Buddhist Places of Interest in India
This article lists a few places connected with Buddha's life.
- Buddha's Life
- Important Places Associated With Buddhism in India
- 1. Kapilavastu/Piprahwa where Buddha was spent his childhood
- 2. Bodh Gaya in Bihar State where Buddha achieved Enlightenment
- 3. Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, where Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon
- 4. Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, the site of Parinirvana ('Final Nirvana')
The birth name of Buddha was Siddhartha, which means "he who has attained his goals." Siddartha was the prince of Kapilavastu, being the son of Queen Mahamaya and King Shuddhodana, the chief of the Sakya clan inhabiting today's Indo-Nepalese region.
How Siddhartha became Buddha, the 'awakened one', is an interesting story. Ordinary people live life as in a dream. Enlightenment is like waking up and experiencing a complete transformation of body and mind. Siddhartha transcended from the pain of suffering and rebirth to Nirvana, and experienced a sense of peace and a unique form of awareness or intelligence that is called bodhi in Buddhism.
Important Places Associated With Buddhism in India
Many historians consider Lumbini in Nepal to be the birth place of Buddha. The emperor Ashoka visited the site in 250 BC and a pillar was built to commemorate his visit. The inscription on the pillar records Ashoka's visit and mentions his ruling that since Lumbini was the birthplace of the Buddha, the village would be exempt from paying taxes and would only have to contribute one-eighth of its produce.
1. Kapilavastu/Piprahwa where Buddha was spent his childhood
In 563 BC. Queen Mahamaya traversed the distance of 15 km from Kapilavastu, to her parental home Lumbini in Nepal, where she gave birth to Siddhartha. Buddha spent 29 years of His early life in Kapilavastu and Lumbini.
The location of ancient Kapilavastu is still not unanimously accepted. Generally, Indian guidebooks consider today's Piprahwa village (110 km north of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh) to be the real Kapilavastu, while Nepalese guidebooks consider Tilaurakot to be the real Kapilavastu.
2. Bodh Gaya in Bihar State where Buddha achieved Enlightenment
Mahabodhi temple complex at Bodh Gaya has been declared a a World Heritage site in 2002 by UNESCO.
Mahabodhi temple is located on the Phalgu River, a tributary of the Ganga, 182 kilometres south of Patna, the capital of Bihar. Constructed by Ashoka, the temple houses the Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) under which Siddhartha attained Enlightenment and became Buddha.
Today the area within one kilometre of the Mahabodhi temple is dotted with several monasteries, such as the Indosan Nipponji Japanese Temple, which houses a Buddha image, at least three Tibetan monasteries, and a number of houses of worship maintained by Sri Lankan, Bhutanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Nepalese monks.
3. Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, where Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon
Sarnath is located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India. This is a place of importance to Jains, being the birth place of the eleventh Tirthankara. After attaining Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, Buddha came to Sarnath and delivered his first sermon to five disciples and laid the foundation of a new order of monks (Sangha).
Dhamekha Stupa is the most important structure at Sarnath. Inside the stupa, Colonel Cunningham discovered a stone tablet on which an inscription is written with the word Dhamekha, and mentions that this is the spot where the Buddha delivered his first sermon.
Dhamekha seems to be a distorted form of Dharma Chakra which means turning the wheel of the Dharma. Buddha had set the spiritual wheel in motion by showing people the way to truth and enlightened living.
4. Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, the site of Parinirvana ('Final Nirvana')
When Buddha reached His eighty-first year, he delivered his last sermons at the ancient city of Vaishali (55 kilometers from Patna, the state capital of Bihar) and announced his mahaparinirvana was to take place in Kushinagar
The main site at Kushinagar is the Mahaparinirvana Temple and the adjacent Nirvana Stupa.
Inside the temple is one of the world's most famous images of the Buddha, the Nirvana statue of the dying Buddha reclining on his right side. This powerful 6.1 meter sandstone statue dates from the 5th Century. There are three small carvings on the plinth on which the image rests. One is of a distraught woman, the centre one of a meditating monk and the right one of a monk with his head resting on his right hand overcome by grief.