The Holy Place of Birth. Lumbini, the place where Prince Siddhartha (later
Lord Buddha) was born is now located in Nepal. Lumbini was near the Shakyan capital of
Kapilavastu in the southern region of Nepal.
Buddhist tradition tells that the emperor Ashoka visited Nepal in the
3rd century BC and erected astupaand an
inscribed column at Lumbini. Recent excavations have uncovered evidence ofstupas,
monastic dwellings and the well-preserved structure of the bathing-pool. The
Ashokan column -rediscovered in 1896 but snapped in half by a lightning bolt -
may also be seen at Lumbini. Theravada and Tibetan monasteries have been built
in the past two decades near Lumbini, re-establishing the site as an important,
although geographically remote, devotional centre.
The Holy Place of Enlightenment. The place located in BIHAR-15 kms from Gaya
City- where Prince Siddhartha, attained enlightenment under Bodhi tree &
became Buddha "THE ENLIGHTENED ONE". Before his death,
the Buddha enjoined his followers to make pilgrimages to four sites : Lumbini,
where he was born; Uruvela (modern Bodh Gaya), the site of his enlightenment;
Sarnath, the place of his first sermon; and Kushinara, where he died. Each of
these sites may be visited today, and Bodh Gaya remains the most sacred of the
After the decline of Indian Buddhism in the 12th
century, most Buddhist sites were destroyed or fell into disrepair. In 1891 the
Sri Lankan Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Mahabodhi Society, which set out to
reclaim Bodh Gaya for Buddhism; this was achieved in 1949. Bodh Gaya today is a
busy centre of pilgrimage with monasteries and meditation centres run by
Tibetan, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese communities. Visitors will see a remote
descendant of the bodhi tree, the magnificent but greatly restored 7th-century
Mahabodhi temple, the Buddha's stone seat (vajra-asana) and a museum of
Buddhist and Hindu materials.
The Holy Place of First Sermon. The place near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh
where after enlightenment Lord BUDDHA PREACHED HIS FIRST SERMON to his five
disciples & turned wheel of law. The Deer
Park at Sarnath just north of Varanasi was the site of the Buddha's first
discourse and today contains some of the most impressive Buddhist monuments in
India. The beautiful park is dominated by the 5th-century Dhamekh stupa: one of
two stupas marking the spot where the Buddha is said to have first taught the
Dharma. The remains of smaller stupas, shrines, five monasteries and the lower
half of an inscribed Ashokan column are among other monuments to have been
excavated since the 19th century.
Sarnath's archeological museum contains the Ashokan
column's famous lion capital (emblem of the modern Indian state) and many other
important works in stone, including a sublime figure of the teaching Buddha
from the Gupta period (5th century). Like Bodh Gaya, Sarnath has a thriving
international Buddhist community.
The Holy Place of Maha-Parinirvana. The place 56 kms from Gorakhpur in Uttar
Pradesh, where Lord Buddha stayed last & entered into MAHAPARINIRVANA.
OTHER BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE PLACES
The erstwhile capital of the Sakya clan, Kapilvastu was the place where
Siddharta Gautam spent early part of his life.
AJANTA CAVES. Designated
World Heritage Site, these caves have seen the rise and spread of bod sects of
Buddhism - Hinayana and Mahayana. The
wild, crescent-shaped ravine pierced with more than twenty Buddhist cave
temples makes this one of India's most spectacular sites. Many genres of early
medieval sacred art, from elaborately carved monastic halls, to sculptures and
wall paintings, are represented here, and prominent among Ajanta's glories are
murals painted in glowing reds, blues and greens. Unique to Indian Buddhist
tradition, the paintings, in high Gupta style, furnish a vision of Mahayana
generosity: a mingling of human, divine and natural forms in a suspension of
warm and life-enhancing interplay.
Most sublime in grace, compassion and serenity is the
incomparable figure of Padmapani, the lotus carrying aspect of the bodhisattva
Avalokiteshvara (cave 1). Scenes fromJatakanarratives
adorn the walls of several other monasteries in the complex.
