6 Simple Ways to Sample Buddhism in Bodhgaya.

By Amrita Das.
Bodhgaya India, Buddhism India, gaya bihar

I took the longer route to Bodhgaya. Flew in to Patna, drove for 4 hours through thick winter fog and finally reached the sleepy town of Bodhgaya. When I stepped out for a short walk in the morning, I found myself confused. Had I reached Tibet instead of Bihar?

Bodhgaya attracts many Buddhists from different parts of the world. The Mahabodhi Temple is believed to be the place of Gautam Buddha's enlightenment, making it a sacred pilgrimage destination for his followers. And in a place which is brimming with the calming vibe of Buddhism, it is almost impossible not to feel affected deep within.  


Bodhgaya temple, bodhgaya, Bodhgaya photos
First glimpse of the Mahabodhi Temple.

As I entered the Mahabodhi Temple, I was impressed by it magnanimity. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is designed symmetrically, and a walk around it unfolds the history without throwing off the balance. Even with the influx of innumerable people, it never feels suffocating. And the atmosphere around it enchants its visitors.

On my first visit, I merely familiarized myself with the temple’s premises. But it was my second trip that I spent hours soaking it all in. I walked around, lit a lamp in the Butter Lamp House, fell in love with the Bodhi Tree, met followers who explained to me the significance of this place, and sat passively while hundreds of Buddhists chanted in synchronized melody. The chants from the temple continue to echo in my mind.


Buddhism India, Bodhgaya, Bodhgaya Bihar
Monks at the Mahabodhi temple.

The meditation park in Mahabodhi Temple is only for serious spiritual seekers. It is open from sunrise to sunset and allows visitors to meditate with a minimal entry fee. There was something serene about this place. Amongst two huge bells, green grass and the echoed chants, in no time I found myself somewhere in my subconscious mind.


Bodhgaya bihar, Bodhgaya buddha
The Great Buddha Statue.

The Great Buddha Statue looks substantial from the main gate. But as I started walking towards it, I realised how enormous it is!  This 80 feet tall statue is made up of sandstone bricks and marble and it shows Buddha in the meditation posture. Even though the statue is magnificent in its own stance, I was equally interested in the eight disciples on either side. 


Nalanda university, Bodhgaya bihar
Ruins of the dormitories, with space to sleep and keep books in the corners.

Believed to be one of the first centres of learning in the world, Nalanda University in Rajgir spreads over 14 hectares. It is located approximately 100 kms away from Bodhgaya. Historical studies show that Nalanda University rose to prominence in the 5th Century AD, and survived through three dynasties, including Harshavardhan's, the Buddhist emperor. It is also the place where Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang), the Chinese Buddhist monk and traveller stayed for twelve years.  

The ruins show how carefully the university was planned, with the monasteries and temples on either sides. The monasteries comprise halls where lectures were conducted, and dormitories for monks to sleep and study. Temple number 3, on the other side, is the most prominent, with three flights of stairs depicting the three out of seven phases in which it was constructed. The shrines and stupas around it can also be seen clearly.


Bodhgaya India, Bodhgaya photos, Bodhgaya blogs
A typical street scene.

Everything in Bodhgaya is tailored for travellers from various parts of Asia. This is great news for anyone who wants to buy Tibetan artefacts and silver jewellery. Most Indian travellers adore the various antique items that sprawl across the streets. From locks to clocks to good omen charms, everything can be found here. For more personalised things such as clothes, shoes and backpacks, the Tibetan flea markets are ideal. Under one roof, these markets are a compilation of stalls where a number of affordable and really chic garments can be purchased. Don’t forget to smile and bargain! 


Bodhgaya, Bodhgaya temple
Fragile displays of butter lamps around the Mahabodhi Temple.
The most popular of all Tibetan dishes are the yummy momos. Those served by the small food stalls opposite the Mahabodhi Temple are delicious. After some deep meditation, there is always time for soul food.


AUTHOR BIO: Perpetually bitten by the travel bug, Amrita has travelled across twenty states in India, and Nepal, Switzerland, Italy and Paris. She shares her experiences best through writing, photography and blogging. She engages in all types of outdoor adventure, explores the local way of life, listens to stories strangers tell her, and is a firm believer of serendipity and constant change. She tweets @Amrita_Dass and can be reached at amritadas15@gmail.com.


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