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 f...
Gaya, or the revered Gaya Kshetra, is more than a city – it’s a haven for the spirits of Lord Buddha and Lord Vishnu, drawing devotees and wanderers from every corner of the globe. There are many heritage and spiritual sites in Gaya to explore and be immersed in the very soul of Gaya.
The city’s name echoes the presence of Gayasura, a giant figure from the mighty Asura lineage and a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Stories resonate through the streets, and legend has it that even the great Lord Rama chose this sacred city for the profound ritual of Pind Daan at Ramshila.
In this blog, we will show you some top tourist destinations to visit in Gaya. These destinations offer not just a peek into history but also a blissful experience of the serene ambiance and spiritual vibrations that weave through Gaya’s Air.
List of the 23 Best Places to Visit in Gaya
1. Vishnupad Temple
Vishnupad Temple is one of the most popular spiritual destinations to visit in Gaya. The temple is a blissful abode of Lord Vishnu. It is believed to showcase a 40-cm-long footprint of Lord Vishnu in a basalt rock. According to an old legend, there was a giant named Gayasura who was killed by Lord Vishnu by stamping his foot on his chest. It was his footprint which is still intact in the rock.
Located on the serene banks of the Falgu River, thousands of devotees come to Gaya to get divine blessings from Lord Vishnu. Vishnupad Temple is a significant site of Hindu worship. In the courtyard of the temple, there are other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Narasimha. Devotees also seek their blessings.
2. Mangala Gauri Temple
Adorned as a jewel atop the Gauri Hill is the divine abode of Goddess Mangala Gauri. It is one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas (divine sites where the body parts of goddess Sati fell). It is believed that the breasts of the goddess Shakti fell here. From then on, Goddess Mangala Gauri is worshiped in the form of breasts as the source of divine nourishment.
During Monsoon months, on every Tuesday women fast for their husband’s success and fame. They offer 16 types of bangles, varieties of fruits, and five types of sweets to the goddess. Also, an idol is bathed in milk, curd, and water and then decorated in red cloth, Vermilion, henna, and kohl. There is a temple of Bhima, one of the five Pandavas brothers near the Mangala Gauri Temple. Devotees who worship the goddess also visit Bhim Temple to pay their respects.
3. Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple (The Great Awakening Temple) is a prominent UNESCO World Heritage site and an integral part of Buddhist heritage. Stands in the east of the Mahabodhi tree, the temple is a site where it is said to have attained enlightenment. The temple is one of the four Holy sites related to the life and times of Lord Buddha. It rises to a height of 52m. Visiting the temple is a wholesome experience. There are beautiful engravings and arch motifs on its tower (Shikhara). Here Lord Buddha is worshiped in Bhumisparsha Mudra, with one finger touching the earth, asking it to witness his enlightenment. One cannot miss the captivating sight of blooming Lotus flowers in a pond near the temple. It is indeed a wonderful visual spectacle.
4. Dungeshwari Cave Temple
Dungeshwari Aka Mahakala Caves is one of the most popular diving destinations to visit in Gaya. It is said to be the sacred realm of Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha is believed to have meditated in these caves for six years before he went to Bodh Gaya to achieve enlightenment.
A golden emaciated sculpture of Buddha displaying his rigid penance is enshrined in one of the cave temples. The caves also have Hindu shrines, one of the cave temples is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Dungeshwari.
5. Bodhi Tree
On the left of the sacred Mahabodhi Temple is a blissful sanctuary of peace and meditation named Bodhi Tree. You must have seen many Buddhist monks sitting in peace, meditating, or reading. The Bodhi Tree marks the space where the original Bodhi Tree once stood, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
If you want to see the glory of this sacred Tree then you must visit here during December. Every year on 8th December, Buddhist followers celebrate Bodhi Day to celebrate Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. This is probably the fifth Succession of the original Bodhi Tree. It is said that the original Bodhi Tree is still alive in Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura. The daughter of Emperor Ashok Sanghamitra planted the sapling taken from the original Bodhi tree from Bodhgaya to Sri Lanka.
6. Akshay Vat
Akshay Vat (Banyan Tree) is believed to be the oldest standing tree on Earth. Mentioned in many religious texts, it held a very significant place in the hearts of devotees. According to a legend, Akshay Vat was blessed by goddess Sita to never shed a leaf in any season and remain immortal. There are many interesting stories associated with Akshay Vat.
