Buddhist Pilgrimage sites
The Four pilgrimage sites mentioned by Buddha in sutras are BodhGaya, Kapilavastu(Lumbin), Kusinagara and Deer Park (Varanasi/Saranath). Some Tibetan text mentions about 24 pilgrimage sites related to Buddhism.
Bodh Gaya(Tib: Dorje Den/VajraSana); Samyak SamBodhi; Bodhi Tree
BodhGaya was indentified by Sir Cunningham. He wrote in 1862 "
The Celebrated Bodhi Drum, or "Tree of Wisdom," still exists, but it is very much decayed. Immediately to the east of the tree there is a massive brick temple, nearly 50 feet square at base, and 160 feet in height. This is beyond all doubt the Vihar that was seen by Hwen Thsang in the seventh century, as he places it to the east of the Bodhi-tree, and describes it as 20 paces square at base, and from 160 to 170 feet in height."
Hiuen Tsang, 639AD, saw a monastery and wrote " Outside the northern gate of the walls of the Bodhi Tree is the
Mahabodhi Monastery. It was built by a former king of Sri Lanka. This edifice has six halls, with towers of observation of three stories; it is
surrounded by a wall of defence thirty or forty feet high. The utmost skill of the artist has been employed; the ornamentation is in the
richest colours. The statue of the Buddha is of gold and silver, decorated with gems and precious stones. The stupas are high and large in
proportion; they contain relics of the Buddha ".
Sidhartha Gautama, the prince, attained Nirvana under this Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya. He become Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. He
remained in Bodh Gaya for 7 more weeks at seven different spots (sattaMahatthana) before he moved on to Varanasi and never
To safe guard the Bodhi Tree from elephants in 1st or 2nd Century BC stone railing was build to protect it. " The gift of Kurangi, the
mother of living sons and the wife of King Indragnimitra, son of Kosiki. The gift also of Srima of the royal palace shrine " an
King Ashoka (Tib: ChoGyal NyaNyinMe), in 262 BC, made a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya (SamBodhi) and may have built the first temple. His
daughter (Sanghamitta) brought a sapling of Bodhi Tree to Sri Lanka(Ceylon).
HT wrote, "Sasanka-raja having cut down the Bodhi tree, wished to destroy this image ; but having seen its loving features, his mind had no rest or determination, and he returned with his retinue homewards. On his way he said to one of his officers, "We must remove that statue of Buddha and place there a figure of Mahesvara.
The officer having received the order, was moved with fear, and, sighing, said,
" If I destroy the figure of Buddha, then during successive kalpas I shall reap misfortune ; if I disobey the king, he will put me to a cruel death and
destroy my family ; in either case, whether I obey or disobey, such will be the consequences ; what, then, shall I do?"
On this he called to his presence a man with a believing heart (i.e., a believer in Buddha) to help him, and sent him to build up across the chamber and before the figure of Buddha a wall of brick. The man, from a feeling of shame at the darkness, placed a burning lamp (with the concealed figure) ; then on the interposing wall he drew a figure of (or, he made a figure of) Mahesvara-deva."
The Buddha image in above paragraph is also mentioned by HT. it is 11 foot 5 inches in height, 8 foot 8 inches from one knee to the other and shoulder width is 6 foot and 2 inches. He is in sitting postion, right hand touching the ground. it had all the 32 signs of Sakyamuni Buddha which can be viewed in the morning with a help of a mirror which reflect sun beam into the inner sanctum where the statue is.
A Tibetan pilgrim, lama Choeje(Dharma Asvamin), found BodhGaya deserted in 1234 AD but for 4 monks.
Sir Alexander Cunningham (1814-93), a military engineer turned archaeologist, became head of new Archaeological Survey of India in 1861. He referred mainly to French and English translation of Fa Hien’s (399 - 412AD; 12 year tour) and Hiuen Tsiang’s (629-645AD;16 year tour) pilgrimage to Buddhist countries(Gopi Desert, silk Road, Khotan or Xinjiang(Tib:Li Yul), Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, part of Iran, India, Shri Lanka, Bangladesh) and excavated Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and hundreds of other Buddhist sites when India and Pakistan were under one British Raj.
Tigress-Feed (Tib: TagMo LuGin) is in Pakistan, not Nepal, according to Hiuen Tsiang. He visited this place in 631AD. Stupa is on Mankiala Road. It is about 29 km South-East of Rawal Pindi or follow the GT Road from Rawalpindi or simply Pindi. Google Earth location is (33°26'53.30"N, 73°14'36.50"E) or click here And Zoom in or out
Bodh Gaya is 12km from Gaya City, Bihar. From Delhi it is 1030km. GE location coordinate is ( 24°41'45.38"N 84°59'29.58"E). There is a flight service from New Delhi to BodhGaya by Indian Airlines(2017: Rs 5000/) en route Varanasi. It takes about 40 minutes. This airport is closer to BodhGaya which takes about 15 minutes by taxi to the main Temple or Vihara.
