Founded by Lord Buddha between the 5th and the 6th centuries B.C., Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world, having the 4th largest followers in the world. Buddhism was born in India and flourished after patronized by Ashoka the great – the most famous king of ancient India during the late 3rd and early 2nd centuries B.C. Ashoka and Kanishka played an important role in popularizing and spreading Buddhism outside India. In 250 B.C, Mahindra and Sanghamitra, son and daughter of King Ashoka, made Buddhism popular in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. Gradually Buddhism spread to Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea Indonesia and Thailand. Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims visit India to perform sacred Buddhist Tours every year.
Though Lord Buddha was born and brought up in Lumbini and Kapilvastu respectively in Nepal, he got enlightenment in Bodhgaya India and preached his first sermon in Sarnath, also in India. Out of four most sacred places of Buddhism namely Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar; three are in India, making it the most popular Buddhist destination in the world. On your Buddhist Tours of India, you can visit all the sacred sites of Buddhism in India as well as Nepal.
The four most sacred Buddhist destinations include Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace), Bodhgaya (where Buddha got enlightenment), Sarnath (where Buddha delivered his first sermon) and Kushinagar (where Lord Buddha died).
The birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini is one of the most sacred and important Buddhists pilgrimage destinations located near the Nepal – India border. The tourist attractions of Lumbini are the Sacred Garden, Maya Devi Temple, Puskani Pond, Ashokan Pillar, Buddha Temple and the Lumbini Museum. Lumbini is also listed in the World Heritage Sites.
Located near the river Niranjana, Bodhgaya is the most sacred pilgrimage center for Buddhists from all over the world. It was Bodhgaya where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree after years of search for the truth and knowledge. The tourist attractions of Bodhgaya are the Mahabodhi Temple, Mahabodhi Tree, Shakyamuni Buddha, Niranjana River, Vajrasana, Ancient Railing, Lotus Tank, Chankaramana, Animeshlochana, Ratnagar and Sujata Village. The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya is listed in the World Heritage Site.
Sarnath is one of the four most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center. Buddha visited Sarnath soon after he attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya and delivered his first sermon or Maha Dharma Chakra Pravartan at the Deer Park in Sarnath. It was here that Buddha taught the key aspects of Buddhism: the four noble truths, the eightfold path and the middle way philosophy to his followers. The major tourist attractions of Sarnath are the Chaukhandi Stupa, Dhamek Stupa, Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, Sarnath Museum, Dharmrajika Stupa, Lion Capital and the excavated ruins of the Saddharmachakra Vihar.
Located at a distance of approximately 50 km from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Kushinagar is the place where Buddha died at the age of 80 after attaining the state of Mahaparinirvana (Permanent Bliss). The major tourist attractions of Kushinagar include the Mahaparinirvana Temple, Nirvana Chaitya, Ramabhar Stupa, Matha Kuar Shrine, Meditation Park, Indo – Japan – Sri Lanka Temple, Wai Thai Temple and the Museum.
Sankasya is located at about 47 km from Farrukhabad town in Uttar Pradesh India. It is believed that in Sankasya Buddha descended from Tushita Heaven along with Brahma and Devraj Indra after giving discourses to his mother in heaven. It is said that Buddha went to Tushita Heaven to teach Dharma to his mother. The major attractions at Sankasya are a temple with the statue of Buddha, Bisari Devi Temple and Ashokan Elephant Pillar.
The ancient capital of famous Mauryan Empire, Vaishali is at a distance of about 55 km from Patna, the capital city of the Indian state of Bihar. Lord Buddha visited Vaishali frequently and preached his last sermon at Kolhua, a small village situated in close proximity to Vaishali. To commemorate the event, Emperor Ashoka erected one of his famous lion pillars in Vaishali in the 3rd century BC. The second great Buddhist council was also held in Vaishali, nearly 100 years after the Mahaparinirvana (permanent bliss) of the Buddha. Two fine stupas were erected in Vaishali to commemorate this significant Buddhist event. The major tourist attractions at Vaishali include the Lion Pillar at Kolhua, Shanti Stupa, Buddha Stupa 1(also known as Relic Stupa), Buddha Stupa 2, Vaishali Museum, Raja Vishal Ka Garh, Bawan Pokhar Temple, Abhishek Pushkarini (the coronation tank), World Peace Pagoda, and Kundalpur (Birth place of Lord Mahavira).
The ancient capital of the Magadh Empire, Rajgir is significant because Buddha delivered some of the most important discourses here during his stay for several years in Rajgir. Rajgir is also famous for hosting the First Buddhist Council. It was Rajgir where Buddha converted Emperor Bimbisar and two of his most favorite future disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana to Buddhism. The important teachings of Buddha were also written down at Rajgir. Rajgir The major tourist attractions at Rajgir include the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, Venu Vana Monastery, Jwakameavan Gardens, Ajatshatru Fort, Karanda Tank and Somnbhandar Caves
The capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala, Sravasti is one of the most commonly visited places of Buddhist pilgrimage. The place is famous for hosting Lord Buddha for many rainy seasons in the Jetvana Gardens. It is said that Lord Buddha performed many miracles during his stay in Sravasti. The major tourist attractions at Sravasti include the Temple No. 2, Temple No. 3, Ananda Bodhi Tree, Stupa H, Sudatta Stupa, Angulimal Stupa and the Stupa of great Miracle
Situated at about 70 Km from Patna, Nalanda had been world – Nalandafamous for its ancient monastic university, the Nalanda University, most important ancient seat of Buddhist learning. This university played a significant role in the promotion of Buddhism in India. Lord Buddha visited Nalanda several time during his lifetime. The major tourist attractions of Nalanda are the ruins of Nalanda University, the Huen Tsang Memorial Hall, the Nalanda Museum and the Surya Mandir dedicated to Sun God. In addition, there are many other important Buddhist places of importance in India including Ajanta, Ellora and Amaravati in Maharashtra and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh India. Ajanta and Ellora are famous for fascinating Buddhist caves full of Buddhist’s sculptors. Sanchi is popular for Buddhist stupas and monasteries. You will visit all the major Buddhist pilgrimage sites on your Buddhist Tour of India with MAT.