Famous For: Mangla Gauri Temple, Pind Daan Gaya, Vishnupad Temple, Tibetan Monastery, Barabar Caves, Dungeshwari Cave Temple, Koteshwarnath Temple, Falgu River, Rajayatna Tree, Ratnaghara, Pretshila Hill, Busshin-ji Temple, Sudama Cave, Brahmayoni Temple, Surya Kund, Ramshila Temple, Lomas Rishi Cave, Nagkut, Kamakhya Devi Shakti Peeth Mandir, Sita Kund etc.
Major Attractions: Literally Gaya is mostly known as the birthplace of Buddhism as Gautama Buddha attained nirvana in this holy site. Gaya has temples of great beauty and heritage and makes it one of the most desired spiritual destinations in India. But The Great Buddha Statue, Mahabodhi Temple, Lord Yama Temple (Pretshila Hill) , Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Mangla Gauri Temple, Chinese Temple, Vishnupad Temple are the common and attractive tourist place of Gaya.
Ideal Visit Time: 3-4 days. The winter months between October and March is the best time to visit Gaya. The temperature in the summer months in Gaya (between March and May) can reach a sweltering 45°C and it can get unbearable to travel the region during these months. But thousands of Buddhist devotees visit the city during the auspicious Buddha Purnima which is celebrated in the months of April and May.
Gaya is of historical significance and is one of the major tourist attractions of the state of Bihar. Gaya is 100 km south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. It is the state’s second-largest city with a population of 470,839 and is the headquarters of Gaya district and Magadh division. The city is surrounded on three sides by small rocky hills (Mangla-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila, and Brahmayoni) with the Phalgu River on it’s eastern side. Gaya is one of the best historical sites in India. Gaya is named after the demon Gayasur. According to Vayu Purana, Gaya was the name of a demon (Asura) whose body became pious after he performed strict penance and secured blessings from Lord Vishnu. Gaya is considered to be one of the most ideal places to perform the “Shraddh” (“Shraddh” is the Hindu ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s ‘ancestors’, especially to one’s dead relatives). The various structures on the site have undergone a number of restorations over the centuries. Ongoing maintenance and management are required to protect the complex which, as a major pilgrimage site, is under pressure due to large numbers of visitors.
Let’s talk about some interesting and attractive places of Gaya to visit:
Yama Temple in Pretshila Hill
Pretshila Hill, meaning the Hill of Ghosts is situated at a distance of eight kilometers of Gaya. It is one of the most sacred sites in Gaya for the Hindus where they come down to offer pind-daan, the ritual performed for the peace of a deceased’s soul. Situated at the top of the hill is the temple dedicated to the prayer of Lord Yama, the God of Death as per the mythology of the Hindus. This temple dates back years ago but nobody is able to provide an exact time frame as to when this religious site was constructed. It’s believed to have been constructed by the Queen of Indore, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar. However, the temple has since then undergone multiple renovations. Another attraction of this temple is the Ramkund Tank that stands very close to the temple. The locals believe that Lord Rama had bathed at that tank once and ever since then it has become a beacon of holiness. Hindus believe a bath in the tank has the power to dissolve the sins done by a person.
Dungeshwari Cave Temples are situated at a distance of 12 km in the northeast of Gaya. These cave temples are also popularly known as the Mahakala Cave Temples. It is a religious site held with high reverence by people as they believe that Lord Gautama Buddha had meditated in these caves, long before he went to Bodh Gaya. The caves are home to intricate and spectacular Buddhist shrines, referred to as the Sujata Sthan by the locals. A famous story behind these revered caves is that when Lord Buddha pursued the path of self-demolition and did not take food or water, he was worn out completely, and later a lady from a village called Sujata had offered Him water and food. A major attraction of the cave temples is a marvellous 6ft high statue of Lord Buddha made of gold. Your spiritual journey in Gaya will be incomplete if you do not visit the beautiful shrines and the caves.
Mangla Gauri Temple
Mangla Gauri Temple is a temple of high importance for the Hindus as it has been mentioned in the most sacred religious scriptures such as the Vayu Purana, Padma Purana and Agni Purana as well as in many other tantric scriptures as well. Mangla Gauri Temple forms one of the 18 Maha Shakti-Peeth’s in the country and stands proudly since the 15th century. One of the greatest attractions of this temple is the UPA-Shaktipeeth which is popularly believed to be housing a part of the goddess that fell from the heavens. The goddess is here worshipped in the breast-form, which symbolizes the nourishment and love of a mother. Inside the temple, you will be able to see some beautiful ancient sculptures, and two shrines of Shiva with the images of Goddess Durga, and her incarnations Mahisasura Mardini and Dakshina Kali. The temple complex also houses the temples of Goddess Kali, Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesh.
