Whether you’re a discerning traveller or a backpacker, the quaint town of Bodhgaya, about 30 km from Gaya should definitely be on your must-visit itinerary. Also Read - Bihar Artist Makes Sand Art Seeking Justice For Kerala Elephant, Calls the Incident a 'Blot on Humanity'
A small town in Bihar, Bodhgaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree 2600 years ago and became Buddha. So then unsurprisingly, it attracts thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world every year, who come for prayer, study and meditation. Additionally, the many monasteries and temples dotting the town, built in their national style by foreign Buddhist communities give the place an ambience of ethereal tranquility. Also Read - 'India is Beautiful When Flooded With Love': Mizoram CM And Netizens Laud Bihar Muslims For Kindness to Train Passengers
You can club your visit to Bodhgaya by visiting Nalanda University, that used to be one of the premier centres of learning in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 70km away. You could also check out the stunning tomb of Sher Shah Suri (again a two-hour drive from Bodhgaya), the Bihari Pashtun who defeated the Mughals and is best known for extending the Grand Trunk road from Chittagong to Kabul. Also Read - Bihar Triple Murder: Social Distancing Flouted as Cops Stop Tejashwi Yadav From Going to Gopalganj
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss in the tiny little comforting city of Bodhgaya:
Mahabodhi Temple Complex
The main Mahabodhi Temple Complex houses the famous Bodhi Tree and the temple, a 150m tall brick structure that date back to the Gupta period. This is where it all began over 2500 ago, when Prince Siddharta became Buddha – the ‘Awakened One’ – sparking a philosophy that spread through Asia and beyond like wildfire. The stupas and shrines here were built to commemorate the seven weeks the Buddha spent here. The complex is a place for quiet reflection and meditation. One can see people of all faiths scattered amongst the lawns or seated calmly in front of the tree at any given point in the day.
International monasteries and temples
The world’s fourth largest religion finds its epicentre in Bodhgaya, and several Buddhist countries like Bhutan, Vietnam, and China have built large monasteries and beautiful temples in their own inimitable style and form of worship. Some of these include the Royal Bhutan Temple with the typical red and gold architecture and stunning paintings; the stunning Palyul Thupten Choekhor Dargyeling Monastery with three massive gold statues; the massive Thai Temple with elegant gold rimmed rooftops and beautiful frescos; and the simpler Japanese and the new modest Mongolian temples.
Check out the Archaeological Museum and the grand Buddha Statue
This museum contains a number of (mostly headless) stone Buddhist sculptures dating from the 8th to 12th centuries, but the highlight here is the collection of 2000-year-old granite and sandstone railings and pillars rescued from the Mahabodhi Temple. Another interesting structure is the 25m tall statue of a seated Buddha in the middle of a lovely little garden that was unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1989.
Delectable Asian food
Bodhgaya serves the best Asian cuisine in the whole of country. The Asian food is authentic and largely homemade; be it thukpa, thentuk, momos and Chinese food, or roadside stalls serving Thai, Korean and Burmese curries. What makes it rather interesting is to see how the monks engage in lively discourse while eating. Some highly recommended cafes are Be Happy Café, Siam Thai, Alice in Gaya Café and Mohammed’s Restaurant.