India is the origin of Buddhism. Naturally then, it is home to many Buddhist sites associated with the life of Buddha. Multitudes throng these sacred centers each season. Buddhist pilgrimage tour packages typically consist of centers such as Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Vaishali, Lumbini, etc. Each of these places is significant for its relation to the life and progress of Buddha to his Mahaparinirvana.
From Sravasti to Patna
One route that includes the most prominent of these sites starts from Sravasti leading to Lumbini, a city on the Indo-Nepal border. Sravasti stands for the place where Buddha spent most of his monastic life, preaching after his enlightenment. The place of interest is the Ananda Bodhi Tree where the Lord meditated for a night. Jetavan, the next spot of your visit here, is associated with a miracle performed by him.
A Word about Lumbini
Lumbini in Nepal is the birthplace of the Lord. Attractions here include Lumbini Park with an Ashok Pillar carrying the inscription (Nepal’s oldest) informing of Ashoka’s visit and of Buddha’s birth. The Mayadevi temple here is dedicated to Buddha’s mother and houses a stone picture depicting his birth. The pagoda-style China temple is another attraction not to be missed.
After Lumbini, the next destination is Kushinagar, the place of Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana. Here, besides sightseeing, ancient Stupas and newer temples marking Buddha’s death and cremation serve as central points of visit. Lastly, in Parinirvana Stupa here is the splendid statue of a reclining Buddha, visiting which forms the concluding part of the Kushinagar stays.
Vaishali with Buddha’s Ashes
Vaishali, falling en-route to Patna, forms our next destination. This city is the place Buddha preached his last sermon, as another Ashoka Pillar you will visit here informs. Also situated here are Buddha Stupa I and II that retain a casket containing part of Buddha’s ashes. Patna makes for a nice intermediary stop along the way.
To Bodhgaya, the Place of Enlightenment
Nalanda, Rajgir and Saptaparni caves come on the way to Bodhgaya. At the first site, you can pay a visit to the archaeological museum holding seals, sculpture and other remains of the ancient city and the university. The Griddhkuta or ‘Hill of Vultures’ at Rajgir provides another stop: here, Buddha delivered some of his most famous sermons. The caves saw the first Buddha Council held, and are also the source of the hot springs of Rajgir.
The Ultimate Bodhgaya
The final stop on this journey is Bodhgaya. Here Buddha attained illumination under the Bodhi tree which stands in the premises of the Mahabodhi Temple. The temple also has great stone lotuses, stone footprints of Buddha, his figures sitting in different postures, and a grand golden statue in the sanctum sanctorum.
From here can be taken the way to Varanasi, which though not a Buddhist site, has the sacred Ganges and ancient Ghats lining it, a holy city which to the Hindu is a blessing to have visited.
Of the many Buddhist pilgrimage tour packages India can boast of, this one serves to be the ideal option covering all the important Buddhist centers, assuring a spiritual journey and a memorable tour.