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Most sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists

By Gaurav Manandhar at
sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists

Origin of Buddhism

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. He was born in Kapilvastu (present-day Nepal) under Shakya dynasty during 5th century BCE. As he was born, he was forecasted as a successful ruler or a great saint by the family priest. With the fear of becoming a saint, the king confined the young prince inside the palace with a luxurious lifestyle. During his growth, he didn't experience any suffering. The king also ordered others to hide old and sick people from the sight of the young prince while he roams around the city.

Later in his early twenties, he stumbles upon worldly experiences that made him ponder the causes of the suffering of the humans. Upon numerous trails, he could not come up with the answers. So he decided to wander and learn from the well-known teachers. With them, he learned deep meditation and followed the yogic practices. Later on, he discovered that he had reached a saturation point where his teachers could offer him no more. So he left his teachers to learn more about the humans and his questions. He left the place with five fellow followers.

Due to some misunderstanding, the followers left Siddhartha Gautama. All alone, he sat under a Bodhi tree at a place called Bodh Gaya and determined not to move until he gets the answers he sought. His meditation was deep and on the night of the full moon in May, he was enlightened.

He felt completely relaxed and he understood the cycle of birth, death and the wheel of life. He understood his true nature and that of all living beings. This was the end of his spiritual journey, and at that moment he became "the Buddha, Enlightened one". He later shared his experience and also preach what he learned when he met his five fellow followers.

Sacred Buddhists Pilgrimage sites

During the Buddha's life, there was a special moment that adds the value in the Buddhism. These special moments are the birth of the Buddha, the moment when he attained enlightenment, the moment when he first gave the discourse to his five fellow followers, and the moment when he attained the parinirvana. These moments were very special hence the place associated with these moments are converted into the sacred pilgrimage sites with the introduction of various temples by different Buddhist countries in the courtyard. These places are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar. The Buddhists also visit these sacred pilgrimage sites once in their lifetime to venerate the Buddha.

Lumbini, a place where Buddha was born

Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in the Rupandehi District of Province No. 5 in Nepal. According to the Buddhist tradition, Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE.

In this pilgrimage site, the Buddhists are able to observe the ruins of the palace, Ashoka Pillar, Maya Devi Temple along with numerous other modern Buddhist monasteries constructed by other Buddhist countries. The site also houses Puskarini or Holy Pond where Maya Devi took the ritual dip prior to the Buddha's birth. The Buddha also had his first bath in this pond.

Bodh Gaya, a place where Buddha got the enlightenment

Bodh Gaya is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha got the enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi tree in this place.

At present period, the Bodhi Gaya has not the original Bodhi tree. However, they have managed to put the sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree of Sri Lanka which is itself sapling of the Original Bodhi tree. There is also a Maha Bodhi Temple in the premises which house Buddha statues for fellow followers to venerate the Buddha.

Like Lumbini, Bodh Gaya also houses numerous other modern Buddhist monasteries and temple constructed by other Buddhist countries.

Sarnath, a place where Buddha delivered his first teaching

Sarnath is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in the north east of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha had delivered his first teaching to his five fellow followers. The place where he delivered has been now protected and preserve and converted into the Park. It is now named as The Deer Park.

After the Deer Park, other notable Buddhist architectures are the Dhamekha Stupa, the Chaukhandi Stupa, and the Ashoka Pillar.

Kushinagar, a place where Buddha attained parinirvana

Kushinagar is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in Kushinagar District of Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. According to the Buddhists tradition, the Buddha provided his last preaching in this place and attained the parinirvana.

As tradition mentions, one of the eight Buddha relics is believed to be deposited in a cairn in Kushinagar. Apart from these events, Kushinagar also holds famous Parinirvana Temple and Parinirvana stupa. The Parinirvana Temple is made of bricks and is surrounded by dense forest. Parinirvana stupa is erected alongside the Parinirvana Temple.

Apart from visiting these sacred places to pay a homage to the Buddha, the Buddhist also house the Buddha statues in their prayer room with the same motive. They usually worship, meditate by being in front the statues. They normally buy these statues through the vendor who sales the Buddha statues.