India is where Buddhism was born, with the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha and the work of monks and emperors who followed the faith. Over the centuries since its birth, India has seen several Buddhist temples and monasteries built. Some of them have been destroyed by invaders or have fallen to the ravages of time. Some have been forgotten, but there are a few temples and monasteries that have become famous pilgrimage sites. On the occasion of Buddha Purnima 2017, which falls on 10th May this year and celebrates the birth of the Buddha, visit these temples and monasteries to take part in or witness the rituals unique to the festival. ALSO READ: Buddha Purnima 2017 in India: Date, significance and celebration of Gautama Buddhas birth anniversary
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The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar is one of the four holiest sites of Buddhism in the world. The temple grounds are home to the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, which is why this place is considered the point of origin for the Buddhist faith. Prayers are offered at the temple on Buddha Purnima, and the temple has a unique atmosphere during the festival. Steeped in a rich variety of stories and customs and boasting of some incredible architectural beauty, the Mahabodhi Temple is the first place to consider spending Buddha Purnima. Also Read - Buddha Purnima 2017: Buddha images from monasteries and temples across India
Prayer Hall at Tawang Monastery
The Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh is actually the largest in India and the second largest in the world, after the Potala Palace. Lying in the valley of Tawang River, the monastery is also called Galden Namgey Lhatse and is considered the crowning glory of Tibetan Buddhism in India. It was formed in 1860, and lies around 10,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by the Tawang-Chu valley. The monastery is home to over 300 monks and is the spiritual center of the Tawang region. There are several structures within the monastery worth exploring, especially the massive Dukhang assembly hall with its magnificent works of art and paintings of Bodhisattvas and saints. Also Read - Buddha Purnima 2017: PM Modi, President Mukherjee greet people on the auspicious day
The Thikse Monastery lies around 18 km from Leh, on a hill north of the Indus River. Built in 1430 CE, the monastery is run by the Gelugpa Buddhist order and is the largest monastery in the Ladakh region. Its size and similarity to the massive Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet are what make it so popular. The 12-storey structure consists of 10 temples, including one for the Goddess Dorje Chenmo, and an assemble hall, and is home to 120 monks. A 40-foot tall statue of the Maitreya covers nearly two storeys of the monastery complex, which was built in 1430 CE.
The Namgyal Monastery in Mcleodganj, Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh is the abode of the current Dalai Lama and was built following his exile. Home to nearly 200 monks, the Namgyal Monastery represents all four major Tibetan Buddhist schools and is one of the key attractions in Dharamsala. It forms part of the larger Tsuglagkhang temple complex, which also includes the Tsuglagkhang Temple and Kalchakra Temple. Tsuglagkhang is, in fact, the main Tibetan temple here. The complex is also home to the Tibet Museum, where you get a greater understanding of the culture and history of the Tibetans and their struggles today.
Old Ghoom Monastery near Darjeeling
Located around 8 km from Darjeeling in West Bengal is the Yiga Choeling Monastery, also called the Ghum Monastery. The place also follows the Gelugpa like the Thiksey Monastery in Leh. This is the oldest Buddhist monastery in the region, having been built in 1850. There are, in fact, two monasteries nearby that are called Ghum, with this one being the old or original Ghum monastery. The key attraction here is a 15-foot tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha, one of the biggest and oldest in Darjeeling. Made with clay that was supposedly from Tibet, the statue has two massive oil lamps that burn throughout the year. ALSO READ: Buddha Purnima 2017: 12 famous Buddhist caves in Maharashtra
The popular Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun district, Uttarakhand, is modeled after one of the six main monasteries of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The original monastery, which lies in Tibet, was founded in 1676. After the Tibetan exodus that began in 1959, the Mindrolling Monastery in exile was built in Clement Town, Dehradun, showing us a glimpse of the splendor that is now in Tibet. Lying near the Rajaji National Park, the Mindrolling Monastery today is a major attraction and an architectural marvel, with an incredible 107-feet tall statue of Buddha and shrines with hand-painted murals and Rupas.
Golden statue of Gautam Buddha in Monastery in Bylakuppe
The Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysuru district in Karnataka is famous for a lot of reasons. For one, it is the largest teaching center of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The massive complex includes a hospital, a religious college, and a home for 5,000 monks and nuns. Built in 1963, the monastery and its golden temple boast of incredibly intricate architecture and gold carvings in its prayer halls. There are two gold statues of the Buddha here that leave everyone spellbound by their majesty. The Namdroling Monastery is a great place to celebrate Buddha Purnima and the Tibetan New Year, which is when you can witness traditional Lama Dances and processions.
Reclining Buddha gold statue at the Mahaparinirvana Temple
The Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh is famed for its massive statute of a reclining Buddha. The statue dates back to the 5th century CE, but it was only discovered in 1876. With a length of 6 feet, the statue was carved out of Chunar sandstone and features an inscription that shows when it was built. Surrounding the temple are excavated ruins of the ancient structure and lawns. The temple as seen today was rebuilt in 1927, and monks serving here drape the statue with a saffron silk sheet during sunsets.
Wat Thai Temple
Nine tops Pagoda, Wat Thai Temple
Another temple in the town of Kushinagar, the Wat Thai Temple is a more elaborate and modern setup than the Mahaparinirvana Temple mentioned above. Built in the style of Thai Buddhist architecture, the temple is run on the patronage of the Royal Thai Embassy in New Delhi and the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Kolkata. The massive and elaborate temple features large gardens with bonsai trees, a monastery and a gilded Buddha statue within the main temple. A Sunday school and health clinic across the street are also part of the temple services, along with accommodation that is only for Thai citizens.
Located around 24 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, the Rumtek Monastery or Dharmachakra Center has a history tracing back to the 1700s. After its construction, the monastery eventually fell into ruin until it was restored by the 16th Karmapa Lama, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje following his exile from Tibet in 1959. Featuring sacred relics from the famed Tsurphu Monastery, the Rumtek Monastery offers incredible views of Gangtok town on the opposite hill. Built to mirror the original Tsurphu Monastery, the Rumtek Monastery is an excellent example of Tibetan Buddhist architecture. NOW SEE Buddha Purnima 2017 in West Bengal: Gautama Buddhas birth anniversary celebration in Darjeeling and Kalimpong
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