With more than 500 million followers, the 4th largest religion in the world at present, Buddhism took birth in ancient India around the old kingdom of Magadha. It is known as Bihar at present. Although Buddhism is commonly practiced in the Himalayan regions like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, etc. yet there are many pilgrimage sites of religious significance to Buddhism in India.
Here are some of the Buddhist holy places in India & the places of religious significance in Indian history.
1. Lumbini- the birthplace of Gautama Buddha
Situated close to the India-Nepal border, Lumbini is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage places in World. It is the birth land of Gautama Buddha’s and a Famous World Heritage Site in Nepal.
One can visit several monuments. Temples & monasteries here include Japanese Peace Stupa, the Lumbini Museum, Buddhist temples of 2nd century BCE, and various others.
2. Bodhgaya – the land of Nirvana
The holy site situated in Bihar, where Prince Siddhartha, aka Gautama Buddha, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. He became Buddha, i.e., the god of Buddhist people around 2600 years ago. That Mahabodhi tree also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 & now is one of the best Buddhist pilgrimage places in India.
Bodhgaya, along with Sarnath & Kushinagar, are considered as the most pious cities for the Buddhists around the country. Famous for Buddha, Mahabodhi tree, the major attraction here is the Mahabodhi Temple or the Vishal Buddha Mandir that has a giant statue of Buddha in the state of deep meditation.
The religious place of great prominence was once the capital of Shakyas. Kapilavatthu, or else called Kapilavastu, is a prominent Buddhist pilgrimage site in India. It is popularly believed that before leaving out the material world and transforming from Prince Siddhartha to Gautama Buddha, he spent at least 29 years of his life here at Kapilavastu.
The place has immense no. of historical importance with several stupas, and in archaeological excavations, stone caskets residue believed to be of Buddha has been found.
A well-known place in Uttar Pradesh as it happens to be a very popular Buddhist place in all over the country. Located around 330 km away from Lucknow, this place was earlier known as the ancient capital of the Kosala kingdom. Popular stupas like ‘Kacchi Kuti’ & ‘Pakki Kuti’ can also be found here. One of the largest ancient cities during the lifetime of Buddha is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site in India, where the Lord Buddha spent most of his time after enlightenment. This religious site has an interesting story to tell:
The ‘Twin Miracle’ was said to have occurred here where the Buddha emitted flames from the upper part of his body and water from the lower. Interesting religious places where visitors can go & experience the Buddhists life are Anathapindika and Angulimala Stupas, Jetavana Monastery, and Anandabodhi Tree.
In the ancient city of Shravasti or Savatthi, the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma was delivered to an audience of bodhisattvas. During the life period of Gautama Buddha, Shravasti was counted among one of the six largest cities in India. Jetavana monastery, the most famous Buddhist monastery in India, where Buddha gave the majority of his teachings and discourses, is also located here.
The oldest city of Bihar, which has now become an archaeological site in India, is famous for a great reason. This is because Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon before his death in 483 BC. After the abdication, his spiritual training began here. And probably, here is the place where he began the first woman disciple Gautami into his order. The popular city also contains the best-preserved pillars of great ruler Ashoka, which is topped by an Asiatic lion over it.
Another second is that the place fosters prime significance as an important historical, cultural, traditional as well as Buddhist religious place in India. In 383 BC, the second Buddhist council also took place here. Also, this ancient city was considered as the earliest example of a republic. At present, the city has some remnant shrines & stupas where one can easily find beautiful Ashokan pillars to date.
6. Kushinagar-the place of Mahaparinirvana
Known as Kushavati in ancient times, Kushinagar is where Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. It occurs upon the death of someone’s body that has attained Nirvana during his or her whole lifetime. Many of the ruins of stupas here are dated as early as the 3rd and 5th centuries B.C.
Situated at a distance of 53km away from Gorakhpur, it is the place where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana-the highest stage of salvation. It is widely believed that Lord Buddha attained salvation here.
Considered as one of the four holiest Buddhist pilgrimage places in India, which is located at a small distance of about 13 km north-east of the holy city Varanasi. Buddha set the motion of the wheel of Dharma and also taught four noble truths and its teachings in Sarnath. It is the place of religious importance which houses the famous Ashokan Pillar skyrocketed with Ashokan Lion Capital. From this, the national symbol on the Indian flag & the National Emblem of India gains prominence.
8. Rajgir-the place of Jainism, Buddhism & serenity
Set amidst the green valley, which is covered by rocky hills, it is a religious town with natural serenity amongst enigmatic caves, mesmerizing springs & dense forests. The place is famous for hot water springs, which are also known as Brahmakund, Rajgir, or Rajgriha in Bihar, is the place where the second turning wheel of Dharma is said to have taken place. It is one of the favorite places of Buddha, where he gave the first two sermons of his life. There is an enchanting site of white Shanti Stupa having four gold statues of Lord Buddha.
Rajgir has one of the 80 peace Pagodas in the world, including Vishwa Shanti Stupa, Peace Pagoda, etc. It also houses several religious places majorly dedicated to either Buddhism or Jainism. Both the Lords Mahavira & Buddha have said to have spent time here giving Rajgir, huge religious as well as spiritual significance.
In short, it is the beautiful town where the air surrounding the beautiful sceneries carries the hints of spirituality along with vibrant colors of history that associates both Jainism as well as Buddhism. Hence, it is also among the top Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.
The ancient center for higher studies & religious learning in ancient India, Nalanda is situated at a distance of around 88km from south-east of the capital of Bihar, Patna, the place was visited by both Lord Buddha & Mahavira in 5th & 6th centuries B.C. respectively. Nalanda was a significant town where Buddhism was practiced with sincerity. It was an accredited center both for practicing as well as learning Buddhism in India. It is known that many famous Buddhist scholars had either taught or studied in Nalanda. It is also an important teaching place where the main Buddhist streams of thought originated.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bihar. The ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara are a very popular tourist destination that also serves as an important stop on the Buddhist tourism circuit in India.
Worldwide known as the spiritual capital of India, and is also known by the name Kashi. The city is popular for funeral rites to give peace to the departed ones. Buddhists in a region can reap rewards of a lifetime as the fact states that Buddha came to Varanasi city in search of his five disciples after attaining Nirvana.
The pious city serves as home to the Hindu religion and has preserved its tradition, culture & rituals. It is also religious in Buddhist religion & offers a serene feel that thousands of pilgrims throughout the country visit Varanasi for divine blessings. When Lord Buddha reached here for his first sermon in around 500 BC, it also served as the largest trading center in India. This holy city is world-famous as once American novelist Marc Twain stated as, “Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
Known & searched as the Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India, the “land of Buddha-Varanasi” is the main choice of tourists all around the world that brings an opportunity to visit the holy destinations in Varanasi.
So, well, all these cities are included in Buddhist pilgrimage places in India for a Buddhist pilgrimage tour. It is, therefore, a journey that will make you explore inside, above & far beyond the imagination.
So, coming to an end, we would like to say that for those who want to seek inner peace & want to connect to the spiritual side, we must visit these Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.
Embark on a spiritual; journey like no other & rediscover the true meaning of life.