King Dharma Asoka, around 260BC, built a small shed over the spot(VajraStana:dorjeDen) where Buddha sat and meditated under a Bodhi Tree. Later other kings made a fence around the Bodhi Tree. Ground or spot next to the Bodhi Tree is the main object of veneration.
To the east of the Bodhi Tree, a huge Temple or Vihara was built by a Burmese King Thado Mang, or King Sado around 400AD, according to Sir Cunningham(1877Ad). To the north of the Bodhi Tree there used to be a huge monastery or SanghArama(Sir Cunningham wrote that Arama refers to Monastery during Asoka period ie 304 BC) built by Sri Lanka king around 300AD. These sites are reported by Fa Han and Huen Tsang both in 300AD and 635AD respectively when they visited India.
Present shape and size of MahaBodhi Temple is not one structure. It is a result of many layered construction of bigger temple over the previous smaller temple. There are at least 3 temples within what we see today. The last or the present structure we see was built by Burmese King Thado Mang. Whatever Buddhist sites, we enjoy today, were restored by Sir Cunningham in 1875ad according to an ancient wooden model found at some other Buddhist location. These Buddhist sites were lost for almost 650 years, from 1230-1875ad until Sir Cunningham excavated them out.
Buddha meditated under Bodhi Tree and found enlightenment after taking rice-pudding offered by Sujata. He did not spent 6 years under this tree. After His enlightenment He remained 49 days more without preaching at 7 different spots.
Note: copy above GE coordinates, within the bracket, and paste it either in Google Map or Google Earth Search Box and Press Go to view. Zoom in for detail.
The seven spots are :
VajraSana is the very spot under the Maha Bodhi Tree where Guatama meditated and attained Nirvana. Buddha also remained here for 7 days more after attaining Nirvana. The Tree and the spot is now protected by physical barrier. A raised platform(VajraSana-Diamond Seat; VajraSila-the rock of Diamond) lay between the Temple and the
Maha Bodhi Tree.
2) Animisa-lokana (Animisa Cetiya)
About 60 meters to the north of the Maha Bodhi Tree, there is Animisa Ceti(Unblinking shrine). Buddha meditated for the 2nd
week here at this spot for 7 days " unblinking gaze " fixed at the Maha Bodhi Tree.
3) Cankamana(RatanaCanKama Cetiya)
To the north of MahaBodhi Temple base, there is a raised platform. Buddha spend the 3rd Week performing " walk meditation
" for 7
days. 7 Lotus spring up where Buddha stepped on.
4) Ratanaghara(Jewel house shrine)
Ratnaghara is at north-west of the MahaBodhi Tree. Small image of recent made Buddha is installed there. Buddha spend 7 days of
4th week here performing deep meditation and spectrum of light emanate from his body which now became colors of Buddhist flag.
5) Ajapala Nigrodha
Enter the main gate and descend stairs to find a stone pillar. This pillar marks the spot where Buddha spend 7 days of the 5th
week in meditation under Ajapala Tree.
6) Mucalinda lake
Lake on south of MahaBodhi Tree or Temple is a lake where
Buddha did meditation for 7 days of the 6th week. Modern image of Buddha and serpent is a gift of Myanmar
mission. Asoka built a pillar here to mark the spot.
This spot, South of MahaBodhi Temple, is where Buddha spend 7 days of the last 7th week. Two merchants, from Burma, offered him honey and rice cakes. In return Buddha offered hair strand and it is believed that these relics are still in Burma.
Other important Buddhist places are :
Nirangana River and SitpaTsal DhuTro(Tib)
River flowing East of Bodh Gaya is Niranjana or Falgu. SilpaTsal DuTro is about 9 km from BodhGaya, North-East, across the river Niranjana. Small hill is known as Palden Shawa Ri in Tibetan.
Sujata: She offered Rice Pudding to Buddha
As Buddha was searching for a perfect path for enlightenment, he met came across Hindu Ascetics and Buddha deprived himself without food- one grain a day. Eventually, he collapsed. Sujata, a village girl, brought him back to life and offered rice-pudding. She told him if he dies without eating food, who will do the searching for the perfect path.
Today, there is a round structure built by ASI(Archeological Survey of India). ASI found many relics which were at display in BodhGaya Museum which is just 1 minute walk from the main Temple. Entry cost Rs. 10\ in 2017.
Sujata or Sujatagarh, local name, site is just 10 minutes in Rickshow or 5 minutes in Auto Rickshow. It is just across the bridge in north of the main temple. I saw many non Tibetan Buddhist visit this spot. Google location is (24°41'52.74"N 85° 0'11.91"E).
6 years of solitude
Where did Buddha spent six years of his life while searching for the perfect path? Tibetans believe that it is here: a spot that any logical mind will laugh at. There are no caves, no mountains or shades; just a plain site where locals have built many made-up structures. It is just across the river in straight line to the main temple. You can cross the river from the market on foot or take an auto Rickshow which takes about 30 minutes- it has to cross the bridge which is on the wrong direction. Google location is (24°41'44.38"N 85° 0'27.55"E).
