Bodh-gayā

(‘Gayā [where Buddha attained] bodhi [or enlightenment]’)

Bodh-gayā or Buddha-gayā is one of the most holy places of pilgrimage for the Buddhists. It is here that the prince Siddhārtha Gautama attained ‘bodhi’ or spiritual enlightenment and became the Buddha.

This place is situated at a distance of ten kilometers (6.5 miles) from Gayā, the well-known place of Hindu pilgrimage. The chief attractions of this place are the peepul tree (Bodhi tree) (See BODHIVṚKṢA for details.) and the Buddha temple. The temple is 15 metres (50 ft.) square and the total height is 48 metres (160 ft.). There is a beautiful image of Buddha as also of Māyādevī (Buddha’s mother). Though tradition ascribes the building of this temple to Aśoka (272-232 B. C.), the present one may have been built after the 7th century A.D. and altered several times. The existing one may have been a rebuilt structure of the 19th century.

An edict of Aśoka is found in a cave nearby. The Buddhist Vihāra he is said to have built does not exist now, though its remnants are found here and there near the Bodhi tree.

Hiuen Tsang (7th cent. A. D.) had visited this place and has left a nice description of the same.