ELLORA CAVES. Also
a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ellora caves are important to see the common
threads of the Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
world famous stupa of Sanchi is a wonderful example of the early Buddhist stupa
architecture. It also is a UNESCO World heritage Site. Perhaps the finest
and most complete Buddhist monument in India is Sanchi's greatstupawith its
four magnificent free standing gates (toranas). The vast brickstupaitself
dates from around the 3rd century BC, but its carved gates and railings were
probably executed two centuries later during the Satavahana dynasty. Sanchi was
excavated in the early 19th century, and the restoration of the site by British
and French archeologists was initiated in 1912.
Visitors today, like traditional Buddhist worshippers,
can circumambulate thestupain a
clockwise direction and contemplate the teeming sculptural forms that fill the
gate posts and their lofty architraves. Jataka narratives, hieratic elephants
and royal lions, Hindu-Buddhist deities and exquisite female nature spirits
crowd every part of the four toranas. The small archeological museum houses
excavated sculptures; other important Sanchi pieces are in museums in Delhi,
London and Los Angeles.
Sravasti. Place of the Twin Miracle,
showing his supernatural abilities in performance of miracles. Sravasti is also
the place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time, being a major city in
Rajgir. Place of the subduing of Nalagiri, the angry
elephant, through friendliness. Rajgir was another major city of ancient India.
Sankassa. Place of the descending to earth
from Tusita heaven
(after a stay of 3 months teaching his mother the Abhidhamma).
Vaishali. Place of receiving an offering of honey from a monkey.
Vaishali was the capital of the Vajjian Republic of ancient India.
pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama
Buddha are: Pataliputta, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Gaya, Kapilavastu, Kosambi, Amaravati, Nagarjuna
Konda,Sanchi, Varanasi, Kesariya, Devadaha, Pava and MathuraMandaver(Bijnor U.P), Hapur(ghaziabad
Pilgrimage Sites in Other Countries
To commemorate his missionary visit, the emperor Ashoka is said to have built
Nepal. Two surviving examples, much restored, may derive from the Ashokan
period. These are the remarkable Svayambhunath and Bodhnathstupasin
Kathmandu. Bothstupas share unique
Nepalese architectural features. Surmounting the conventional dome is a
"steeple" raised on thirteen diminishing tiers to symbolize the
thirteen Buddhist heavens. Yet more striking is the design of the square base (harmika)
from which the tiers rise. Theharmikais
gilded, and a face gazes with immense eyes of inlaid metal and ivory from each
side. One explanation for this unique Nepalese iconography is that the eyes
suggest a solar cult expressed on some Hindu temples by "sun-faces".
A second idea is that the temple represents the "Primal man" (mahapurusha)
of early Hinduism. Buddhist theory would suggest that the eyes are a sign of
the "all-seeing" Buddha. Visitors are certainly struck by the way in
which the eyes follow them as they move round thestupaprecincts.
Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka)
Today's Anuradhapura is a huge park containing the ruins of the Great Monastery
(Mahavihara) established in 250 BCE on the outskirts of the ancient Singhalese
capital. Anuradhapura is connected by an eight-mile (1 3km) pilgrim's path to
Mihintale where the missionary Mahinda first preached and where an excavated
stupa can be visited. Disinterred earlier this century from the jungle growth
of more than a millennium, Anuradhapura'sstupas,
monastic ruins, sculptures, reservoirs, and a descendant of the original bodhi
tree, provide an intense experience of ancient Buddhism. Dominating the site
are two vaststupaswith
characteristic Singhalese "bubble domes". The Thuparama, although
much restored, is probably the oldest monument in either India or Sri Lanka.
The Ruwanweli Dagoba, is also heavily restored, and is clad in the undecorated
white plaster which differentiates Singhalese stupa architecture from the more
ornate Indian style.