The Chinese Temple in Gaya stands nearby the Mahabodhi Temple and is a spectacular Buddhist temple built by Chinese Buddhist monks. Therefore, an amalgamation of the beautiful Indian and Chinese designs especially the temple exterior which resembles a Chinese monastery. The Buddha statue inside the Chinese Temple is more than 200 years old and is believed to have been made and imported from China. The temple has three marvellous golden statues of Lord Buddha. Another attraction to the temple is the rich and detailed travelogues drawn by Chinese religious scholars who travelled to India for the pursuit of spirituality and wisdom.
Vishnupad Temple is one of the most significant sacred temples in Gaya dedicated to the worship of Lord Vishnu. The temple’s architecture is influenced by the Shikara style although it underwent reconstruction and renovation by the Rani Ahilya Bai in the year of 1787. Several travellers and locals flock to the temple to worship the footprints present inside this temple. Lord Vishnu’s footprint is about 40 centimeters in length and encircled by silver plates, as many of the Hindu religious scriptures have described it. Visiting the lanes of the city and exploring its ancient temples and rich culture, Gaya is a spiritual journey in itself. If you are seeking a peaceful and spiritual destination on your next trip, do not wait further and head to Gaya.
Gautam Buddha was put to death in this place and spent seven weeks in various places after the election, the places that stand today in the premises of the Mahabodhi Temple. The Buddha fought against the forces of evil, conquered all temptations and left behind many symbols of his way of life. Here are the seven places-
- Bodhi Tree: This tree is the most attractive place in the Mahabodhi Temple. According to folklore, the prince Siddhartha Gautam was seated in meditation under the tree and his name was Buddha. He also spent the first week sitting under the tree. This tree can be seen on the west side of the main temple.
- Prayer Room: Gautam Buddha spent his second week in a prayer room known as ‘Animeshlochan Chaitya’. It is located north of the main passage to the temple.
- Chakramona: Gautam Buddha spent his third week at this place. He spent this week walking eighteen feet forward and eighteen feet back. It is located on the north wall of the main temple.
- Ratnagar Chaitya: This is where Gautam Buddha spent his fourth week. It’s situated in the northeast of the main enclosure.
- Padmapukur: This is where Gautam Buddha spent his sixth week and this temple is situated in the main enclosure south of the temple premises.
- Rajjotan Tree: Gautam Buddha spent the last seven weeks of his meditation. A tree has been planted to mark this place on the southwest side of the temple.
- Ajpola Nigrodh Tree: In his fifth week, he meditated on the floor of this tree and answered the questions of the Brahman’s.
The Falgu or Phalgu river is a river that flows past Gaya, India in the Indian state of Bihar, is a sacred river for Hindus and Buddhists. Lord Vishnu’s Temple Vishnupad Mandir is situated on the bank of Falgu river. The water in the river flows only during the monsoon months and is said to be running under the riverbed due to the curse of Goddess Sita. One of the most revered rivers by Hindus, Falgu river, according to ancient texts, was known as River Niranjana. Pilgrims arriving here to perform ‘Pind Daan’, or rituals for salvation of their ancestors’ souls, have no option but to either use the drain waters flowing across the river or to cough up special premium to get holy waters of Falgu. Local people says, lakhs of pilgrims arrive here every year only to touch the river water and take a holy dip.
How To Reach
By Road: Gaya has it’s well-maintained road and it’s one of the best and most cost-effective ways of reaching Gaya. G.T road connects this holy city with major north Indian cities. A number of state and private operated buses are available at regular intervals from most cities such as Ranchi, Patna, Jamshedpur, Raurkela, Kolkata and Hazaribagh. From Patna, you can take NH 83 and SH 69 route that takes around 3 to 4 hours to cover a distance of about 145 km.
By Train: Gaya Railway Station is the main railway station which connects the city of Gaya with all the major Indian cities. The railway station is well linked to destinations like Delhi, Patna and Ranchi via an extensive rail network. From New Delhi runs a special daily train called Mahabodhi Express that takes nearly 16 hours to reach Gaya. After reaching the railway station, bus and taxi services are available.
By Air: Connecting Gaya with the rest of the country by air is the Gaya Airport or Bodhgaya Airport. The airport is about 10 km away from city centre and is well connected with not only major cities in India but also with international destinations. Flights operated by some of the major carriers including Air India, Druk Air, Golden Myanmar Airlines and Myanmar Airways International connect Gaya with Delhi, Paro, Yangon and Kathmandu. Once you reach the airport, taxis or cabs are available to reach Gaya city centre.