Gaya is an Indian city holding immense ancient historical and mythological significance. Presently, it serves as one of the major tourist attractions of Bihar state. The second largest city of Bihar, Gaya is also used as the headquarters of Gaya district and Magadh division. Located at about a hundred kilometers south of capital city of Bihar, Patna, Gaya is widely recognized as a spot sanctified by many religions including Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Buddhism. Gaya is a picturesque city bordered rocky hills by three sides and a river flowing on the fourth. The place is a beautiful amalgamation of natural surroundings, ancient buildings, lush meadows and narrow bylanes. Here is the list of 10 best places to visit in Gaya:
1. Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Templestands tall right behind the Mahabodhi Tree. This is precisely the spot where SidharthaGautam had attained enlightenment. Known for architectural marvel, the temple mesmerises a lot by tourists. It stands around 170 feet tall.
2. Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum
Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum is a must visit place in Gaya. Established way back in the year 1956, the museum is home several unearthed relics. You can have a look at some of rare collections including sculptures dating back to around 1st century BC. The museum is also home to antiques and images of Hindu deities and lord Buddha constructed from metals such as gold, silver and bronze.
3. Barabar Caves
Barabar Caves are located around 25 kilometers from Gaya and serve as heritage of Bihar state. These are four caves dating back to the second century BC. The caves were carved during period of Ashoka. As per historical evidence, it is proved that Ashok the great built these caves for Ajivikas. The most spectacular of these is the Lomas Rishi cave. It is carved as a thatched hut and holds a huge chamber within. The chamber hall and walls of the cave are polished bright.
4. Royal Bhutan Monastery
Royal Bhutan Monastery attracts Buddhism followers with its splendid depictions of lord Buddha’s life. It was constructed by the King of Bhutan. Presently, it ranks amongst the majestic monasteries of the country. Visitors are pleased and amazed by the deep influence of conventional architecture of the monastery. A temple inside the monastery has a Buddha statue measuring seven feet tall.
5. Muchalinda Lake
Muchalinda Lake is a sacred site for Buddhists and one of the best places to visit in Gaya. It is believed that while the lord was into his sixth week of meditation by the Muchalinda Lake, a severe storm struck. The snake king Muchalinda offered protection to Buddha sitting in deep meditation. A temple depicting the scene is situated near the lake. The sculpture of Buddha and the snake are shown in the act of protecting the god. This lake attracts many nature lovers due to its mesmerising lush environment.
6. Bodhi Tree
Bodhi Tree is one of the most visited sites in Gaya. It is considered sacred by followers of Buddhism. Lord Buddha attained spiritual enlightenment under this tree. Located beautifully on the southern side of Mahabodhi temple, Bodhi tree is actually the fifth generation of the original tree. As per the myth, wife of Emperor Ashoka’s wife uprooted the original tree due to her jealousy about Ashoka’s devotion to Buddha. Once the tree fell down, Ashoka poured milk on the roots and helped it revive. The tree was destroyed again in 600 AD by King Sesaka. King Purnavarma planted a sapling from the original tree in 620 AD.
7. Dungeshwari Cave Temples
Dungeshwari Cave Temples is also referred to as Mahakala caves. The place holds spiritual significance as it served as an abode for Lord Buddha before he headed towards Gaya and enlightenment. Altough there is nothing to see inside the cave, the place serves as an ideal resort for meditation in a serene atmosphere.
8. Brahma Yoni Temple
Brahma Yoni temple is located near the Vishnupad Temple of Gaya at a distance of just one kilometre. It is ranked as one of the major attractions of city Gaya. Tourists and pilgrims must climb about 424 high stone steps to reach to the temple built at the top of the hill. Being atop the hill, the temple promises mesmerising views of the city. The hill is also home to two caves called Brahmayoni and Matreyoni. An ancient Astabhujadevi (eight limbed goddess) is also located here.
9. Vishnupad Temple
Vishnupad Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and widely reckoned as one of the major Hindu pilgrimage destinations. It is believed that the river was constructed on footprints of Lord Vishnu. This is how it was named (Vishnu – the lord, Pad – Feet). Reconstructed in the year 1787 by Rani AhilyaBai, the Queen of Indore, this temple is located on the banks of Falgu River. The foot prints of the lord is enclosed by a basin made from pure silver plates. Here, you can have a look at the display of images of various Hindu gods and goddesses.
10. Chinese Temple and Monastery
The Chinese temple is located near to the famous Mahabodhi temple. The structure is influenced by Chinese architecture. Built by the government of China and Buddhist monks of China way back in the year 1945, this temple is known widely for its Buddha statue dating two hundred years back. A visit inside the temple will let you have a closer look at three beautiful golden statues of Lord Buddha. The eastern part of the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The lord resides in this temple in the form of Phalgwisvara, the lord of the River Falgu.
Gaya is an amazing place to be on a holiday as an individual or with family. The history of Gaya dates back to the enlightenment of Gautam Buddha. It serves as an important religious site and considered as holiest place for the Hindus, especially for the ritual of Pind Dan, a mandatory ritual to bring salvation to departed souls. Apart from the religious beliefs and significance associated with the place, Gaya holds a wealth of natural beauty and architectural splendour. Your visit to the exquisite land replete with signs of cultural past will let you create memories to cherish for a lifetime.