Buddhism is a major world religion, and propounds a philosophy that is based on the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddhists venerate Buddha as the supreme enlightened being who sought out enlightenment not for himself but for everyone. It is regarded as one of the most practical religions in the world, and is also among the most popular. The roots of Buddhism date back to the 5th and the 6th century BC India. Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama at Lumbini (now in Nepal) to Suddhodhana, a Shakya chieftain. Buddha’s teachings spread to different parts of Asia. Great temples, shrines and monasteries dedicated to the Buddha and Buddhism were built all over the Asian continent. The most revered of the Buddhist holy places are spread across the Gangetic plains in India as it was the birth place of the Buddha. Let us take a look at the top 10 Buddhist holy places.
Bagan is an ancient town in Myanmar that stands on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River. This ancient place was a collective result of the temples built by ancient Burmese kings. The town has the largest area in the world dedicated to Buddhist temples numbering at around 4000. The spread of Buddhism among the Asian countries is well documented through the many temples that kings have built across the Asian continent. The majority of the temples at Bagan were erected in between the 10-12th century AD.
Borobudur is one of the most well-known places for Buddhist pilgrimage. It is located on the island of Java in Indonesia and is has some of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. More than 2 million blocks of stone were used in the construction of the temples that took 75 years to complete. The place dates back to the 8th century AD and they were mysteriously abandoned in the 14th century AD. Scientists believe that a large volcanic explosion led to the destruction of the temple which was found buried under volcanic ash.
Sanchi is the name of a small village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The place is well-known for its Stupas which date back to the 3rd century AD. Hundreds of thousands of Buddhists and people from other faiths visit this small village every year. The great Stupa at Sanchi is among the oldest architectural structures in India and built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka who was a devout follower of the Buddha. It is considered as one among the eight holiest places for Buddhists.
Sravasti was one of ancient India’s largest cities, and also the place where the Buddha spent most of his monastic life. It is believed that the Buddha spent as many as 25 rainy seasons in this ancient city out of which he spent the maximum time serving at the monastery known as Jetavana. Every year thousands of Buddhists come to this city to pay homage to the Buddha and his life. Different sects of Buddhism are allowed to build their monasteries in the modern-day Sravasti as the place holds great importance to the Buddhists all over the world.
The Boudhanath stupa is a holy place of worship for Buddhists all over the world. Located around 20 kms from the city of Kathmandu in Nepal, the Boudhanath stupa is one of the tallest Buddhist stupas. Boudhanath is one of the holiest places for Buddhists in Nepal and the world, and it is also among the top tourist attractions of the country.
Swayambhunath is one of the holiest places for Buddhism outside of India. It is an ancient religious complex built on the top of a hill in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. The complex consists of a stupa, known as the Swayambhunath stupa, and has many temples and shrines from different dates in history. It is also home to a library and a Tibetan monastery. Swayambhunath is one of the oldest Buddhist places of worship in Nepal and is believed to have been commissioned in the 5th century AD. The place holds religious followers of Hinduism, too, as thousands of Hindus visit this hallowed place annually.
Kusinara, which is known today as Kushinagar, is the place where the Buddha achieved parinirvana after his death. Some of the ruins in this area date back to the 3rd century BC. Legend has it that the Buddha chose this place as the place of his death for a variety of reasons. This small town in the Kushinagar district in Uttar Pradesh is one of the holiest places of Buddhism.
Sarnath is the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon. The Sarnath village is around 15 kms from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. This place was mentioned by the Buddha himself as one of the four holy places for pilgrimage for the Buddhists. The Turk invasion laid waste to most of the structures at Sarnath; only ruins of several stupas and temples stand here. The Sarnath Museum located here houses the famous lion pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka which India adopted as its National Emblem.
Lumbini is the birth place of the Buddha. It is one of the four main places of pilgrimage for Buddhists all over the world. Located in Rupahdehi district in Nepal, Lumbini is the place where the Buddha spent the first 29 years of his life. The current day Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is visited by thousands of Buddhist pilgrims every year and is among the most visited places in Nepal.
1. Bodh Gaya:
Bodh Gaya is famously known as the place where the Buddha received his enlightenment. It is in the Gaya district in Bihar, India and is home to the Mahabodhi Temple, the Diamond Throne and the Bodhi Tree. The Bodhi tree was the tree under which the Buddha meditated and realized nirvana. Emperor Ashoka is said to have laid the foundations of the temple around 250 years after the enlightenment of the Buddha. The city was forgotten and buried under ruins until it was excavated in the 19th century AD by the British.