Major Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in India
here are many important sites for Buddhist Pilgrimage in India. Considered important among them are the ones where the Buddha was born, Lumbini, where he attained enlightenment, Bodhgaya, where he first preached Saranath and the place where he died, Kushinagar. The next four important pilgrimage sites are associated with great miracles performed by the Buddha. They are Rajgir, where the Lord tamed a mad elephant, Vaishali, where a monkey offered honey to him, Sravasti, where the Lord took his seat on a thousand petaled lotus and created multiple representations of himself, and Sankasya, where he descended from heaven. Together these 8 holy places are called Atthamahathanani. In this list the later additions are Kapilavastu, the place of his childhood, Kaushambi, the place of several sermons in the 6th and 9th years of enlightenment, Kesariya, the place where the Buddha gave his begging bowl to the people and Nalanda, the place where the history of monastic establishment can be traced back to the days of the Ashoka.
Bodhgaya, is the holiest of the four holy places of Buddhism. Situated by the river Niranjana, it is where Lord Buddha left his footsteps nearly 2500 years ago while travelling in the quest of enlightenment. It was here under a banyan tree, (the Bodhi Tree); Siddhartha Gautama attained supreme enlightenment to become the Buddha, (the Enlightened One). Bodhgaya is considered as the holiest of the holy Buddhist pilgrimage. The majestic Mahabodhi temple behind which stands the Bodhi Tree which originates from the original sapling still stands to date. In June 2002, the Mahabodhi Temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lumbini is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, in modern Nepal. The Shakya Prince Siddhartha or Gautama, better known as the Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini during the full moon day in the month of Baisakh (May) in 623 B.C. Lumbini, the place of birth, is one among the four sacred pilgrimages of the Buddhists. In 1997, Lumbini was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sarnath Located just 12 km from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, is the deer park of Sarnath, where after his enlightenment, the Buddha first preached the Dharma and the Buddhist Sangha first came into existence. It is one of the four holy places of Buddhism.
Kushinagar (Kushinara) is situated in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the place where the Buddha left his corporal self and finally attained Mahaparinirvana on a full moon day in the month of Magh (Feb) in the year 543 BC. It is one of the four holy places of Buddhism.
Nalanda is regarded as the world's first residential university and the first university of Buddhist learning which was well described by the Chinese traveler Huan Tsang who visited and studied there in the 7th century AD. The University was the greatest centre of Buddhist learning and teaching which also provided accommodation facilities to students and teachers with nine storied library where meticulous copy of texts were produced. There were more than 10000 students and 2000 teachers who resided in the university campus coming from different parts of the world like Turkey, Persia, Persia, China, Indonesia, Japan and Tibet.
At Rajgir just 15 kms from Nalanda, the Buddha converted the Magadhan King Bimbisara at the Griddhakuta hill. King Bimbisara offered the Buddha and his followers the Veluvana Bamboo Grove which became the first property of the Order and one of the Buddha’s favorite residences. It is here that the First Buddhist Council was held in the Saptparni cave of the Vaibhara Hills.
VAISHALI
The Buddha first visited Vaishali in the fifth year after his Enlightenment, and spent the rainy season there. He extended spiritual enfranchisement to women by admitting them to the Holy Order which was founded here. It was also here that the Buddha announced his approaching Nirvana and preached his last sermon. A hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha - Vaishali hosted the Second Buddhist council.
SRAVASTI Of the 45 years of his preaching, the Buddha spent as many as 25 rainy retreats at Sravasti. Since the Buddha spent a major part of his monastic life in Sravasti, the majority of his sermons were delivered while staying here. Sravasti is best remembered as the place where the Buddha defeated the holders of the other doctrines by performing the greatest miracle of all, the Twin Miracle.