Dungeshwari Caves

Also, known as Mahakala Caves, the Dungeshwari Caves are located 12 km north-east of Bodh Gaya. Lord Buddha is believed to have meditated in this place for six years before he went to Bodh Gaya to attain enlightenment. A golden emaciated Buddha sculpture commemorating his rigid penance is enshrined in one of the cave temples. Another cave houses a large statue of Lord Buddha, about 6 ft high, to pay tribute to that phase of Buddha's life.

 

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Dungeshwari Caves

Mahabodhi Temple

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which lies about 115 km south of Patna, the capital of Bihar, and 16 km from the district headquarters of Gaya. The magnificent Mahabodhi Temple is one of the four holy sites related to the life of Lord Buddha, and marks the spot where he attained enlightenment. Standing in the middle of Bodh Gaya town, set amid lush green lawns, the iconic sandstone temple rises to a height of about 52 m. With intricate engravings and arch motifs on its shikhara (tower), it is a spectacular sight. Inside the temple, a gilded statue showcases Lord Buddha in his famous bhumisparsha mudra, with one finger touching the earth, asking it to witness his enlightenment. A chamber at the top houses a statue of Mayadevi, Lord Buddha’s mother. The Mahabodhi Temple, destroyed in the 12th century was resurrected in the 14th century and excavated in 1811. It is truly a sight to behold. A pond near the temple that houses blooming lotus flowers is a particular attraction.

Mahabodhi Temple

Sujata Garh

An ancient stupa, Sujata Garh is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha meditated, following severe penance of fasting before he attained enlightenment. As per legend, a lady called Sujata, a cow-herder, offered Buddha a bowl of rice when she saw him emaciated from all the meditating. Buddha realised the futility of self-deprivation and accepted the lady's offer. Thus, the place has been named Sujata Garh after the lady. It is believed that the meal not only gave Buddha strength but also inspired him to follow the Middle Path. After this incident, Buddha went to the Bodhi tree under which he was enlightened. While visiting here, one can also head to Sujata Kuti, lying along the Falgu river, which marks the house of Sujata.

Sujata Garh

Vajrasana

The red sandstone slab between the Bodhi tree and the Mahabodhi Temple is said to have been erected by emperor Ashoka to mark the exact position where Lord Buddha sat. It is traditionally called Buddha’s vajrasana (meaning diamond throne or thunder seat). It is said Lord Buddha sat here in meditation gazing eastwards. One of the most famous of Ashoka’s many pillars (on which he had engraved his edicts and his understanding of religious doctrine), it stands at the southeast corner of the temple. Vajrasana has been mentioned in the work of many scholars like Ashvaghosa, who in his Buddhacharita reveals that this seat is the “navel of the earth”; Fa-Hien mentions that all the past Buddhas attained enlightenment here and the future Buddhas too will attain enlightenment at this spot.

Vajrasana