Dungeshwari /Dungkasiri Cave: 12 km north-east of BodhGaya
In my view, it has to be Dungeshwari Cave because there are trees, caves, mountains and access to water. Six year is very long. Local people call it DungKaSiri. It is also called PragBodhi. HuenTsang(Famous Chinese Traveler of 650ad) called it PolokiPuti Mountain. Google location is (24°44'12.08"N 85° 2'50.51"E). There is a Tibetan temple too. Tibetans call it Palden ShawaRi (Deer Mountain:དཔལ་ལྡན་ཤ་ཝ་རི) and has a different narration which is not linked to Buddha. From base of the mountain to the temple, there is long climb. Entry is free.
Sarnath(tib:Varanasi; ISIPATANA in pali canon)
Sarnath is 247km West-North of Bodh Gaya or 10 km from Banaras, UP. Buddha gave his first sermon on 4 noble truths here. There is a giant Dhamek Stupa rebuilt in 500 AD, 28.5m in diameter and 42.6m high. Original Stupa was built by Asoka in 249 AD from where Buddha gave teachings. Hiuen Tsiang (640 AD) recorded that there was about 1,500 monks and Stupa was nearly 91m high. GE location coordinate is (25°22'51.28"N 83° 1'28.06"E)
Rajgir is modern name for RajaGaha(Royal Palace). It is 80 km north-east of Bodh Gaya. It is in Bihar. City is surrounded by five hills (Vebhara, Pandava, Vepulla, Gijjhakuta, Isigili). Hot spring water is at hill Vepulla.
1) Vulture Peak(tib: ChaGoe PhungPo Ri)
Chhatagiri is former Grijjhakuta. Buddha gave his famous sermon Emptiness or Heart Sutra or Tib:Sherab NyigPo ( प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयसूत्रं- PraJaParaMitaHirDyaSutra) at this place. Lake MaGang Sangmo(tib) is at the base of Vulture Peak and water-fall that comes out of it is known as Saravasti
(tib:Yangchen). GE location coordinate is ( 25° 0'6.53"N 85°26'47.86"E).
2) Bamboo Grove (Tib: VoeMae Tsal)
King Bimbisara(tib: SugChen Nyingpo) offered his bamboo garden(Veluvana) to Buddha and his 1000 Sanghas. Bamboo Garden is just north of the hot-spring-water.
3) Pippala House
Pippala stone house is the residence of Maha Kassapa(Tib: WoeSung)
4) Sattapanni Caves
Venue of the first Buddhist Council convened here by Maha Kassapa with other 500 Arhats, three months after Buddha’s passing away.
5) Shitavana Charnel Ground(Tib:JigSuRungWae Dudru; Sanskrit: Shitavana Shamsha in Shitavati Sutra)
It is said that Buddha stayed here for a day. It is south of Bamboo Grove. Another Tibetan Text locate it thus: A clear patch of land surrounded by thick forest in the North-West of Nalanda lay Shitavan Charnel ground.
King AjataSastru(Tib: MaKyeDra) built a new Rajgir outside the old Rajgir. Story is that AjataSatru imprisoned his own father, Bimbisara, who later died. Devadatta and AjataSatru chased a wild elephant to kill Lord Buddha. Buddha subdued the elephant. Ajatasatru filled with remorse submitted himself to Lord Buddha.
Note: Hot Spring Water at foot of Vepula hill is NOT pilgrimage importance for Buddhist. It is just there. Nalanda is 12-15 km North-East of Rajgir.
Sravasti (tib: U-Nyen-Yoe)
Sravasti/ Saravasti/ Shravasti / Savatthi or Saheth-Maheth refer to the same place. Buddha stayed here for 25 rainy seasons or 25 years. To me, this is the most blessed place. Buddha had spent 25 years of his best life here. Great many miracles were performed here.
Ananda once asked Buddha to allow a tree to be planted at Jetavana because when the Buddha was away his followers had no where to place their offerings of flowers and so forth. Maudgalyayana brought a seed of the bodhi tree and when the tree grew the Buddha was said to have blessed it by spending one night meditating under it. Today it is known as the Ananda Bodhi Tree.
Anathpindika, a rich merchant became Buddha’s disciple here in Sravasti.
It is in North of Varanasi, UP, and 160 km from Lucknow;17 km North-West of Balrampur (small) railway station; 50km North-East of Gonda Junction(major railway hub; GE location coordinate is ( 27°30'29.69"N 82° 2'19.74"E).
