On the Trail of the Buddha in Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya

I looked up at the Peepal tree, it was the time of the season when new leaves had sprouted and the tree had a tender green look. The heart shaped leaves fluttered in the morning breeze as I wondered what was so special about this tree that millions congregated here, just to spend a few moments in its shade or have a glimpse of it.

Bodh Gaya

After all, it was just another specimen of a type of fig tree that is found in the Indian subcontinent and China, a tree bearing the botanical name Ficus Religiosa. I was on the trail of the Buddha in Bodh Gaya and was looking up in awe at the Mahabodhi tree.

Bodh Gaya

As I craned my neck upwards to gaze at the tree, I heard or imagined hearing a booming voice addressing me…

Bodh Gaya

“My child, I understand the doubts and contradictions that fill your mind and that is why I decided to break my silence and tell you my story so that you can go from here in peace”. I am the Mahabodhi tree and today I will tell you the story of  how my ancestor became a Mahabodhi from an ordinary Bodhi tree and the name has passed on from generation to generation”.

Bodh Gaya

The wind howled ominously, the branches of my ancestor swayed violently, rocked by the winds. Rain poured down in torrents. But nothing seemed to unsettle the man who sat cross-legged, deep in meditation under the Bodhi tree who happened to be my ancestor. The man had been sitting there for the past 7 days immersed in a deep trance, oblivious to the outer world. His face radiated a strange calm, but my ancestor knew that behind the facade of serenity had brewed a storm which had raged violently till the sheer willpower of the man’s mind had stilled all the forces and now his face radiated with the brightness of enlightenment.

Bodh Gaya

The man now was the master of three facets of knowledge that had transformed him from Siddhartha Gautama to Gautama Buddha. He was The Buddha, the enlightened one and he now knew about his past lives, had a clear knowledge of Karma and Reincarnation and had clarity about the four noble truths, namely, Misery, the arising or cause of misery, the cessation of misery and the path leading to the cessation of misery.

Bodh Gaya

From that day my ancestor also transformed from a mere Bodhi tree to the Sri Mahabodhi tree.

Bodh Gaya

Being a Mahabodhi tree is a difficult cross to bear, continued the Mahabodhi tree. My ancestor had to face many travails in his life after he became a Mahabodhi tree. The great King Ashoka revered my ancestor and organized a festival every year in his honour. His wife, Queen Tisarrakha was so jealous that she hatched a conspiracy to kill my ancestor. However, my resilient ancestor grew again. He faced many an ordeal and was cut down many a time, but always grew again. It was only in the year 1876 that my aging ancestor was destroyed in a storm. However the lineage of the Mahabodhi tree continued and I am his direct descendant.

My cousins flourish in different corners of the world,  spreading the glow of enlightenment. Today they can be seen at Sravasti, Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, Honolulu in Hawaii, Chennai in India, and California in the USA.

A heart shaped leaf floated in the air and brushed my face gently. I looked up at the tree with amazement and the story that it had shared with me. I heaved a sigh and moved on to explore further the invaluable treasures of heritage that resided in the Bodh Gaya temple.

As I moved around the temple precincts, I felt a strange calm engulf my very being as if I were sanctified by merely touching the earth on which the Buddha once walked.

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple complex houses a gold plated statue of the Buddha deep in meditation and emanating an aura of serenity.

Bodh Gaya

The temple complex also has marked areas where the Buddha spent his time immediately after attaining enlightenment. It is said that for one week after enlightenment the Buddha continued to sit under the Bodhi tree and bask in the glow of the bliss of pure and true knowledge that had been revealed to him. He spent the second week gazing meditatively at the Bodhi tree in gratitude for its benign benevolence during his deep meditation. Later he went and meditated under another tree where it is said a cobra came and spread its hood over him to protect him against the rain. He spent yet another week walking back and forth near the Bodhi tree, deep in meditation.

Later the Buddha moved to a place called Isipatana where he gave his first sermon after enlightenment and unraveled the secrets of life to a few blessed disciples. This place is today known as Sarnath which is situated about 13 kilometers from Varanasi.

Travel is a transformative experience and some places touch you deep inside and transform you in ways that you are not even aware of! Bodh Gaya is one such place that reaches the very core of your being.

