Buddhism is a over 2500 year old religion with over 380 million followers worldwide. Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan, Burma, Vietnam and Japan have predominantly Buddhist population. Macau and Taiwan too have over 40% population following Buddhism.
Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama’s – Lord Buddha’s – quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC. The Buddhist Circuits is a pilgrimage to places holy to the Buddhist. These are places with great significance to Lord Buddha.
Lumbini –where Buddha was born, Bodhgaya – Where he attained Enlightenment, Sarnath – where he preached for the first time and Kushinagar – where he attained Nirvana, are the primary pilgrimage places of Buddhist Circuits associated with the life and teachings of the Lord Buddha. There are numerous other important sites where the Buddha and the saints that followed traveled during his life, after his enlightenment. Namely, Vaishali, Rajgir and Sravasti in India and his early home at Tilaurakot in Kapilavastu Nepal
Lumbini: Lumbini in southern Nepal is where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha. It is just a short distance from the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu. Pilgrimages focus on the sacred garden which contains the site of the birth, the Mayadevi temple, the Pashkarni pond and the Ashoka pillar. Lumbini is a UN heritage site with structures related to lord Buddha dating to 3 century BC
Bodhgaya is one of the sacred places for the Buddhists as well as for the Hindus. Here under the Bodhi Tree, Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the `Enlighted One’ after meditating for 49 days. The Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, under the Bodhi tree, which still stands in the temple premises. The magnificent Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries’ cultures and many heritages that came to pay their homage here. The Mahabodhu temple complex is a UNESCO world heritage site. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.
Sarnath: Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath after achieving enlightenment, about 10 km from the ancient holy city of Varanasi. It was here that the Buddha established his first disciples (sangha) to promote his new doctrine. The splendid Dhamekha Stupa at Sarnath was originally erected by King Ashoka, as was the famous lion capital pillar, now the proud symbol of India. Sarnath is also UNESCO world heritage site.
Kushinagar: one of the principal centers of Buddhist pilgrimage is the place of Mahaparinirvana, Lord Buddha fell ill and left this world in 543 BC. His mortal remains were preserved in eight commemorative chortens, (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and then further distributed by King Ashoka into 84,000 stupas across his kingdom and beyond. The monument of Kushinagar includeare a over 6 meter long statue of the reclining Buddha dating to the 5th century BC, Mathakaur shrine is black stone image of Lord Buddha in the Bhumi Sparsha Mudra (a posture showing him touching the earth ) was recovered here.
Besides the above other Major High Significant Buddhist Pilgrimage sites, there are other places that hold special meaning in the life of Lord Buddha.
Vaishali: The Buddha preached his last sermon before his death at Vaishali in Bihar, India, 60 km away from its capital Patna. It was here that he told his disciple Ananda about his imminent demise. The Second Buddhist Council was held in Vaishala about 110 years later. The ruins of ancient Vaishali too are a UNESCO World Harirage site
Rajgir : About 70 km from Bodhgaya, Rajgir was Buddha’s monsoon retreat for 12 years whilst he spread his doctrine. The Buddha often visited Rajagriha to retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery, preaching and meditating on the Gridhakuta Hill. The disciples of the Buddha built many structures here. Rajgir is also sacred to Jains as Lord Mahavira studied and meditated here. The first Buddhist Council was held here after the Buddha’s nirvana, to compile the teachings of Lod Buddha in their authentic form
Nalanda is believed to be the oldest university in the world. Founded in the 5th century BC, it became a renowned centre of Buddhist and Jain learning. Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller, spent several years here in the 7th century AD. Nalanda Archaeological Museum has a magnificent collection of Pali and Mauryan statues, bronze and manuscripts. Nalanda Mahavihara an institute for the study of Pali literature houses rare Buddhist manuscripts. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th – 12th centuries. It is also the place of birth and nirvana of Sariputra, one of the famous disciples of Buddha. Nalanda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Shravasti: About 150 km from the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India. Shravasti was Buddha’s favorite rainy season retreat where he performed his first miracle. It is one of the eight most important pilgrimages of Buddhists. According to legend, it is here where Buddha confounded his critics by making them witness a miraculous million-fold self manifestation seated on a thousand-petalled lotus, as fire and water emanated from his body. The religious character of Sravasti derives also from the fact that Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, visited the town frequently. The ruins of Saravasti are also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site
The great Indian king “Ashoka” was enthusiastic in spreading the Buddha’s message of peace and enlightenment across the length and breadth of his vast empire, reaching from present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Buddhism travelled to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and the countries of South East Asia, even to far-flung Central Asia, China and Japan, under the umbrella of royal patronage and the dedication of its vast community of monks, teachers and artists.
Today, both pilgrims and tourists can enjoy the special appeal of Buddhas myriad experiences, in Nepal and India. From the moment of his birth, his teachings, spiritual struggle, attainment of enlightenment, great meditations, and message of peace and non-violence, are as relevant to our life and times as it was in his day.
To relive the journey of Lord Buddha and experience the heritage of this religion contact Road2Travel