Tourist Hotel: Rahi Tourist Bangalow at Sravasti seems to be nice. Tariff ranges from Rs 400 for regular single room to Rs 1200 for double AC deluxe room-according to 2011 data. For more click http://www.up-tourism.com/online1/index.asp
Sir Cunningham identified present Vaishali (Tibetan call it YangPaChen), Bihar, with that of ancient Vaisali. Buddha gave his last sermon in Vaishali and left for Kushinara. He sojourns here in Mango orchard offered to his Sangha by lady Ambapali who was rich, beautiful and powerful. It is said that lady was a courtesan. This contradicts prevailing situation. Anyway, that was the story. She later joined his Sangha. Sakyamuni moved from this place to his last resting place Kusinagara. It is said that he gave his “Alms bowl” to the Sangha. It was here till 1ad.
Fa Hain, in 408 AD, found Vaisali a thick forest but for a double storyed Buddhist Temple.
Hiuen Tsang(HT), in 638 AD, found several hundreds of Buddhist monasteries in state of neglect. Only few monks left in 3 or 5 monasteries. There were several Hindu temples with numerous Pandits.
A Buddhist council was held in Vaishali after 110 years since Buddha’s PariNirvana. The convocation was attended by 700 masters and saints, according to HT. It was during King Kalasoka's reign in connection with the ten rules of conduct for Sanghas followed in Vaisali that raised eye brows.
A Tibetan book says that it was once called VidhiHa, which confirms Sir Cunningham’s VaideHis, or LusPhakYul in Tibetan.
Asoka’s mother was from this place too. HT found a stupa where once Vimalakirtti’s house was.
Amdo Gendun Choepal, a Tibetan author, believes that Prince Drime Kunden is from Vaisali, which is doubtful. Drime Kunden’s story, as told by HT, fits a place in present Mardan, Pakistan, place called Cave of Sudana in Mountain Dantaloka.
Vaishali is 44km north of Patna, Bihar.
If you are driving from Patna ie south to north, follow Road 74. All the Buddhist sites are on the left hand side of this road.
Ruins of the Fort of Lichhavi
Lichahavi were driven out of this area and later they settled in Nepal, according to Sir Cunningham. King Vishal or ruins of the Fort of Lichhavi bare minimum. Google Map location is (25°59'13.04"N 85° 7'38.20"E). ASI blue board is there. Entry is FREE. I was there in February and weather is excellent.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa
This monument has no connection to past. This is just next to a huge Vietnamese Stupa. It is modern built and a tourist site. Garden is kept clean and there is huge pond too. Google location is (25°59'31.54"N 85° 6'53.53"E). Entry is free.
Vaishali Relic Stupa
This dome shaped house has a rock and is protected by railings. Relics were found here. Entry is FREE and Google location is (25°59'45.03"N 85° 7'4.16"E).
Vaishali Asoka Pillar: ASI Protected monument
It is where Sangha used to live with Buddha. Asoka pillar is also there and site is under the protection of ASI and entry is NOT free. Google coordinate is (26° 0'51.27"N 85° 6'32.31"E).
In Vaishali you need at least two hours to visit all four spots.
Note: I took a taxi from BodhGaya and visited Vaishali and Odendapuri as a single trip. It cost me Rs. 4000/ in 2017 feb. From Bodh Gaya it is about 36 km to Rajgir; from Rajgir it is 16km to Nalanda; from Nalanda it is 9km to Odendapuri(town name BiharSharif); from Odendapuri it is 98km Vaishali(57km to Patna and from Patna to Vaishali it is 47km) can be clubbed as single trip if road were good. Touring all four sites and return back to BodhGaya is about 300km. Rajgir and Vaishali sites can be covered in 2 hours each. Rajgir has long and winding road to climb on foot. Climb is steep. Vaishali has 4 spots at different locations. Nalanda and Odendapuri can be covered in 50 minutes each- only one spot.
Patliputra(Tib: Kyanar Bue DrongKyar)
Historical Paliputra is today Patna, Bihar. Patliputra was a major city of Magadha during Mauryans period. Lord Buddha was here briefly. It was known as Pataligrama during Buddha’s time. GE location coordinate is (25.611°N 85.144°E).
Sankasya(tib:ShangKhaSa): Descent of Buddha from Trayastrimsa Heaven
Sankisa (Sankasia and Sankasya) is the spot where Buddha returned to earth after visiting his mother in heaven. Buddha went to see his mother who had taken a rebirth in 33 Heaven to return her kindness as she left the world when he was 7 days old. Tibetan Buddhist celebrates this event on 22nd of ninth month of Tibetan Calendar as Lhabab Duchen and is national holiday.
Sankisa is in a town called Basantpur, 125 km west of Agra, UP, India. Google location coordinate is (27°20'3.10"N 79°16'15.27"E). Delhi to Agra highway is as good as any US highway without any traffic signals.
In 2017, I took a taxi from Delhi for Rs. 7000/ and we left about 5 am and return the same day by 6pm. Delhi to Agra road you can drive above 100 km/hour. Highway is fantastic without any traffic lights.
