Buddhist Sites spread throughout India show how the religion, born within the Indian landscape, has spread to be the 4th largest religion in the world. Today, this religion is known to be the most peaceful ones and also one of the most revered religions in the world.
Buddhism is spread throughout the world and has followers from all walks of life. With almost 488 Million followers across the globe, today people from everywhere come to India to visit the Best Buddhist Places to Visit here.
What made this religion so attractive was never a mystery and people today are converting into Buddhism from across the planet. And needless to say, a large chunk of this population comes to India in search of finding solace in the places where the Buddha, lived, breathed and taught his preaching.
Many ardent followers take up Pilgrimage which is a long fulfilling journey in search of moral and spiritual significance. We have given some of the best and most breathtaking Buddhist Places to Visit which will definitely stun you.
About the Gautama Buddha: The Founder of Buddhism
The Buddhist Places to Visit in India are plentiful as the religion was developed within the Indian Subcontinent. Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of the religion was born in Lumbini (Present day Nepal). He attained enlightenment amidst the wilderness near the town of Gaya, near a Bodhi Tree and taught and practised his new thoughts throughout the area.
Important Religious Sites of Buddhism on Political Map India
The Buddhist Pilgrimage sites in India are mostly clustered around the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states of the country with an occasional dot here and there around the map of India. In this article, we have given the Major Buddhist Sites in India on the political map of India which will be helpful if you ever plan to visit them.
The Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in India on the Political Map can be seen here. Please note that we do not vouch for the pinpoint accuracy of the locations given on the map. But the locations and their historical significance can be trusted as we have researched well before providing any information about these places.
Buddhism has played an important role in forming the current culture of the country. These are historical Buddhist sites along with major Buddhist pilgrimage centres. India has lots of pilgrimage centres of Buddhism, and we have selected the ones which are deeply rooted in history. So here is a list of 7 best historical sites in India which you must see.
1. Bodh Gaya
Bodh Gaya is usually termed as “The place where it all started” for Buddhism. Gautama Buddha, after searching for the true meaning of life and misery in it, Siddhartha Gautama sat beneath a Bodhi tree and meditated for several days together and finally attained Enlightenment or Nirvana.
History: The place previously known as Uruwela, it is located at the banks of the river Niranjana where Emperor Ashoka built a temple here.
Siddhartha renounced his family at the age of 29 and travelled in the land in search of the true meaning of truth. He gave up all materialistic possessions of his and started following the Noble Eight-fold path without the help from anyone and practised it. After which he attained Buddhatva or enlightenment on the very banks of the river, beneath the Bodhi Tree in that part of Gaya, thus giving rise to the name of that place- Bodh Gaya.
Located: In the state of Uttar Pradesh, near the town of Gaya.
How to go to Bodh Gaya: As mentioned before, it is located at a slight distance from the town of Gaya and due to the importance of the place, many vehicles are available from the town to the spiritual place.
Notable places to see: The three monasteries which immortalize Buddhism along with the Vipassana centre.
2. Ajanta and Ellora
Ajanta and Ellora are two completely different sites to see, but due to their close proximity, we have grouped them together. Located very close to the city of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra, tourists flock both these destinations not only from the pilgrimage point of view but also as a historical venture in search of knowledge.
Ajanta, a beautiful specimen of Buddhist architecture is a place which is visited by thousands of tourists all throughout the year. The cave paintings which were said to be created in the 1st and 2nd Century AD have still survived! The famous paintings of Vajrapani and Padmapani still remain almost unscathed after so many years of rough climate as well. There are also Stone carvings in the numerous caves of the place.
Ellora, whereas, is an architectural marvel with stone carvings precisely mastered ages ago. The temples, although from different religions, are all wonders of that day and age.
History: In the first phase, Ajanta was a monastery built in the 1st and 2nd Century AD. The whole of western Maharashtra was dotted with monasteries but only these seem to have been in such a well-preserved state. Ellora was an amalgamation of three religions clubbed together (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) during three different periods out of which all the caves are definitely worth seeing.
Located: Ajanta cave temples: around 104 km from the city of Aurangabad.
Ellora Cave Temples: 29 km from Aurangabad City.
How to go to Ajanta and Ellora: Ajanta and Ellora lie at a distance of 97 km but cannot be covered in a single day because they will both enrapture your attention for quite a while. One can take buses or hire a vehicle from the highly commercial Aurangabad city.
