The magnificent Unesco World Heritage-listed Mahabodhi Temple, marking the hallowed ground where Buddha attained enlightenment and formulated his philosophy, forms the spiritual heart of Bodhgaya. Topped by a 50m pyramidal spire, the inner sanctum of the ornate structure houses a 10th-century, 2m-high gilded image of a seated Buddha. Amazingly, four of the original sculpted stone railings surrounding the temple, dating from the Sunga period (184–72 BC), have survived amid the replicas. Cellphones are not allowed within the temple complex.
Undoubtedly, the most sacred fig tree ever to grace the Earth was the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment. Buddha was said to have stared unblinkingly at the tree in an awed gesture of gratitude and wonder after his enlightenment. The bodhi tree flourishes inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, amid a beautiful garden setting, its roots embedded in the same soil as its celebrated ancestor.
Today, pilgrims and tourists alike flock here to pray and meditate at the most important of Buddhism’s four holiest sites. The red sandstone slab between the tree and the adjacent Mahabodhi Temple was placed by Ashoka to mark the spot of Buddha’s enlightenment – it’s referred to as the Vajrasan (Lightning Throne).
Great Buddha Statue
This 80ft-high Japanese-style statue of the Buddha seated in a lotus posture towers above a pleasant garden. The statue was cemented with sandstone blocks and red granite which is spectacular to view of its artistic brilliancy and the grandeur. It is to be believed that the statue was completed with long seven years. The impressive monument was unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1989 and is surrounded by 10 smaller sculptures of Buddha’s disciples. The statue is partially hollow and is said to contain some 20,000 bronze Buddhas.
The King of Bhutan got this monastery constructed as a tribute to Lord Buddha. This monastery will surely impress you with its splendid architecture, serenity and the seven feet tall statue of Buddha inside. What add to the fame of this monastery are the clay carvings depicting Lord Buddha’s life. Buddhism followers from across the globe visit here to witness these brilliant carvings. Bhutanese monks living in this monastery organize peace prayers and also conduct courses on Buddhism and guide people accordingly.
This museum was established in 1956 that is located near the Mahabodhi Temple. It has an excellent collection of several Hindu and Buddhist relics, stone sculptures, terracotta items, Lord Buddha images, miniature pot, coping stones that were transported from the famous Mahabodhi Temple and copper antimony rod. In the second gallery of the museum, visitors are acquainted with the Dasavatara (Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. The popular attractions of the museum are the huge idols of Lord Buddha in abhayamudra position and Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu. The coins of the Mughal era, antique relics and monuments belonging to the Mauryan and Gupta period are also on display for the visitors.
The most impressive of Bodhgaya's Tibetan-style monasteries is the Tergar Monastery of the Karmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Karmapa is often in residence here and gives teachings in the compound next door. There's a small café on-site.
The construction of Pal Tergar Rigdzin Khacho Shedrup Targye Ling was completed in 2006. Since then until 2010, around 300 monks from India, Nepal and Tibet had come to study in the monastery. On upholding Tergar lineage which emphasizes the spirit of practice, even the youngest monks at the Bodhgaya monastery are practicing meditation everyday. The traditional Buddhist curriculum has also been modernized to include basic science and other academic subjects. Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya is responsible to host the annual visit of Gyalwang Karmapa during the Kagyu Monlam festival held every winter.
Sujata Kuti Stupa
The huge Sujata Kuti stupa, across the Falgu River from Bodhgaya, was built to commemorate the residence of Sujata, the cow-herder who fed the starving Buddha rice pudding, thus ending his seven years of asceticism and spurring him to follow the Middle Way. The ancient brick stupa was originally covered with lime plaster and painted white. It's a 20-minute walk from Bodhgaya.