Buddha was at Kosambi two times; 6th and 9th year after enlightenment. Ancient Kosambi is identified by Sir Cunningham, in 1861, with present Kaushambi. It is 150 km to the west of Varanasi or 50 km west of Allahabad, UP. India. Tibetan sources say that on invitation from professor DhangChen Buddha stayed for a year. GE location coordinate is (25°20'41.71"N 81°23'12.65"E).
In 635 AD, Hiuen Tsang, saw a 60 ft Buddhist Vihara(temple) in which there was a statue of Buddha of red Sandle-wood made by the King Udayana and 200ft high Asoka Stupa. Goshira's house and his garden, where Buddha stayed, was in ruin back in 635AD. Both Asanga and his half-brother Vasubandhu lived and composed Sastras in Kosambi. HT found Stupas built over their residences. Everything is gone but for a broken Asoka Pillar, today.
Kesariya(Kessaputta)-The biggest Stupa!!
Kesariya is in Bihar some 55 km North-west of Vaishali. Probably the biggest Stupa in the world is here. According to Sir Cunningham who visited the site in 1861, the Stupa was 62 feet high and 1400 feet in circumference at the base. It was known as Kesaputta during Buddha's time. He gave Kesputtiya Suttas (collective sutra) teachings here, one of them was Kalama Sutra. GE location coordinate is (26°20'3.58"N 84°51'17.13"E).
Kusinagara (Tib: TsamChokDrong)
Historical city Kusinagara was identified by Sir Cunningham with present Kushinagar, UP, India. It is 51 km east of Gorakhpur. GE location coordinate is (26°44'21.71"N 83°53'24.13"E).
Buddha passed away, PariNirvana, in Kusinagara. People commonly refer to it as the Sleeping Buddha.
After cremation, his relics were shared among the 8 kings. Kusinagara did not flourish afterwards. Hindu King Shashanka Raja, present Bengal, persecuted Buddhism according to HT.
Mallas were dominant clan of Kusinagara in ancient India.
Recently a huge stupa was found 1.5km east of present Kushinagar, Gorakhpur, UP, India. GE location coordinate is (26°44'9.81"N 83°54'17.77"E). Locally this stupa is called Ramabhar.
Lumbini: Kapilavastu Capital
Kapilavastu is the Capital city of Kingdom of Sakayas. Lumbini is the Royal Garden of Kapilavastu King. Lumbini is in Nepal, just at the border of India. It is 197km from Sravasti, UP, India. Buddha was born as Prince Sidhartha Gautam (Sidhartha Gautama-pali).
He was married and had a son. He gave up fame, wealth, throne, mundane pleasure and began an ascetic journey in search of the truth. He became Buddha, the founder of Buddhism who preached love for all livings(animal, plant) without exception. GE location coordinate is ( 27°28'11.03"N 83°16'32.61"E).
Nalanda is 68km East-North of Bodh Gaya or 13km north of Rajgir. It is near modern village Baragaon, Bihar. Nalanada was built around 1st century AD. Hieun Tsang paid a visit to Nalanda in 638 AD and he studied here for 4 years. He found more than 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
GE location coordinate is ( 25° 8'6.93"N 85°26'34.24"E).
ShantaRakshita(705-762) was abbot of Nalanda who, later, went to Tibet and died there. He was joined by Kamalakshila, an abbot of Nalanda Univesity. ShantaRakshita built Tibet’s first SanghArama, Samye, modeled after Vikramshila SanghArama.
Note: if ShantaRakshita was from Nalanda, then why he built Samye modelled after Vikramshila. Huen Tsang died in Feb 664ad. During his life time, he heard that Nalanda was razed to ground. Most plausible answer is ShantaRakshita must be abbot of Vikramshila and not Nalanda which was in ruins.
For more go here
Ancient Nalanda University
It is in Bihar Sharif, Bihar. It is 10km North-East of Nalanda. GE location coordinate is ( 25°12'14.46"N 85°30'15.11"E). Naropa (1020ad: lineage holder of Kargyu lineage) stayed at this hill PhulaHari. Tibetan book describes this hill as " hill at the north of Nalanda " . MilaRepa wrote, " shape of the hill bows to Tibet ".
Sixth Dalai lama, TsangYang Gyatso, wrote that he went(1714ad:Wood-Horse) to this monastery where there were about 500 resident monks. He offered gold and grand tea for the Sangha. He stayed here for 6 months. 6th Dalai Lama acknowledges how blessed India was by so many Buddha and its spiritual power. He did ChakarSamva meditation. " spiritual achievement made in one day meditation at PhulaHari was far greater than a year practice in Tibet " , he wrote.
Ask your driver to take you to Bihar Shariff, Bihar, after visiting Nalanda. Google map coordinate is 25°12'14.46"N, 85°30'15.11"E. Ask for Bari Pahari(Big Mountain in Hindi; it is also written as BadiPahadi), when you are in Bihar Sharif. A single road will take you to a huge rocky mountain, on the right. Take the right turn, facing the mountain, and ask for “BariPahari Masjid Road” or look for a gate that says, “Welcome to Hiranya Parbat”. It should be up the hill or left side when you drive. You can drive up the hill too. I did not know this and walked all the way. There is no fee to visit this site.