It is said that Lord Narayana once flooded the earth to display his powers to sage Markandeya, and the only tree that was not submerged was Akshay Vat. Once upon a time, the tree was the resting place of Lord Rama. In Jain texts, it is mentioned that Akshay Vat was the meditation spot of a Jain Tirthankar Rishabha.
7. Sita Kund
On the serene banks of river Falgu, lies the sacred Sita Kund showering divine blessings to the devotees. It is said that Sita Kund is a spot where goddess Sita performed the ritual of Pinda-Daan for King Dasharatha. According to local beliefs, in this place, goddess Sita took a bath before going to exile for 14 years with Lord Rama. Sita Kund nourishes the soul to a whole new level with its sacred vibes and tranquil surroundings.
8. Ramshila Hill
The aura of Lord Rama is still intact in Ramshila Hill. It is believed that Lord Rama offered Pind-Daan on this hill, which is also the reason why it is named Ramshila. There is a temple of Ramesvara dedicated to Lord Rama, originally built in 1014 AD. Devotees from all across India offer Pind-Daan to their ancestors at the Pavilion in front of the temple. The temple also houses the idols of goddess Sita and Lord Lakshmana. Apart from Ram Temple, devotees also visit the sacred Shiva Temple which is believed to be around 300 years old. The shiv ling of the temple is made of rock crystal stone. The temple also houses a five feet high idol of Lord Ganesha, made of impure coral.
Located 10 km away from Ramshila lies the abode of Lord Yama, the God of death in Pretshila. The temple of Lord Yama is the center of attraction, built by Ahilya Bai, the queen of Indore in 1787 which is famous for its architecture and sculptures. She wanted to pacify a spirit that haunted this place. Apart from the temple, one must visit the sacred Ram Kund which is believed to be the spot where Lord Rama once bathed. Devotees take a holy dip for salvation.
10. Falgu River
There is a very interesting story associated with the Falgu River. Falgu River is said to be running under the riverbed due to the curse of Goddess Sita. During exile, Lord Rama and his wife decided to offer Pind-Daan in the River. So, Lord Rama went to arrange for necessary provisions. Goddess Sita was waiting on the banks of the Falgu River when in Ram’s absence, his ancestors asked for offerings without delay. She did not have anything so she offered them sand from the River bank to help them achieve salvation. But Sita feared that Lord Rama wouldn’t believe her, so she made a cow, a sacrificial fire, river Falgu, a Brahman, and a tree as witnesses.
All the witnesses except the tree lied as they hoped Lord Rama would make another round of offerings. An angry goddess Sita cursed them all including River Falgu who was condemned to run below the earth’s surface to hide her head in shame for lying.
11. Chinese Temple and Monastery
The Chinese Temple and Monastery is a marvelous piece of architecture built with the collaboration of the Chinese government by Chinese monks in 1945. There are three beautiful golden statues of Lord Buddha which are the center of attractions of this place. If you want to see the monastery in its full glory then you can visit here during the festival of Buddha Jayanti. The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Buddha. Thousands of monks and followers of Buddha from across the globe come here to celebrate Buddha Jayanti.
12. Great Buddha Statue
Standing at a height of 25m, The Great Buddha Statue is a sight of divine bliss. It is one of the largest Buddha Statues in India. The statue of Lord Buddha sitting on a lotus in a meditative pose. It was consecrated on Nov 18, 1989. The ceremony was attended by the 14th Dalai Lama who blessed the site with his sacred vibes. Pilgrims from across the globe come here to dive deep into the ethereal charm of Lord Buddha.
13. Sujata Garh
The ancient stupa Sujata Garh is a place where Lord Buddha meditated once upon a time. It is a canvas for the solace seekers. According to a legend lady Sujata, a cow-herder offered Buddha a bowl of rice when she saw him extremely weak due to severe fasting. The meal gave Buddha immense strength and inspired him to follow the middle path as he realized the futility of self-deprivation. Thus, the place is known as Sujata Garh. One must also visit the Sujata Kuti lying along the Falgu River which was the house of Sujata.