Bodh Gaya: Some Useful Information

  • Bodh Gaya is situated in the Indian state of Bihar
  • The nearest airport to Bodh Gaya is Gaya which is about 17 kilometers away
  • Patna airport is about 110 kilometers away
  • Gaya is well connected by road and rail to major cities of India
  • Bodh Gaya lies at a distance of about 255 kilometers from the holy city of  Varanasi
  • The temple of the Bodhi tree is open all days of the week from 5 AM to 9 PM
  • Cameras are allowed with a fee, however, mobile phones are not allowed inside the temple premises

When you are in Bodh Gaya, also do check out the following:

  • The Great Buddha Statue
  • The Thai Monastery
  • The Royal Bhutan Monastery
  • Japanese Temple
  • Burmese Vihara

You may be interested in reading about our visit to Buddha temples in Ravangla in Sikkim, Sarnath near Varanasi and Bangkok.

 

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Bodh Gaya

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84 thoughts on “On the Trail of the Buddha in Bodh Gaya

  1. wendy maes Reply

    Loved reading your story. I’m definitely planning to visit India in the future, but as most people I want to see the highlights first.

  2. Lena Reply

    Thanks for sharing your adventure! I loved your sentence “Travel is a transformative experience and some places touch you deep inside and transform you in ways that you are not even aware of!”. I’ve travelled to cuba this year & I totally made the same experience.

  3. Dominic Reply

    Nice history lesson. I love travelling in the East as you get to visit places like these that have such spiritual significance. Good to have the tips to hand in case of a visit. Thanks!

  4. Joe Reply

    Ah yes, the story of the Buddha. A timeless classic that I never get tired of reading! Must have been an awe inspiring place to visit. Had no idea the tree had to undergo so much adversity…

  5. Naomi Reply

    What a truly touching experience that must been! I hope to learn more about buddhism on my travels to come!

  6. Patricia Reply

    Honestly, I’ve never read the story of the Buddha before. But I can certainly see how this journey and the experience would be a transformative one. You’re surrounded by inspiring structures, stunning statues and a profound history — I imagine it would change (or deepen) a person’s perspective on the world. Must have been incredible!

  7. Anne Reply

    That is one huge Buddhist monument but it looks stunning. Sounds like a fascinating tale!

  8. Milijana Reply

    On my travels I am so interested to learn of different cultures and religious. Love the story about Buddha. I am so eager to learn more about Buddhism.
    …. And I definitely have to agree with you, travel is a transformative experience indeed!

  9. Danik Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experience about Buddha. Its one religion I really dont know much about and willing to learn more when I do a more in depth journey through Asia. 🙂

  10. Tanya Korteling Reply

    I have never heard of the Bodh Gaya or the Mahabodhi tree. I hope to return to India in the next couple of years so will add it to my list! Great post

  11. Paige W Reply

    Oh my gosh. This is absolutely amazing! I studied Buddhism quite a bit in college and I’m eager to get to explore the birthplace of it next year. You’ve given me so many tips on where to go in India, from reading past articles, but this is definitely going to the top of the list!

  12. Julie Cao Reply

    The story of Buddha is absolutely enlightening and meanwhile makes us feel peace. It is great to visit such a place that can transform you and make you feel peace deep down inside – that is one of the reasons why we travel. I wish to visit Bodh Gaya one day and look up the Peepal tree, and get to know our ancestor’s stories and the path they have been through.

  13. Claire Summers Reply

    What a beautiful story. I can’t believe I have never heard the story of Buddha before. I’ve recently started reading a Hindu gods and goddesses book as part of my Yoga practice so this is especially poignant for me right now. Anything to do with Indian culture I find fascinating. Beautiful.

  14. Veronica P. Reply

    India has millions of places to discover. I wasn’t able to explore any of the Buddhist places in India, but I really want to when I go there next time.
    I’d love to explore during sunrise when there is still not that many people around

  15. Cathy Reply

    Travel is transformative, couldn’t agree more to this statement! We’re kind of new people after
    our journey. Buddha is so mystical and holy. So much respect for him here. X

  16. Emily Reply

    Glad you explained the religious importance of this place as i often visit temples etc. and dont know what I am looking at! It is even worse in Asia where no signs are in English! Thanks for sharing such a useful piece!

  17. robin rue Reply

    Wow, that sounds amazing. My stepson was in India this past January and loved it. He keeps talking about going back!