At Anuradhapura a wonderful convergence of the modern
and the archaic may be experienced. On May and June full moon days, the
festivals of Wesak and Poson celebrate, respectively, the Buddha's birth,
enlightenment and parinirvana, and the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
At such festivals, Anuradhapura is enlivened by hundreds of thousands of
devotees. For the modern day visitor, one of the great pleasures is touring Anuradhapura
on a rented bicycle.
While Anuradhapura evokes the austerity of early Singhalese Buddhism, the later
site of Polonnaruwa, wonderfully situated on Lake Topawewa, offers an
unparalleled view of medieval Buddhist sculpture and architecture. There the
visitor may see the immense recumbent parinirvana Buddha and the 25-foot (7.5m)
rock-cut figure of Ananda standing by the head of the Master. There too is the
colossal meditating Buddha, and the famous sculptured portrait of the sage-king
Parakramabahu overlooking the lake and in contemplation of a manuscript.
Equally dazzling are the early 13th-century monuments
situated on the "Great Quadrangle". These include the classically
proportioned pyramidal brickstupa(Sat
Mahal Pasada), the carved stonework of the "temple of the tooth
relic" (not to be confused with the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy) and the
waving lotus-stem-shaped columns of the Nissanka Lata Mandapaya.
Just as Anuradhapura was abandoned by the 8th century,
Polonnaruwa was finally conquered by the Tamils in the 15th century. The art of
Polonnaruwa represents the final flowering of Singhalese Buddhist art, still
matchlessly preserved in land-locked jungle.
important early and medieval Thai architecture was ruined in southeast Asian
wars, but impressive 19th and 20th century Buddhist temples abound in Thailand,
and in many parts of the country there are lovely archeological sites. In
Bangkok, the Wat Phra Kaeo temple, built by King Rama 1 (1782-1809) in the
precincts of his Grand Palace, is a spectacular monument to the Theravada
Buddhist revival initiated in the 19th century. This temple is a centre of
Thailand's religious life, symbolizing the close bond between thesangha
(religious community) and state, and houses the "Emerald Buddha", a
figurine of national importance to modern Thai people.
The southern Thai Ayutthaya period of the 14th to 18th
centuries brought an influx of new architectural ideas from Sri Lanka. Perhaps
the most beautifully preserved of Thailand's medieval monuments are at the
Ayutthaya historical park, north of Bangkok. Of special interest arestupaswith
characteristic Thai "lotus bud" domes, and temple towers showing the
influence both of medieval Khmer design and of "honeycombed" south
After a horrifying period of war, the Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat and
the Buddhist Angkor Thom are again accessible. Angkor Thom was the creation of
the Khmer "god-king" Jayavarman VII (1181-1219), who converted to
Mahayana following the destruction of Angkor by the Cham (Vietnamese) during
his father's reign. Jayavarman's Buddhism seems to have been a revised version
of the Brahmanical religion which previous Khmer kings had exploited to deify
their own persons. The central deity in Jayavarman's religion was Lokeshvara,
"Lord of the Worlds", and rebuilding Angkor Thom on a stupendously
grand scale, the king created a "Buddhist" city as a monument to
Lokeshvara, who was an aspect of Jayavarman's divine self. This convergence of
king and deity is still visible in the portrait masks of Jayavarman carved on
the four faces of the Bayon temple towers of Angkor Thorn.
Like Borobudur and many other southeast Asian temples,
Angkor Thom was conceived as a model of the Buddhist universe. At the centre of
an immense complex of shrines is the great Bayon temple with its cluster of five
towers, the tallest of which represents Mount Meru, the cosmic axis. The whole
of Angkor was moated with 100 yards (90m) of water and criss-crossed by a
brilliantly engineered system of canals: the water motif symbolizing the cosmic
ocean and the world's four sacred rivers and - not least - acting as an
irrigation system. Much of the power of Angkor Thom emanates from a profusion
Hindu-Buddhist iconography, carved in a wild, sweet style on the gates and
terraces of Jayavarman's temple-mountain. The god-king's portrait gazing across
his shattered domain adds sinister pathos.
