Known to be the playground of Gods, Uttar Pradesh boasts of a unique heritage and divine culture. There are many wonderful places here which have been drawing tourists and spiritual seekers for a long time. Though mostly known for Hindu temples and mysticism Uttar Pradesh has a deep connection to Buddhism. Sarnath and Kushinagar have an abiding link to the life of Gautama Buddha. Buddhist and seekers of religion have visited Uttar Pradesh since the ancient ages to visit Varanasi along with Sarnath and Kushinagar. The latter two places are quite close to the Nepal border and thus draw a lot of tourists from cross-border areas.
Buddhist in Uttar Pradesh
It is well known that Bihar was the seat of Gautam Buddha’s realization of the divine truth and many of its areas have different significant meanings for the Buddhists. It’s said that after attaining Nirvana…Lord Buddha meditated for seven whole weeks in the same spot and then began his journey towards Uttar Pradesh in quest of his fellow seekers. As soon his companions saw him they were struck by the glowing divinity on the face of Buddha. The Lord Buddha convinced his companions about the path of Knowledge and his famous concept of the middle path of life. His companions gained enlightenment and this first sermon laid the solid foundation of the Buddhist in Uttar Pradesh. The subsequent 45 years of the life of Gautam Buddha till the event of his Mahanirvana were spent in different areas of Uttar Pradesh.
It should be noted that numerous Indian rulers like Ashoka and Gupta (they belonged to the Mauryan clan) promoted Buddhism fully. Ashoka who used to be a valiant and fierce warrior was deeply influenced by the teachings of Buddha and reincarnated himself as a saint and seeker of peace after his conversion to Buddhism. Emperor Ashoka was responsible for erecting the Dharma inscriptions of Buddhism on the pillars and rocks on various areas of U.P. He also built stupas and temples but many of these were destroyed by the Turks and Arabs who invaded these lands in the 12th century. In the 19th century to 20th century Buddhism, as a religion was again revived in India and Uttar Pradesh, was made a prominent spiritual destination.
Important Buddhist Pilgrimage Spots
Sarnath: – Very close to the Hindu holy destination Varanasi, Sarnath is on the must visit the list of most Buddhists over the world. Sarnath is the seat of the Dharmachakra Pravartan that’s the first sermon of Buddha. As mentioned earlier this sermon contained advice on following the middle path. The trinity jewels of Buddhism i.e. Buddham Saranam Gachchami, Dharmam Saranam Gacchami, and Sangham Saranam Gacchami have all originated from this first sermon. The holy Dhamekha Stupa, Ashoka Pillar and many other monasteries and stupas add to the list of attractions in Sarnath.
Kushinagar: – Ever since the 5th century when Buddha attained the state of Mahaparinirvana in Kushinagar nears the river of Hiranyavati in Uttar Pradesh, Kushinagar has been one of the most sought-after destinations for Buddhists. Post the demise of Gautama Buddha the whole village was turned into a memorial ground filled with Buddhist imagery, holy relics, and writings of the Buddha. There was once a towering statue of Buddha in Kushinagar which was excavated in the year 1876 Ancient texts says that this statue was built to mark the earthly farewell of Buddha.
Sankassa: – Located in the heart of Uttar Pradesh near the famous Farrukhabad Sankassa is the area where Indra and Brahma descended on earth after Gautama Buddha was seen delivering sermons to his mother. A famous Pillar of Ashoka and a beautiful Buddha temple is situated at Sankassa.
Kaushambi: – The ancient Kaushambi city is now mostly in ruins but it was once a prominent seat of Buddhism…especially in the 6th and 9th year of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Many sermons were preached by the Buddha here and the common folks of Sravasti used to congregate here a large number of them converted to Buddhism subsequently. Kaushambi is now a site that’s recognized by the archaeological survey of India as an important site. The ruined treasures like Ashokan pillar, ancient fortress and Ghasitaram monastery are a reminder of the glorious past of Kaushambi.
Sravasti: – The small town of Sravasti was home to Buddha for nearly 24 years. This town has the Jetavana Garden the famous dwelling place of the Lord Buddha. The town also witnessed many miracles performed by the Buddha and has the Ananda Bodhi tree, sacred Jetavana Garden, ruins of holy huts and stupas which were blessed by the Buddha.
Famous Monuments of Buddhism in Uttar Pradesh
Stupa of Dhamekha, Sarnath: – Also referred to as the holy seat of the Buddha the Dhamekha stupa is the structure where Gautama Buddha delivered his first ever sermon to his disciples.
Pillar of Ashoka, Sarnath: – This is a testament to the first visit of Ashoka to Sarnath. The pillar has the gorgeous lion emblem which is now recognized as the official emblem of India.
Dharmarajika Stupa, Sarnath: – One of the most sacred structures recognized by Buddhists the Dharmarajika stupa was built by Ashoka to immortalized the remains of Lord Buddha.
Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kushinagar: – The serene temple of Mahaparinirvana sits inside a luxuriant Sal grove and is dedicated to the attainment of Mahaparinirvana of the Lord Buddha. The temple has a huge 6 meters statue that shows the Lord Buddha in his last moments on earth. The lord is shown reclining on his right side with his face facing the west.
Stupa of Nirvana Kushinagar: – The stupa of Nirvana is also called the Ramabhar Stupa. It’s a gigantic brick structure that’s about 2.74 meters and it’s made on the exact spot where Buddha was cremated.
Ruins of Kaushambi, Kaushambi: – The old ruins of Kaushambi in Uttar Pradesh showed the presence of a big Buddhist site that’s full of stupas, sculptures, pillars, and monasteries. It is said that Lord Buddha visited this site twice and also preached many sermons here.
Jetavana Vihara, Sravasti: – The famous Jetavana Vihara in Sravasti is one of the most famous Buddhist sites in Uttar Pradesh this was the chosen dwelling place of Buddha who spent 24 years here.
Famous Tourist Attractions in Uttar Pradesh
Agra: – Well known as the seat of the famous Taj Mahal, Agra is a city steeped in rich history. There are forts, cemeteries, and tombs here which are reminiscent of the Mughal architectural style. A huge number of tourists travel to Uttar Pradesh to view its architectural marvels and shop for leather footwear.
Lucknow: – Lucknow is the state capital of Uttar Pradesh and is sprawled on both sides of the beautiful Gomti River. The legends of the Nawabs, their music and arts, beautiful jewelry and the antique art of Lucknow Chikankari add to the charm of Lucknow. The etiquette of Lucknow and its royal cuisine are big crowd pullers tourists come here to imbibe the atmosphere of this place and tour its monuments, gardens, and relics of Nawabi splendor.
Varanasi/Benaras: – The Hindu temple town of Varanasi/Banaras has an aura of its own. Scores of temples line its beautiful yet direct ghats and its artisans make some of the most beautiful cloth in the world (the exquisitely embroidered Banarasi saree is world famous). The paan betel leaf concoction of Benaras is another claim to fame while music lovers all across the world refer to the Banaras Gharana as the epitome of fine practices of classical music.
Vrindavan & Mathura: – Both Mathura and Vrindavan are a part of the rich holy heritage of Hindus. While Mathura was the birthplace of Krishna (one of the avatars of Vishnu) it is also the epicenter of the Holy Braj Bhoomi. There are lovely ghats here which bear testimony to the innocent pranks of Krishna in his childhood and the ruins of the temples here are filled with eternal devotion to Krishna.
Vrindavan is just 15 km away from Mathura and is yet another important Hindu Pilgrimage center. Vrindavan is a romantic place filled with stories of the love between Radha and Krishna and their Raas Leela. Vrindavan is filled with Radha Krishna temples.
Famous Monuments of Uttar Pradesh
Taj Mahal, referred to as the symbol of love was built by Shah Jahan in his wife (Mumtaz’s) memory. It’s a huge tourist draw and attracts many foreign tourists the Taj is commonly referred to as the 8th wonder of the world.
Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar who wanted to honor Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti. The architecture here is interesting it combines the Hindu and Muslim elements. The month of Ramzan attracts many tourists who come here to seek the blessings of the saint.
Agra Fort, it’s a gigantic red sandstone fort that contains many palaces and halls. The lovely Yamuna flows nearby and adds to the grandeur of the fort.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is an ode to Lord Shiva and is also referred to as the Golden temple. There is a Shivalinga inside the temple that’s known as one of the 12 holy jyotirlingas.
Ghats of Varanasi are stretched over 4 km along the Ganges and represent a cultural melting pot. The evening aarti here is divine with melodious songs sung to the Goddess Durga. It said that cremation of one’s body in Varanasi leads to the attainment of Nirvana.
The Bara Imambara of Lucknow is ancient it was built in 1784. It’s imposing structure and unique architecture attracts a lot of visitors.
Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi is one of the holiest places for Hindus in India. This represents the spot where Krishna was born in the womb of Devaki who was imprisoned by her brother the evil Kansa.
Weather in Uttar Pradesh
The climate here is tropical monsoon but there is a lot of altitude variation and so the weather varies too. Winters happened between mid-November to January and the temperature can dip to 4 degrees. The summers are quite hot with the temperature reaching 45 degrees in some spots. Monsoons are from July to September and the eastern area of Uttar Pradesh has heavier rainfall than the other zones.
October to march is an ideal period for visiting Uttar Pradesh.
How to Reach Uttar Pradesh
By Air: 4 major domestic airports exist here Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur, and Varanasi. All 4 airports are well connected with flights from all major Indian cities.
By Rail: major railway stations are in Mughalsarai, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Agra etc and all of these are majorly well connected to other important stations in India.
By Road: NH 3, 7, 11, 19, 25 & 28 connect important parts of UP to different parts of India. The state enjoys good connections with Kanyakumari in south, Punjab in north, Patna in east and Bikaner in west.