  18. Marge Reply

    You have such a unique and interesting take on telling the story of Buddha. I honestly found it quite a pleasurable read. It almost felt like the tree was indeed, speaking with me. I think I will never look at a Bodhi tree the same way again.

  19. Divya Reply

    Beautiful story told here 🙂 My mom would love to visit this place. Seeing a great big Buddha statue would sure make her happy!

  20. Rosey Reply

    Traveling affords so many opportunities. We are ready to get moving SOMEWHERE again. It’s been awhile. 🙂

  21. Iza Abao Reply

    I am fascinated with the story of the Buddha and his wisdom. I am not familiar with the Mahabodhi tree but it was insightful to read your post about this. I would love to visit this place someday.

  22. Annemarie LeBlanc Reply

    This was an interesting read. I have some friends who practice Buddhism and they seem very knowledgeable about the ways of the world. I did not know about the Mahabodhi tree until now. This would be an wonderful place to visit!

  23. Adriana Lopez Reply

    Incredibly beautiful place I wish I have the budget to be able to travel that far away. I bet would be an amazing experience.

  24. kelly reci Reply

    I ma very interested about Buddha and I enjoyed reading post like this!

  25. Neha Saini Reply

    The bodhi tree is grand…simply awesome to see it and think about the past..lovely surrounding temple complex..overall a great experience and must visit place.

  26. Indrani Reply

    This is so beautifully described. I hope I have the good fortune to see all these.
    This kind of travel indeed transforms one’s inner self. It is a blessed feeling. Great pictures.

  27. Czjai Reply

    That temple looks breathtaking. I would love to visit India someday and see these sight for myself. 🙂

  28. neha Reply

    Loved the narration. Although natively from Bihar, we have never been to Bodh Gaya yet. We are planning to the next time when we visit our native village. And that is when your story is going to be highly useful for us

  29. Jitaditya Narzary Reply

    It must have been an emotionally and spiritually overwhelming experience. Despite its historical importance, I don’t see too many people going there because Bihar in general is not considered to be touristy. It was great to see you take the effort to reach there.

  30. Nikki Reply

    I love the way you tell the story from the point of view of the tree. This looks like an enchanting place where someone could get lost in their thoughts.

  31. Kenneth Reply

    Wow definitely a different travel experience. Would love to do this soon as well. Planning to do an India trip next year.

  32. Carol Cassara Reply

    That was quite a story and I’m sure visiting this place felt amazing and refreshing spiritually and mentally. It’s nice to be able to explore and learn more about the stories and history of the place.

  33. Marielle Altenor Reply

    Reading this made me feel like I was there. I got chills when you said you heard or imagine that booming voice. Such a beautiful and spiritual journey.

  34. Tania Mukherjee Reply

    You are such a great writer. Thanks for letting us know about the legend behind the tree. No doubt people flock to the place to find peace, solace and inspiration.

  35. Samantha Reply

    I really enjoyed India when I visited. As a yogi, I loved reading this article about Buddha. Thank you and namaste! 🙂

  36. Adrenaline Romance Reply

    We are not religious people (in fact, we’re agnostics), but this is truly a place of serenity. There is something in a nation’s important historical, cultural, and spiritual locations that heals the mind and soul. That steep temple is just awesome!

  37. Only By Land Reply

    I visited Bodh Gaya about 10 years ago, I have huge respect for the Buddhist culture. I visited the Thai monastery and as I can speak Thai I was able to talk with the head Thai monk living there.

  38. Julie syl Reply

    Peepal tree is so great! Its really amazing! I would love to visit there and experience the place. Super like it.

  39. Pilar Reply

    Wao!! I visited India last year and I loved it but I didn’t have the opportunity to visit this place that looks so mystical and interesting! Thanks for all the awesome pictures, I’ll definitely visit next time!
    xoxo,
    Pilar

  40. Jenn and Ed Coleman Reply

    How amazing it would be to sit at the navel of the earth in the very spot Buddha obtained his enlightenment. I wonder what thoughts and wisdom you could have while meditating here. What a beautiful story that should make every person of every religion slow down and focus on the beauty of the message, instead of the differences of the text.

  41. Divyakshi Gupta Reply

    And then travel also makes you transform that serenity into peaceful narration the touches the hearts of your readers. Can feel the breeze, the peace, the calm and the wonderful moment as I read this. Thank you Vijay for taking me to one of the places I so want to visit through your words.

