Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti commemorates the birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha. An important festival of people following the Buddhist faith, it is celebrated in most of East Asia. This year, the festival is observed on May 26. On the occasion, let’s take a look at the must-visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.
Bodh Gaya, Bihar
It is considered as one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mahabodhi Temple complex houses several holy sites such as the Vajrasana or Diamond Throne, an 80-foot Buddha statue the Mahabodhi Stupa, and a lotus pond. It also has the famous Bodhi tree under which Prince Siddhartha gained enlightenment and became Gautam Buddha. The site also comprises monasteries belonging to the different sects of Indian Buddhism such as Bhutanese, Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Thai, and Tibetan.
Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
Located in Varanasi, the temple complex at Sarnath is the sacred site where Buddha delivered his first sermon. He taught Dhamma and formed the Sangha, a monastic community here. The site is also known to house famous stupas such as Dhamek Stupa (128 feet high) and the remains of the Ashoka Pillar. It also has the oldest site museum of the Archaeological Survey of India that exhibits antiquities from the period ranging between 3rd century BC and 12th century AD.
Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh
Kushinagar is another pilgrimage site for Buddhists as it is the place where Buddha attained mahaparinirvana or nirvana after death. The site comprises the Mahaparinirvana Temple with the statue of reclining Buddha or ‘dying Buddha’, carved in the 5th century. It is estimated to be over 20-feet tall.
Sravasti, Uttar Pradesh
Sravasti, an ancient city, is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site as Buddha spent most of his time after enlightenment here. The site is believed to be the place where Buddha performed several miracles, one being where his upper body emitted flames and lower half water.
Rajgir was the capital of the Magadhan Empire prior to Pataliputra and is known for its curative hot springs. This is sacred to Buddhist followers for it was the place where Buddha would reside during the rainy season. He also delivered significant sermons here. The place also comprises a Buddhist cave of Saptaparni where the first Buddhist council was held after his death.