Notable sites to see: Cave number 1 and 2 which has the paintings of Vajrapani and Padmapani. Reclining Buddha in cave number 32 is also a prominent site you must see.
The architecture of the Sanchi stupa is greatly celebrated all across the world for its precision and accuracy. The stupa contains various inscriptions in the Brahmi script which was discovered by James Princep in 1837.
History: Started by the first disciple of Buddha, it was like the first monastery type set up in the world. Ashoka who was appointed as the governor married a girl from Sanchi who was a bhakt of the Sanchi monastery. Under his great patronage, he developed the most recognizable features of the site today. Even after Ashoka’s empire fell, Sanchi had remained one of the most venerated sites in the country. The new stone railing of the stupa was constructed during the Gupta reign.
Located: Madhya Pradesh
How to go to Sanchi: Located near Bhopal, you can get vehicles from the place to the location.
Notable sites to see: Sanchi stupa and the neighbouring town of Vidisha also offers lots of historical sites to see.
Also Explore: Most Beautiful and Mysterious Hindu Temples of India
4. Barabar Caves
EM Foster’s “A Passage to India” is what made it familiar among the general folk of India, Barabar caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India. Often termed as being alien by the looks of its construction, it is one of the offbeat places which you will not find in many lists.
History: Built during the Mauryan empire, (322–185 BCE), it also contains several Ashokan inscriptions. These caves are said to be prevalent during the reign of ashoka and also the reign of his grandson, Dasarath Maurya.
Located: Bihar, near Gaya town.
How to go to Barabar: One can go to these caves by taking a bus/ vehicle from the Gaya city in Bihar.
Notable sites to see: Nagarjuni caves nearby are also a great destination.
Who doesn’t know the Sarnath? For history lovers, Sarnath needs no introduction. It’s the place that gave us our national emblem. So in case you didn’t know about Sarnath, this is the place where you will get to know in a small summary.
History: The first sermon given by Buddha was done here, which was a heard by a bunch of deer, which immediately attained nirvana. Ashoka, during his reign, erected a Stupa during that time. But the most important factor which pulls most people to the place is the Ashokan Pillar which is the national emblem of India.
When traveller Xuan Zang came to India, Sarnath boasted a 100m-high stupa and 1500 monks living in large monasteries. But after a while, it all came down to ruins.
Located: Located near Varanasi.
How to go to Sarnath: You can take buses from Varanasi station to the spot but the frequency of these busses is comparatively low.
Notable sites to see: The stupa and the pillar.
Rajgir is a former imperial city long fallen into ruins and is a visual treat for all those interested in the spirit of Buddhism. It can be said to be the informal birthplace of Buddhism as it was here the teachings of Buddha were codified and spread to the world.
History: Rajgir was the original capital of Magadha before Patliputra was established. Rajgir, known originally as Rajgriha, was the capital during the lifespan of Gautama Buddha. It was here that he gave some of his most teachings, and also converted king Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others into Buddhism. On one of the hills are the Saptparni caves which are the site of the first Buddhist council.
How to go to Rajgir: easily accessible from Patna by cars or vehicles.
Notable sites to see: Vulture’s peak mountain- this is where Gautama Buddha spent several months meditating and preaching. The main attraction there is the ruins of the original fort of Rajgir, dated to be more than 2000 years old. Also Son Bhandar Caves are some of the main attractions of the place.
7. Karla Caves and Bhaja Caves
Located on the way between two mammoth cities in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Pune- this is an offbeat location for you to find your peace by looking at the various Buddhist structures. These two caves located at some distance from each other are worth a view if you are passing through the route.
History: Bhaja Caves are the first example of cave architecture in Western Maharashtra and Karla caves are of a later period but are one of the most well preserved of that time. These caves exist on what was once the well-travelled trade route of the world, carrying Roman and Egyptian gold in exchange for Indian cotton and silks. The traders needed to cross the Western Ghats to reach the various coastal cities.
Located: Near Lonavala, near Mumbai city.
How to go to Karla and Bhaja caves: You can hire a vehicle to go to Lonavala and on the way you’ll find these caves.
Notable sites to see: Chaitya caves of Karla as well as Bhaja caves.
The Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in India teach us many valuable lessons straight from the presence of the enlightened one. But the most pivotal, life-changing fact which Buddha could ever tell the world was- “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
We urge you to take that step and walk the path in order to truly realise what Buddha wanted to convey to the people of the world. The notable Buddhist Places of worship will definitely allure you and stun you!
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