  42. Jenna Reply

    Great story–this must have been a wonderful experience! Such an interesting history and the temple complex would be fun to visit. Looks like a beautiful spot!

  43. Samantha Sparrow Reply

    I don’t know this area of the world that well, and I’d never heard of the Bodh Gaya or the Mahabodhi tree, so thanks so much for the education on that! I really would like to visit India soon.

  44. Anete Reply

    I haven’t hear about this place before so this was a great read. India is so impressive with everything it has. So no surprise that this place looks as impressive as it does. Will make sure to visit it soon.

  45. Anna Reply

    Great read and agree about the feeling of mindfulness. I also suggest visiting birth place of Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal for more insight if you have already of course. Happy travels 🙂

  46. Ariane Reply

    Such fascinating history and culture…never heard of this destination, but it truly radiates calmness and tranquility! Thanks a lot for this great lesson of history.

  47. Dorene Reply

    The difficult part of visiting India is the many places you miss! So we need to go again. What a peaceful place, steeped in incredible Buddhist history. Thank you for sharing this piece.

  48. knycx.journeying Reply

    Thanks for sharing and the post is spiritual and I love the narratives.
    Buddhism’s rituals, virtues, and traditions fascinate me and I enjoyed the post. 🙂 @knycx.journeying

  49. oursweetadventures Reply

    The complex looks truly amazing to behold. I have never heard this story before and you provided great insight into it. There seems to be almost to many places to see when you visit India. How can you see it all in a lifetime.

  50. Ami Reply

    How beautifully captured – the various feelings that went with the enlightenment. Was a lovely read indeed. I am sure this place was about serenity and calm – the way most Buddhist monasteries are!

  51. Brianna Reply

    I really don’t know much about Buddhism, so this was interesting to read. I also didn’t know this would be so close to the town of Varanasi. I think if I ever visit there, I would make a trip to the Bodhi tree!

  52. Elisa Reply

    What a beautiful story. If I remember well, I think I saw one of its ancestors, the one in Sri Lanka. Thanks for this interesting reading.

  53. Travel Lexx Reply

    Beautiful temple and grounds and such an interesting place. Haven’t heard of it before so fascinating to read about the Bodhi tree and another off-the-beaten path place in India!

  54. melody pittman Reply

    What an interesting story! You left no stone unturned. Thanks for all the knowledge. I’m ready for the Buddha category on Jeopardy now. Trivia is my life. 😉

  55. Sreeram Reply

    Such an interesting story, I started getting into Buddhism whilse I was travelling in SE Asia. You have compiled the story in this one post interestingly.

  56. Suruchi Reply

    I loved reading the whole story and the way you had narrated it is really really awesome. Indeed it has opened my eyes and told me so much unknown. Bodh Gaya is on our list for sure.

  57. Vicki Louise Reply

    Thank you for sharing your adventures and giving me a great history lesson in the process! The Bodhi tree is a great little off the beaten path gem to add to anyone’s India list.

  58. Edith & Juan Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I had never heard the Buddha Story. It’s always nice to learn about history that a culture holds beloved. Sounds like you really enjoyed your visit!

  59. Christopher Rudder Reply

    I’m not sure what the name of that temple is in the first picture but it is absolutely stunning! I’ve always been fascinated with the Buddha lifestyle and this place Both Gaya looks interesting. Love he picture of all the kids too!!

  60. Abhinav Singh Reply

    I went to Bodh gaya in the sweltering heat of June 2 years ago. I missed most of the things you mentioned as the extreme heat tired me. I must go back again, this time in winter for sure! P.S. I had an amazing sattu sharbat there!

  61. Carmen Edelson Reply

    You’re a fabulous writer. “Travel is a transformative experience and some places touch you deep inside and transform you in ways that you are not even aware of!” I couldn’t agree more. You’ve definitely inspired me to visit, thanks for sharing 🙂

  62. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) Reply

    What a great experience! Definitely one of the most anticipated entries in our Bucket List is the trip to Gaya. Thanks for the story and the details – they will come in handy! #FeetDoTravel

  63. tracy collins Reply

    I’ve never read the story before about the Bodhi tree! Definitely somewhere to visit when I get to India. #feetdotravel

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