VikramShila: Ancient University
This site has major connection with Tibet. Tibet’s first monastery, Samye Gonpa, was modeled after Vikramshila SanghArama. Atisha(980-1054 ad: lineage holder of Gelug) stayed here for 12 years. He went to Tibet in his late 70s and died there in Tibet.
Samye Monastery, the first monastery of Tibet, was modeled after it.
Other Buddhist universities were Nalanda, Odendapura, Vikramshila, Somapura, Jagaddala and Vallabhi.
It is located in Bhagalpur, Antichak, Bihar. From Bhagalpur it is 35 km to the east. Google map location is (25°19'26.12"N 87°17'5.28"E).
Sanchi: Sariputra and Munglayana relics were discovered here
There is a huge stupa with four gates in four cardinals, two medium sizes with one gate each and upwards of 80 SanghArama in ruins. Here lay a huge monument and a
big establishment in the past.
Sanchi ruins are in Sanchi town, Madhya Pradesh, India. it is quite small village. It is located 46 km north east of Bhopal. GE location coordinate is (23°28'49.05"N,77°44'19.88"E). Several Stupas and Monastery foundations were found near Satdhara, also, which is 9km west of Sanchi. GE location coordinate of Satdhara is (23°29'12.51"N 77°39'5.69"E). Sahchi ruins were discovered by General Taylor in 1818. Biggest Stupa has four gateways, Toranas, with ornate design and shape. Such gateway designs are found in Japan. They call it Tors. Asoka’s mother was here and her son Mahendra too. Stupa 3 is built around 150bc and found relics of Sariputra and Mudgalyayana-the two principle disciples of Lord Buddha. These relics were taken to Great Britain and later returned to India. Relics are on exhibition on “last Sunday of November”, every year, at the Chethiyagir Vihara festival or Buddhist festival at Sanchi.
From Sanchi Railway Station, Monument park is just 25 minute walk up a small mound. Auto Rickshow charge only Rs. 50 for one way(2017). Monument entry, camera and video fee are sold at spot quite far away from the main gate. In fact, it is on left hand side of the road that lead to the monument park. There is museum next to ticket booth.
Bodhgaya(Bihar): 12km from Gaya. Attained enlightenment after 6 years of meditation under Bodhi Tree.
Saranath(UP): 247km West of Bodh Gaya in UP. First sermon; Four Noble Truth.
Rajgriha(Bihar): 66km NorthEast of Bodh Gaya, Bihar. Mad elephant was subdued; Heart Sutra.
Nalanda(Bihar): 79km EastNorth from Bodh Gaya/12km from Rajgir. 4-5th AD century built famous Buddhist university.
Sravasti(Bihar): 160km from Lucknow,UP;17km from Balrampur railway station;50km from Gonda junction(major railway hub)-this is a better choice;Buddha was here for 20 rainy seasons and performed many
Vaishali(Bihar): 151km from Bodh Gaya, Bihar. Monkey offered honey to Buddha.
Sankasya (UP): 47km from Farrukhabad, UP. Descended from heaven(33 steps).
Kushinagar/Kusinara (UP): 225km from Srasvati, UP, India): Parinirvana.... passed away
Lumbini/Kapilvastu(Nepal): 197km from Srasvasti, UP, India): Buddha was born as prince Sidhartha Gautama.
Kesariya(Bihar): Remains of probably the biggest Stupa in the world.
Patliputra(Patna, Bihar): 97km from Bodh Gaya): Patna, Bihar;
Odantapuri (Bihar City):
Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh): West of Bodh Gaya.
Taxi rate, 2009, is about Rs. 6 to 7 per kilo meter.
Tips for Trips
Group them according to directions and distance. Bihar is a not safe place to travel by night.
1 Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, odantapuri, patliputra
2 Vaishali, Kesariya, Kshinagar
3 Lumbini, srasvati, sankasya
4 Varanasi, Sanchi
Note: Most historic places in India and elsewhere are in state of ruins. As a pilgrimage, one must strive to visit these RUINS, feel the energy, compassion, and aura. Make time for reflection and meditation. " These blessed site are unique " 6th Dalai Lama wrote.
New temples, manicured gardens and hot spring water are not main object of veneration but ruins are.
Other Buddhist sites are:
It is pilgrimage site for Tibetans who have a special connection with Guru PadmaSamBhava. Historically, PadmaSamBhava and ShantaRakshita come to Tibet to establish Buddhism which had not picked up for almost a century after it was introduce by 33rd King of Tibet, TsongTsen Gampo. Bon religion imported from Shang Shung territory had a strong hold on Tibet. After a century, in 770ad, 38th king Trisong DeTsen invited them.
