About Bodh Gaya
The crucible of Buddhism, Bodhgaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree 2600 years ago and became Buddha (the ‘Awakened One’). In terms of blessedness, this tiny temple town is to Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Bodh Gaya lies 13 km. south of Gaya beside the river Phalgu. At the centre of Bodh Gaya stands the elegant Mahabodhi Temple, rising to the lofty height of 55 metres. Inside the temple, a single chamber holds a large gilded image of the Buddha. At the rear of the temple to the west lies the large Bodhi tree beneath which Buddha gained nirvana.
In Bodh Gaya, almost every nation with a Buddhist following has its own monasteries – Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. Besides, there are monasteries belonging to the lesser known sects of Indian Buddhism. All these are within an easy walking distance of the Mahabodhi temple. Each temple has its own architectural style. Each offers visitors a unique opportunity to peek into different Buddhist cultures and compare architectural styles. The Indosan Nipponji Temple is an exercise in quiet Japanese understatement compared to the richly presented Bhutanese Monastery nearby, which houses some wonderfully colourful and intricate frescoes.
The most impressive of all the modern monasteries is the Tergar Monastery of the Karmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s a glory of Tibetan decorative arts that will leave you slack-jawed as you enter. A none too- distant runner-up is the impressive Thai Temple, a brightly coloured wat with gold leaf shimmering from its arched rooftop and manicured gardens. Meditation sessions are held here mornings and evenings. The Tibetan Karma Temple, with double-dragon brass door knockers, and Namgyal Monastery, contain large prayer wheels. Monasteries are open sunrise to sunset. Bodh Gaya attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year, who come for prayer, study and meditation. They spend weeks, even months here, practising meditation techniques or enrolling for introductory courses in Buddhist teachings or learning to read Pali, the language of the ancient commoners and of the Buddha.