14. Monasteries of Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya, a spiritual haven, hosts diverse Buddhist monasteries established by various nations. Among them, the Thai Monastery stands out with its captivating architecture and gilded roof. Housing a Thai temple and a majestic 25-meter-tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha, it holds a unique prominence. The Bhutanese Monastery recognized for its opulent adornments, depictions of Bhutanese monarchs, and distinctive 3D frescoes, serves as another notable landmark. Situated near the Mahabodhi Temple, the Tibetan Monastery showcases an intricate statue of the Maitreya Buddha. Additionally, the Tergar Monastery, constructed in Tibetan style, aligns with the Karmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism and offers another intriguing stop on this spiritual journey.
15. Baba Koteshwarnath Temple
Baba Koteshwarnath Temple stands at the convergence of the Morhar and Dargha rivers. Renowned for its sacred Lord Shiva Temple, this ancient site, approximately 90 km south of Patna, is said to date back to the 8th century AD. Crafted from a single piece of red stone, the sanctum of Koteshwarnath temple houses a sizable Shivalinga surrounded by 1,008 miniature Shivlingas, all created over 1,200 years ago.
Legend has it that Vanasur’s Main and Dev Kund were nestled in a deep forest. Usha, who frequented the temple for prayers, received a divine message from Lord Shiva, instructing her to establish a Sahastralinga to fulfill her wishes. Usha followed the guidance and, as a result, was granted her wish-marriage to Aniruddha, Lord Krishna’s grandson.
Formerly known as “Shiv Nagar,” the site earned its reputation in ancient times. The Sahastra Shivling idol is said to have been established by Usha at the end of Dwapara Yuga. Pilgrims believe that visiting this sacred place can fulfill their wishes. Each year, especially during the month of Saawan, devotees flock to the temple to offer prayers.
16. Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple
Constructed in 1972 through collaboration with global Buddhist communities, the Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple stands as a splendid testament to both Japanese architectural finesse and Buddhist Heritage. Crafted intricately from wood, it mirrors the elegance of a traditional Japanese shrine. Situated approximately 15 km from the city center, this temple in Bodh Gaya is a revered destination. Its inception aimed at preserving and disseminating the teachings of Buddhism and the principles of Lord Buddha, evident in the inscriptions adorning its walls.
Nestled within the temple, the gallery unfolds a narrative of Japanese paintings illustrating pivotal moments in Buddha’s life. Beyond a mere structure, this temple serves as a pivotal repository for those eager to delve into the richness of Buddhist culture. A visit to the Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple is an indispensable experience for those seeking to deepen their understanding of Buddhism.
17. Bodhgaya Multimedia Museum
Embark on a mesmerizing journey at this unique museum, where the life of Lord Buddha comes to life through captivating 3D animation movies. Immerse yourself in a comprehensive exploration divided into four engaging sections, each unveiling a different aspect – from the historical backdrop to the geographical context and the profound thoughts of Lord Buddha. This immersive experience is designed to offer a vivid and interesting portrayal of Buddha’s life, from his early years to the transformative moment of attaining nirvana. Get ready for an enlightening adventure that combines education with the allure of innovative storytelling.
18. Muchalinda Lake
The Muchalinda Sarovar, situated in Bodh Gaya, holds immense sacred significance. This hallowed site marks the location where Lord Buddha dedicated the sixth consecutive week to meditation following his enlightenment. Legend has it that during Buddha’s meditation, a powerful storm erupted, and witnessing him getting drenched, the Serpent King Muchalinda emerged from the lake to shield Buddha from the rain.
Referred to as the Lotus Pond, Muchalinda Sarovar houses an idol of Lord Buddha in a meditative pose, depicting the transformative moment. Additionally, the serene lake is home to various fish, adding to the picturesque allure for the visiting tourists who delight in the blooming scenery.
19. Archaeological Museum Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum is a hidden gem adjacent to the renowned Mahabodhi Temple. There are many interesting things to see here. Unearth the mystique of ancient terracotta items, 1st-century sculptures, and silver-gold idols of Hindu deities. You can immerse yourself in the Dashavatar gallery, a captivating journey through Lord Vishnu’s incarnations. The museum’s vast collection, spanning Mauryan to Gupta periods, and Mughal-era coins, provides a riveting glimpse into India’s historical tapestry. As a traveller, you’ll find this site not just a visual feast but a profound exploration of cultural richness.