PadmaSamBhava had a consort Mandarava who was daughter of King Arshadhara of Zahor(now Mandi, HP, India). The narration is that in those years, Buddhist learning centers were Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odendapura (all in Bihar state, India) and Kashmir. Buddhist students from Tibet, China and Peshawar, now in Pakistan, use Kullu, Mandi, as their path to Kashmir. There are ASI marked monument such as Rock inscriptions, headless standing Buddha and a Stupa discovered, long time ago, in Dharmasala, HP, India. Rock inscription points to huge Buddhist establishment near Khenyara Road, Dharamsala, HP, and Chetru, Gagal, HP, India.
Many of these accomplished disciples move about to find a suitable spot for meditation. Padmasambhava was in Rewalsar, Mandi, meditating when Mandarawa saw him and become his disciple. However this was reported back to the king of Mandi by a shepherd and King was furious. He ordered Padmasambhava to be put on a pyre. When he returned the next day, to his surprise Padmasambhava was sitting on bed of lotus flower in middle of a lake. King Arshadhara was beyond repentance and offered his daughter as penance for his non-virtuous act.
This famous Lake is in Rewalsar, Mandi, HP, India. Recently Tibetans have built a huge Guru Padmasambhava statue overlooking the lake and town, a befitting landmark.
Guru Padma Sambawa(tib:Guru Rinpoche) was born here in this beautiful valley. It is in Peshawar, Pakistan. Alexander the great, Huang
Tsang(7th century AD), a Tibetan yogi Ugen Rinchen Pal(600 years ago) visited this place.
Presently, SWAT valley is under Taliban(Muslim Fanatic) control and many Buddhist ruins are destroyed intentionally.
Dharamsala/Kangra: Buddhist Monastery of 2bc till 400 AD
Rock inscription at Khanyara road. Google location is (32°12'24.60"N 76°20'48.90"E)
Kangra valley, now Dharmasala, had many Buddhist monasteries from 1 BC to 300AD. In about 500AD Mihirkula persecuted Buddhism and drove them away from Kangra valley.
E.C. Bayley discovered two ancient inscriptions in 1854 AD at Khanyara road and Dari (Uparali Dari). He described inscriptions are 1 cm deep on two separate granite rocks. These inscriptions were originally edited by Bayley and later edited by Vogel. These are two separate inscriptions; one belongs to Asokan Brahmi which Sir Cunningham assigned 1st century BC. He further wrote that inscription reads “Arama” which is very common term for monastery in those days.
I was very lucky to find this spot with single trip. It was there all along since 1854 under ASI protection with board and fencings.
To find its location is bit tricky. It is not on the main Khanyara road. It is via lower TCV to east about 30 minute drive. There is a hotel of some sort which locally, Tibetans, call “Essero Swimming Pool” on Khanyara road. Do not pass this “Essoro”. There is a small Car wash Shop next to a aqueduct. From here, walk on foot down the hill in paddy field about 10 minutes. There is a narrow trail path with small streams running along. Beautiful view of Dhaladhar mountain range with snow cap comes in view if you look back. Walking down this paddy field about 400 meters, there is first ASI board, blue color, with all the warnings and protection. Still walk the same trail path further down about 100 meter as the ASI Board says, you will see the second ASI Board and monument within iron fencings.
Standing Buddha(headless) and Stupa remains: Chetru, Gagal
Stupa: A mound with few bricks exposed. Google location is (32° 9'33.53"N 76°17'17.15"E)
Chetru is half way to Gagal airport from Dharamsala. Chetru has revealed few Buddhist remains- A stupa and Standing Buddha. It was discovered in 1904-06; Archaelogical Survey, Punjab and United Province (Northern Circle) for 1904-05(page 491).
Today, Chetru has a beautiful park within which, at one corner, there is the Stupa, a mound, that has exposed bricks on top. This mound was once a Buddhist Stupa.
Standing Buddha: without the original head- as usual.
About 30 steps, on the opposite side of the paved road, is the standing Buddha Statue. It is within a compound that has fence but fence is not closed properly. Anyone can walk in or out.
It is at google location ( 32° 9'34.87"N 76°17'21.32"E) .
I had a hard time locating the life size standing Buddha and made some enquiry with the locals. A local told me that there is a Devi within the PWD compound (2017AD) which is worshiped by local as Draupadi on the opposite side (where above Stupa or mound was found) of the road.
Locals have put a non descriptive head over the standing Buddha.
Past the RothangLa, North of Kulu, there is GharSha Khado, Phakpa JigtenSumGon(Avaloteshawara). Down the valley, there is Bagwati,
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
Ajanta: (1st Century BC – 6th century AD) UNESCO
It is at 109km from Aurangabad city, Maharastra. Ajanta has 29 caves with paintings, sculptures, shrines curved out of rock are awe inspiring. 5 caves are shrines. Rest are Viharas or monasteries. Caves 8,9,10,12 and 13 are of simple paintings-hinayana school. Remaining caves have elaborate paintings- Mahayana school.
Decoration themes are Life of Buddha and Sangas. Cave 4 is 35.08m X 27.28m or 115 feet X 90 feet in size. For more
tip: Flashlight is required as caves are dark.