Borobudur Temple complex is one of the greatest monuments in the world. It is
of uncertain age, but thought to have been built between the end of the seventh
and beginning of the eighth century A.D. For about a century and a half it was
the spiritual centre of Buddhism in Java, then it was lost until its
rediscovery in the eighteenth century. The structure, composed of 55,000 square
metres of lava-rock is erected on a hill in the form of a stepped-pyramid of
six rectangular storeys, three circular terraces and a central stupa forming
the summit. The whole structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of
Besides being the highest symbol of Buddhism, the
Borobudur stupa is also a replica of the universe. It symbolises the
micro-cosmos, which is divided into three levels, in which man's world of
desire is influenced by negative impulses; the middle level, the world in which
man has control of his negative impulses and uses his positive impulses; the
highest level, in which the world of man is no longer bounded by physical and
worldly desire. It is ancient devotional practice to circumambulate around the
galleries and terraces always turning to the left and keeping the edifice to
the right while either chanting or meditating. In total, Borobudur represents
the ten levels of a Bodhisattva's life which a person must develop to become a
Buddha or an awakened one.
Visitors may currently enter Tibet from mainland China, Hong Kong or Nepal, if
they have a visa for China; the Chinese authorities maintain "closed"
areas, but most of the country is accessible. In the holy city of Lhasa, the
Dalai Lama's Potala Palace, like many Tibetan monasteries, is now a state
museum. Unlike countless shrines and monasteries destroyed during the Cultural
Revolution, both the structure and contentsof the
Potala are preserved. Symbol of the protection of Avalokiteshvara and of the
greater Tibetan Buddhist community, the Potala still towers imposingly over
Lhasa, and contains countless treasures from the 17th century, including
murals, thankas, mandalas, altars, and the famous statue in sandalwood of
The Jokhang monastery, southeast of the Potala, is the
most sacred of all Tibetan pilgrimage sites. Somehow surviving the barbarities
of the Cultural Revolution, the Jokhang retains its famous gilded roof, and the
"Four Deities Radiating Light" may still be seen in their shrine. The
Jokhang remains a living monastery; but it may also be visited, like other
sacred sites, as a "museum".
and Lung-men (Honan) caves (China)
Yung-kang is one of the most remarkable Buddhist sites for the massive
simplicity of its immense rock-carved Buddhas and the delicate ornamentation of
its narrative reliefs. Work on the cave shrines was started by the emperor of
the first Wei dynasty in AD 460, in response to persecution of Buddhists over
the previous twenty years. In the next decades, in thelimestone
river cliffs at Lung-men (5th-6th centuries), Wei dynasty monumental carving
achieved a spiritual and aesthetic perfection never repeated. The giant Buddhas
at Yung-kang recall Indian prototypes; at Lung-men early Buddhist and Mahayana
motifs converge in a graceful, serene and authentically Chinese idiom. Nara and Kyoto (Japan)
Nara, the Japanese imperial capital in the 8th century, remains one of the
great centres of East Asian Buddhist history. In and around Nara's historic
park are pagodas, early Buddhist and Shinto shrines, formal gardens, the
important Nara National Museum, and not least the Todai-ji temple with its
immense bronze Buddha statue.
The beauty of old Kyoto lies in its numerous Zen
temples dating from the Hieian period, and the famous gardens - "hill gardens"
featuring water, and dry gardens featuring rock and sand - of temples such as
Tenryuji and Ryoan-ji. Zen is a living tradition and Western students are
accepted at some temples in Kyoto as well as in many of the more remote
monasteries in the north of the island.
places for Buddhist pilgrimage in various countries include
ØAfghanistan: the Bamiyan
Thom, Silver Pagoda.
Grottoes. The Four Sacred Mountains namely Wǔtái Shān, Éméi
Shān, Pǔtuó Shān
Palace, Mount Kailash, Lake