Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Kushinagar, and Vaishali tour / tourism / travel / attractions

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Bodh Gaya (or Bodhgaya) is the place where Gautama Buddha attained Nirvana or Enlightenment, sitting under a pipal tree. This is the holiest of places for the Buddhists. But the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya and the pipal tree which still stands there, attracts tourists of any religious faith. Bodh Gaya is not just for religion. It is a place of history. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is a World Heritage Site.

Bodh Gaya is located near Gaya (12km) in the state of Bihar. It is about 140 km from the state's capital city, Patna. The following two stamps show the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodhgaya. (Note: You can click on any stamp image on this page to see a clearer and better picture and/or to learn more about the stamp subject).

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya
A 1949 stamp
showing Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya
A 2002 stamp
showing Mahabodhi Temple

The Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa, "Pipal" in local language) which lies behind the main temple was planted in the nineteenth century and is believed to be a direct descendent of the original tree under which Buddha had attained enlightenment.

Pilgrims tie prayer flags to its branches and meditate under it. Cemented railings have been erected around the tree. Monks and devotees sit around the tree in the early hours of the morning to meditate and chant. You will feel the sense of peace and serenity that is in the air, even if you are not meditating.

The following Indian stamp depicts the Bodhi Tree.

The Bodhi Tree
The Bodhi Tree of Bodhgaya

The above stamp showing the Bodhi Tree, is part of a four-stamp set showing places of Buddhist interest in India. The other three stamp shows, Nalanda, Kushinagar, and Vaishali.

Nalanda, which is about 100 kilometers in the southeast side of Patna, is not inhabited by humans anymore. But it is at this place once existed the world's first residential university, called Nalanda University. Founded in the 5th century AD by the Gupta emperors, Nalanda University was an international university and had about 10,000 students and 2,000 professors, not just from India but also from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia, and Turkey. The university buildings were architecturally superb. The university had 8 separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, dormitories for students, a nine-story library, lakes, and parks. Nalanda was the greatest ancient center of Buddhist learning. The Chinese traveler Huen Tsang had come to Nalanda in the 7th century AD and had studied here for some time. A lot of what we know about Nalanda today, came from Huen Tsang's writings. The ruins of Nalanda is easy to visit, and it is a fascinating experience. In the nearby area there is Nalanda Museum. A visitor should visit the museum as it has many artifacts that were found at site. The museum is also a good source of information about this great ancient university.

Kushinagar is the place where Buddha had attained Mahaparinirvana, or in simple English, this is where Buddha had passed away. Obviously, for Buddhists this place is of great importance. Anybody, even remotely interested in Buddhist history, would like to visit this place. (But Kushinagar is not in Bihar. It is near the town of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. I am including a short discussion of Kushinagar on this page, rather than under Northern India Tour, because the stamp image I am going to show you is attached with the Nalanda stamp. As a stamp collector I do not want to separate these two stamps).

Kushinagar has quite a few temples and stupas. Some of the stupas are modern day stupas built by different Buddhist countries. There is also an archaeological museum there. The most important things to see in Kushinagar are the Mahaparinirvana Temple (which houses the famous 6-meter long statue of reclining Buddha - Buddha in his death bed - built in 5th century AD), Nirvana Stupa (where ashes of Buddha had been interred), and the Ramabhar Stupa (where Buddha was cremated in 483 BC).

The following two stamps bring to life ancient Indian Buddhist culture and history.

The stamp on top shows Nalanda. The stamp on bottom shows Kushinagar.
The stamp on top shows Nalanda.
The stamp on bottom shows Kushinagar.

Vaishali is near Muzaffarpur in Bihar. Buddha used to visit this place. He also delivered his last sermon here. Emperor Ashoka later built a pillar here to mark the spot. If you are interested in Buddhist history, you should visit Vaishali.

Vaishali is also the place where the famous courtesan Amrapali used to live. It is said that, on her request, Buddha had visited Amrapali's house during one of his visits to Vaishali. Thus Amrapali became a devotee of Buddha and gifted her mango grove to his Order. Later, Amrapali shaved off her hair, donned saffron-colored robe, and became a bhikshuni (nun). She was purified.

Here are links to sites giving more information on Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Kushinagar, and Vaishali:

For other Buddhist tourist places in India, please visit Sanchi Tour and Ajanta and Ellora Caves Tour.

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