Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gaya, Bihar-History,Historic Importance,Siddhartha Gautama enlightenment place, Buddhist pilgrimage destination on Earth,Main Attraction in & around

Gaya is a city in Bihar, India.Gaya is 100 kilometers south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. Situated on the banks of Falgu River (Niranjana, as mentioned in Ramayana), it is a place sanctified by both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangla-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (eastern) side. The city has a mix of natural surroundings, age old buildings and narrow bylanes.
Gaya was a part of the ancient state Magadha. In South Bihar, the most prominent representative of Bhumihar Brahmin was the Tekari Raj family, whose great estate in Gaya dated back to the early eighteenth century.


Bodh Gaya is the birthplace of Buddhism. About 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (born in 566 BCE) sat down under a pipal tree (cf. Trees and the Sacred) here and received the enlightenment that would inspire one of the world's great religions. Situated in the Bihar state in northeastern India, about 65 miles south of Bihar's capital of Patna, and 7 miles from the city of Gaya, Bodh Gaya remains the most important Buddhist pilgrimage destination on Earth.

After six fruitless years of seeking the ultimate meaning of life, Siddhartha Gautama sat cross-legged under the pipal tree and entered a deep meditation. During the course of the night he attained enlightenment (Nirvana) and became the Buddha (the Enlightened or Awakened One). The pipal tree, a species of fig, became known as the Bodhi or Bo (Enlightenment) tree. The Buddhe's followers soon recognized the tree as sacred, and it was officially revered by the first great Indian Buddhist empeor Asoka (268-232 BCE), who marked it off with a railing.

Colored flags festoon the Bodhi tree:

The pipal tree now at the site is reputedly descended from the original Bodhi Tree. Pilgrims customarily tie scarves to its branches, lay cut flowers and small lamps around its base, and burn incense. Nearby is the vajrasana, the Diamond Throne, a red sandstone slab marking the spot, according to tradition, of the Buddha's meditation. For Buddhist, this spot is the centre of the universe.

Mahabodhi Temple:

Bodh Gaya's main attraction is the Mahabodhi Temple, featuring a 150 foot high pyramid spire on site of Siddhartha's original Bodhi Tree, along with a golden image of the Buddha

Buddhist Attractions In & Around Gaya :

Gaya Museum : The Gaya Museum is worthvisiting because of its large collection of stone sculptures and other artifacts. Highlight of the museum are the bronze statues. The small collection of the Buddha statues and pillars are also attractive. The museum is maintained by ASI, Archaeological Survey of India and is open between 10 am to 5 pm everyday except Monday.

Brahmayoni (Brahmajuni) Hill : At a distnace of 1 km southwest of the Vishnupada Temple, this hill offers some fantastic views of city from its top. Also, on the top are two narrow caves – Brahmayoni and Matreyoni – Passing through these caves, it is believed, no one will experience rebirth. A temple dedicated to the Asthabujadevi and other goddesses is at the top too. To reach the top, you need to take an arduous 40 to 60 minutes walk up 424 high stone steps.

Tankitamancha : A place of Buddhist interest, it is now a huge tank known as Sujikind. Here, at this place, it is believed, the Buddha met and conversed with evil spirit, Suchiloma. Reference regarding Suchiloma cam be found in Sutta Nipata, discourse No 5. The tank is surrounded by huge walls of stone block and at its northern end are quiet a few Buddhist stupas and statues.

Barabar Caves : 20 kms from Gaya, Barabar Caves are amongst the earliest Buddhist rock cut caves. The caves were initially constructed during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century and additions were made later on. The Barabar Caves basically comprise three types of caves – Nagarjuna caves, caves of the five Pandavas and the Hut caves. The first one is the largest one and portray Jataka tales. The second one, as per its name, served as the residence of the five Pandava brothers during their exile. The Hut Caves, again, as per their name, are shaped like hut, three sides have stone walls while the rest is open

Other Attractions

The Vishnupada Temple

Ramshila Hill

Pretshila Hill

Gandhi Mandap

Deo Sun Temple

Importance to Hindu Mythology

Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the demon), demon (asur, a Sanskrit word) and Gaya. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur, the holy demon by using the pressure of his foot over him. This incident transformed Gayasur into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city. Gaya was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform Shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors. Gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasur's body after he died, and the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and goddesses. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of the pilgrimage circuit, and grand staircases have been built up to most of them. In Vishnu Pad Temple, Guruji Shri Vishnukant Mishra Ji is the main "priest" of this temple and Shri Shashikant Mishra is the eldest son of Guruji.


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