Ellora (600 AD – 1000AD) UNESCO
It is 76km from Ajanta or 29km from Aurnagabad city. There are 34 caves extending 2 km. However, it is site for Buddhist, Jain and Hindu
KamaRupa: It is also called Pragjyotisha. It is present Guwahati, Assam.
Otibisha or Kalinga: Present Orrisa is OtiBhiSha. Here you will find famous Jagannath Temple- a Hindu lord Vishnu.
It is mentioned here to confirm as a land mark for Otibhisha.
Amravati: Birth place of Tibetan Tantra- Kalachakra (16°34'32.02"N, 80°21'23.37"E)
There is a huge Stupa here. Tibetan call this Drepung Choeten(འབྲས་སྤུང་མཆོད་རྟེན). It is under ASI protection and therefore there is entry fee. Google coordinate is (16°34'32.02"N 80°21'23.37"E). Ruin stupa location is also called old museum by locals. It is just next to the new museum where all the archeological finds are kept.
Amravati is the new capital of Andra Pradesh, India(2017). It is the birth place of Kalachakra. It is told that when Sakyamuni Buddha taught “heart Sutra” or “perfection wisdom” at Rajgir, Bihar, he simultaneously taught Kalachakra at Amravati.
Amravati is Amravati City, Andra Pradesh, India. Nearest railway station is Vijayawada(16°31'15.08"N 80°37'29.97"E). I took an Auto from Vijayawada railway station to Amravati for Rs.800/. it takes about 45 minutes. In Andra Pradesh, check out time in any hotel is 24 hours. Anyway, confirm it first. There is a huge, recent build, Buddha Statue too.
Nagarjuna Konda (hill): the father of Madhyamika school of Buddhism
He wrote the ground breaking book titled “root wisdom”. It is the core text for “middle-way” school. He belongs to a kingdom or clan of “Serpent worshiper”, hence the name- Nag or Naga.
Today NagarJuna hill or Konda is submerged and all the relics were transported on the top of the mountain.
Its Google location is (16°31'21.42"N 79°14'31.40"E).
It was first discovered in 1926 by Suraparaju Venkataramaih, a local teacher and he reported to Madras government. Excavations were carried out from 1927-1931 under Shri Saravasti and in 1938 by Ramachandran. Team of scholars under Dr. Subrahmanyam surveyed from 1954-60.
Buddha’s tooth relic was discovered from here at MahaChitya and also inscription found says “Samma-Sambudhas dhatuvara-parighitasa” which means Dhatu or body relic of the Buddha….ref: page 5; Nagarjunakonda: a cultural study by K. Krishan Murthy.
Island has no Buddhist ruins except those which were transported here on the top from bottom of the hill before it was submerged. All the ruins were submerged in the water!
In 1955 Madras King build a Dam, Nagarjuna Sagar, across the Krishan River which submerged completely an ancient Buddhist settlement. Under Prime Minister Nehru they dug up the monuments and moved them to Nagarjuna Konda, now an island in the middle of a huge reservoir. A boat ride from VijayPuri or VP south, takes 1 hour to get to the island.
From Amravati it takes 2 hours by Bus (there are no direct Buses from Amravati or Vijayawada: 2017) to reach VijayaPura South(16°33'38.09"N 79°18'28.68"E) from where boat is available for NagarJuna Konda. Boat ride , entry tickets to monuments and museum are sold here. Boat will wait for 1 hour at the island which is not enough time to visit all the monuments that are far apart and the museum. Some of my friends have taken taxi from Vijayawada to visit Amravati and NagarJuna Konda and back to Vijayawada. This convenience has a cost and ie is about Rs 7500/. Officially Boat service begins at 9:30 and ends at 1:30pm. Practically boat does not move unless there are about 20 people. I was there at the gate by 9:30 am but boat made its 1 hour journey only at 11am. Boat fare is Rs. 120/ and monument visit is Rs. 100/ for foreigner.
MahaKassapa Dwelling: Asanga(ཐོགས་མེད) did 12 years retreat for Maitreya(བྱམས་པ་མགོན་པོ) here at this spot. It is also known as MahaKassapa’s Abode. Huang Tsang located this spot but Sir Cunningham missed it. Huen Tsang and Sir Cunningham called KukutaPada(རི་བོ་བྱ་རྐང). It is on a hill top, located in Gurpa, Bihar. It is about 40km south-east of BodhGaya. Follow the rail track from Gaya to Gurpa. Google Earth location is 4°32'49.57"N 85°18'0.85"E. Take a taxi from BodhGaya. It is 1 hour and 30 minutes trip. Hill climb is difficult. Passage at the top is narrow. Never travel alone in Bihar, at all.
View from railway track.
Youtube link: not a good quality footage but informative.
I hope YOUR next pilgrimage tour will be a meaningful one.
Ref: Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India by Sherig Parkang, Dharamsala.