Bodh Gaya, the second largest city in Bihar, India is a must visit for anybody remotely interested in Buddhism and it’s teachings. For it is the place, lo and behold, where the thousands of years old religion- Buddhism originated. It is indeed this place, where Buddha, or Prince Siddhartha attained ‘enlightenment’ under, now a highly pious tree- The Bodhi tree, set amid a beautiful garden, its roots, a reminiscence of its ancestor. Unsurprisingly, a lot of tourists- religious and non-religious visit the place dotted with beautiful Buddha statues, paintings and monasteries. If you go in the second half of any year, you’ll see a flock of Tibetan monks, gathering around the grand Bodhi tree, chanting hymns and reading from Buddhist scriptures. To reach Bodh Gaya is much easy. One can descend at the Gaya airport or take a four to five hour drive from Patna (the state capital).
While Bodh Gaya is infamously known for the birth of Buddhism, what remains relatively unknown is that the place to Hindus is almost nearly what Mecca is to Muslims. The story goes that, Gaya (from whom, the place derives its name), was a demon whose body was pious after immense penance and blessings from Lord Vishnu. Gaya- the asura was so pious, that he could absolve others of their sins by merely touching them or looking at them.
No wonder, that Hindus all over the world today, come to perform “shraddha” or last rites of their progeny in order to absolve them of their sins. While the place itself is serene and offers picturesque landscapes, it is this faith that people around you walk with, wants to make you believe – “Bodh Gaya is the doorway to heaven.”
The doorway to enlightenment
The 94 feet Buddha statue @ Bodh Gaya
One of the many monasteries in the Bodhi complex