20. Root Institute of Wisdom Culture
Nestled near Bodhgaya in Bihar, India, the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture is a tranquil oasis where history and spirituality converge. Surrounded by the sacred sites associated with Lord Buddha’s life and teachings, including the Mahabodhi Stupa, the institute offers pilgrimages, Buddhist courses, and yoga retreats from October to March. The Stupa Garden of Compassion provides a secluded space for individual and group retreats. Whether you seek spiritual enrichment or simply a peaceful escape, Root Institute invites travellers to immerse themselves in a relaxed and serene atmosphere.
21. Tibetan Refugee Market
The Tibetan Refugee Market, positioned 500 meters away from Bodhgaya Bus Station in Bihar, stands as a vibrant shopping hub for enthusiasts. Nestled opposite Bodhgaya Bus Stand, this market, flanking the northern side of the Mahabodhi Temple, operates seasonally from November to March. Known for warm clothing and textiles, it caters to both locals and travellers, offering an array of items from budget-friendly to luxurious.
This bustling market is a treasure trove for souvenir seekers in Bodhgaya. The lively atmosphere, adorned with exotic Tibetan and Chinese food stalls, adds to its charm. Visitors can explore an assortment of handicraft articles reflecting Tibetan faith, including intricately crafted statues of Lord Buddha in materials like sandalwood and metal.
Run predominantly by individuals from Tibetan culture, the market invites engaging bargaining sessions, creating an enjoyable interaction between sellers and buyers. A visit to the Tibetan Refugee Market is a shopping experience and a cultural immersion, making it an essential and lively part of Bodhgaya’s offerings.
22. Archaeological Society of India
The Archaeological Society of India Museum, established in 1956, proudly hosts an impressive collection of Buddhist and Hindu relics primarily from the Pala period (8th to 12th centuries). Nestled within the Mahabodhi Temple complex, the museum comprises two galleries, an open courtyard, and two verandahs adorned with diverse antiques. You will see the treasure trove of bronze statues, terracotta items, Lord Buddha’s images, and stone sculptures. There are many beautiful pillars, railings, panels, rods, and plaques. The second gallery unveils the majestic Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu and offers insights into the Dasavatara (10-avatar) incarnation. This museum serves as a beacon, simplifying research and enhancing comprehension of Bodh Gaya’s profound history and the opulence of Buddhist culture.
23. Meditation Park
In the southeastern vicinity of the Mahabodhi Temple lies the recently established Meditation Park which is a serene sanctuary adorned with meditation huts, communal spaces for congregation and discussions, and two sizable prayer bells. For anyone who loves solace and meditation, this tranquil haven, featuring water fountains and a picturesque lotus pond, offers respite from the bustling town and encourages the visitors to engage in meditation from the break of dawn until sunset.
As travellers immerse themselves in the spiritual ambiance and historical wonders, Gaya becomes not just a destination but a transformative experience, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of those who venture into its sacred embrace. So, don’t wait. Pack your bags for a wholesome Gaya Trip.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. Why Is Gaya Famous?
Ans. Gaya is famous for its cultural and religious significance. It is one of the most, popular pilgrimage sites for Hindus who perform Pind Daan which is a ritual for the salvation of ancestors. Moreover, there are many temples and spiritual heritage sites in Gaya. If someone is spiritually inclined then Gaya’s ambiance will the soul.
Q2. Why Is It Important To Do Pind Daan In Gaya?
Ans. If one wants to bring peace and salvation to the souls of one’s ancestors then it is very important to do Pind-Daan in Gaya. Pind Daan in Gaya is very crucial to Hindu traditions. According to Hindu tradition, Gaya is considered a sacred place where the performance of Pind Daan is said to ensure the spiritual well-being and liberation of departed souls.
Q3. Is Gaya Safe At Night?
Ans. Due to the presence of pilgrims and tourists, Gaya is a safe place to explore destinations on your own. As for safety at night, like any city, it’s advisable to take standard precautions. It’s recommended to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
Q4. What Is The Distance From Gaya To Bodhgaya?
Ans. The distance from Gaya to Bodhgaya is approximately 15 kilometers.
Q5. Gaya vs. Bodh Gaya Which Is Best?
Ans. Gaya and Bodhgaya serve different purposes; Gaya is known for its Hindu rituals, while Bodhgaya holds immense importance in Buddhism as the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. The choice between them depends on one’s religious or cultural preferences.