luminaries also hailed from the Gaya district.
Gaya officially established itself in the year 1865 as it was a part of Ramgarh district in Bihar till 1864. In May 1981 the division of Magadh was established by Bihar Government comprising of Gaya and other towns. Gaya district currently occupies 1921 square meters.
How to Reach Gaya
By Road: There is direct bus service to Gaya from Kolkata, Ranchi, Nalanda, Patna, Dhanbad, Bhagalpur, Koderma, Rajgir etc. Bihar Road Transport Corp has started an AC Mercedez Benz service to Gaya from Hazaribagh, Muzaffarnagar, Koderma, Bhagalpur, Patna and Munger.
The National Highway 2 Trunk Road which connects Calcutta to Delhi reaches to the fringes of Gaya (30 km away from it). Gaya connects to Patna by NH 83 and Rajgir by NH 82. Work has started on the construction of a 4 lane road between Patna and Gaya.
By Rail: Gaya Junction Station serves the town of Gaya and it has got good frequency of trains. Gaya station falls in the East Central Railway division. The Howrah New Delhi Grand Chord line passes via Gaya. Trains from many states stop at Gaya as it has two junctions; Manpur Junction and Gaya Junction.
Gaya has got direct trains to important places like Delhi, Nagpur, Kolkata, Mathura, Dehradun, Ranchi, Parasnath (Shikharji), Bokaro, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kota, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Amritsar, Allahabad, Agra, Bareilly, Jabalpur, Chennai, Kamakhya – Guwahati etc. There are also trains to Bhopal, Indore, , Mumbai, Pune, Dehradun, Puri, , Jodhpur, Kalka, Jamshedpur, Jammu, Gwalior, Bhubaneshwar etc.
By Air: There is an International Airport in Gaya that is situated between Bodh Gaya and Gay town. This is the only international Airport in Jharkhand and Bihar and flights to Colombo, Thailand, Singapore, Bhutan and Paro operate from here. Daily flights to Kolkata, New Delhi, Varanasi also operate from here.
Local Transport: Auto Rickshaws, Cycle Rickshaw, Tonga, Bus and Taxi operate inside Gay and Bodh Gaya.
Climate of Gaya
Gaya is surrounded from all 3 sides by hills and one side by a river so the weather in Gaya is always seasonable. In winters it’s very cold and in summers its very hot. The humid subtropical weather of Gaya makes it unsuitable for sightseeing in the summer season.
Food in Gaya
Food of Gaya is typical of traditional Bihari cuisine. As Gaya is a religious town non-vegetarian food is generally not available here. You can sample delicious food like Sattu Roti, Litti Chokha, Pitha, Pua, Bari Dal, Baingan Bharta, Kopal Kofta etc. many types of pickle and chaat is found in Gaya. Sweets like Tilkut, Anarsa, Kesariya Peda, Anarsa are very famous in Gaya. It is said that the only karigars who know how to make authentic Tilkut are there in Gaya.
Spicy and sweet sour snacks are the speciality here. There are many types of snacks here like Samosa Chat, Sabudana Bhoonja, Aalu Kachalu etc. Chanajor Garam is another famous snack that has been immortalized in many Bollywood movies.
If you want to buy packaged snacks for friends and family then visit the shops around Chowk, Ramna Road and Chatta Masjid area. Sweets in Tekari Road are very famous.
Restaurants in Gaya
Khushi Restaurant near Hotel Vishnu serves good Indian and Chinese food
Gautam Bakery opposite Burmese Vihara offers a good travelers menu
Hari Om International Café in front of Gupta Guest House serves multi-cuisine food apart from local food like Khichdi, Litti Chokha
Be Happy Café near Town Chow serves delicious herbal tea, Italian cuisine, salad, pasta, pizza and smoothies.
Mohammad Restaurant near Tourist Bus Park serves good Tibetan, Thai, Chinese, Indian food
Hotels in Gaya
Gaya has a lot of good accommodation options for tourists and pilgrims who visit this place. There are luxury hotels, budget hotels, mid-range hotels and lodges in Gaya. Some of the best and most popular hotels of Gaya are mentioned below:
- Hotel Virat Inn: opposite Gaya Railway Station, Contact 07541057106
- Ajatsatru Hotel: Front of Gaya Railway Station, Contact 06312222961
- Hotel Gharana Gaya: South Church Road, Contact 09430072305
- Hotel Saraogi: State Bus Stop, Contact 0631 222 2575
- Hotel Rose Valley: Station Road Gol Bagicha, Contact 0631 222 0958
- Hotel Surya: Surya Lane Lal kothi compound, Contact 077638 06661
Check out whether the hotel you have chosen accepts credit cards before you decide to check in