Bodh Gayā is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, situated in the Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. It is famous for being the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment (Pali: bodhi) under what became known as the Bodhi Tree. Since antiquity, Bodh Gaya has remained the object of pilgrimage and veneration, for Hindus and Buddhists both. In particular, archaeological finds, including sculptures, show that the site was in use by Buddhists since the Mauryan period.

For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 The Bodhi Tree under which Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment. The Hindu Jagannath temple, located 25 feet away from the Mahabodhi Temple. A Budhhist sculpture from a minor temple complex in Bodh Gaya.

Bodh Gaya is considered to be the holiest site in Buddhism.[1] Known as Uruvela in the Buddha's time, it is situated by the bank of the Lilajan River. The first temple at the site was built by King Ashoka.[2]

Traditionally, it is believed that the Buddha was born in 563 BC on the next Baisakhi purnima [second full moon in calendar years that do not themselves start during full moon] in Lumbini Nepal. As Siddhartha, he renounced his family at the age of 29 in 534 BC,[3][4] and travelled and meditated in search of truth. After practicing self-mortification for six years at Urubela (Buddhagaya) in Gaya, he gave up that practice because it did not give him liberation. Then he discovered the so-called "Noble Eightfold path" of his own and practiced it, finally reaching enlightenment: a state of being completely free from lust (raga), hatred (dvesha) and delusion (moha).

Bodh Gaya Mountain of Ashrams, Vindhya range Bodh Gaya

At this place, the Buddha was abandoned by the five men who had been his companions in his earlier austerities. All they saw was an ordinary man; they mocked his well-nourished appearance. "Here comes the mendicant Gautama," they said, "who has turned away from asceticism. He is certainly not worth our respect." When they reminded him of his former vows, the Buddha replied, "Austerities only confuse the mind. In the exhaustion and mental stupor to which they lead, one can no longer understand the ordinary things of life, still less the truth that lies beyond the senses. I have given up extremes of either luxury or asceticism. I have discovered the Middle Way." This is explained as the path which is neither easy (his former life as a rich prince) nor hard (living in austere conditions, practicing self-denial). Hearing this, the five ascetics became the Buddha's first disciples in Deer Park, Sarnath, which is situated 13 kilometres northeast of Benares.[citation needed]

The disciples of Gautama began to visit the place during the full moon in the month of Vaisakh (April–May), as per the Hindu calendar. Over time, the place became known as Bodh Gaya, the day of enlightenment as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree.

The history of Bodh Gaya is documented by many inscriptions and pilgrimage accounts. Foremost among these are the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims Faxian in the 5th century and Xuanzang in the 7th century. The area was at the heart of a Buddhist civilization for centuries, until it was conquered by Turkic armies in the 13th century. The place-name, Bodh Gaya, did not come into use until the 18th century CE. Historically, it was known as Uruvela, Sambodhi ( Saṃ+bodhi, "Complete Enlightenment" in Ashoka's Major Rock Edict No.8),[5] Vajrasana (the "Diamond Throne" of the Buddha) or Mahabodhi ("Great Enlightenment").[6] The main monastery of Bodh Gaya used to be called the Bodhimanda-vihāra (Pali). Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple.

During the period from the 11th to 13th centuries, Bodh Gaya was under the control of local chieftains known as the Pithipatis of Bodh Gaya who were responsible for the management of the region. One of their rulers, Acarya Buddhasena, has been recorded as making a grant to Sri Lankan monks near the Mahabodhi temple.[7]

^ "Holy Sites of Buddhism: Bodh Gaya – Place of Enlightenment". Archived from the original on 1 September 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2019. ^ "Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2019. ^ Barua, Sukomal (2012). "Buddha Purnima". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. ^ "Spectrum | – Sri Lanka". 22 April 2012. Archived from the original on 13 October 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark; Roof, Wade Clark (2011). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE Publications. p. 148. ISBN 9781452266565. Archived from the original on 12 March 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2018. ^ "A History of Bodh Gaya by Venerable S. Dhammika". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014. ^ Balogh, Daniel (2021). Pithipati Puzzles: Custodians of the Diamond Throne. British Museum Research Publications. pp. 40–58. ISBN 9780861592289. Archived from the original on 12 March 2023. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
Photographies by:
Andrew Moore from Johannesburg, South Africa - CC BY-SA 2.0
Neil Satyam - CC BY-SA 3.0
Jakub Michankow - CC BY 2.0
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