Buddhist Pilgrimage

  • Post last modified:17 March 2023
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Buddhist Pilgrimage

Buddhism is a religion that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha. The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.

Gautam Buddha, was the son of a king called Suddhodana. Buddha is supposed to have lived between 567 BC and 487 BC. He was married to Yashodhara and had a son Rahula.

Although he was a prince and could have enjoyed the luxurious life of a king, he renounced the world at an early age when struck by the scene of sufferings of an old man, a sick man, a dead body on a bier carried by four men and the life of an ascetic.

Two major branches of Buddhism are Theravada (The School of the Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar).

Mahayana is followed throughout East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and Taiwan). According to some other classifications, Vajrayana; practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia – is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana.

Buddhism offers four major sites of pilgrimage: the Buddha’s birthplace at Kapilavastu, the site where he attained Enlightenment Bodh Gaya, where he first preached at Benaras, and where he achieved Parinirvana at Kusinagara.

These following are the four holiest sites in Buddhism;

  • Lumbini, Nepal – The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha
  • Bodh Gaya, Bihar – The site of the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha
  • Sarnath, outside Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh – The site of the first sermon
  • Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh – the site of the Buddha’s par nirvana

Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites

Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya is the most important Budhist Pilgrimage Center located in the state of Bihar. It is the place where Lord Buddha got Enlightenment under the giant bodhi (pipal) tree. The magnificent mahabodhi temple in bodh Gaya is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures and many heritages.


Sravasti known to be the capital of ancient kingdom of Kosala is located in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh. Saravasti has the honour of sheltering Budhha for 24 rainy seasons in the Jetvana Vihara. Buddha is said to have performed some miracles here, which we find depicted in sculptures and paintings.


Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attending nirvana at Bodh-gaya, thus the laying the foundation of Buddhism. The great king Ashoka made a smooth glistening stone pillar, called the Ashoka Pillar commemorating his visit and laid the foundation of the Budhist Sangha here. The Lion capital, once sitting on the top of this pillar, is now the National Emblem of India.


Kushinagar is associated with Lord Buddha for his Maha Pari Nirvana. A temple dedicated to the event – The Mahaparinirvana Temple, with a huge Buddha image in lying posture is the main attraction of this place. Kushinagar is located in modern disctrict of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.


Vaisali in modern state of Bihar is believed to be the place where Buddha gave his last sermon. This place is also known to be the first republic of the world. Emperor Ashoka erected a huge polished stone pillar with the image of a sitting lion to commemorate the spot of the last sermon.


Rewalsar located in the state of Himachal Pradesh is the most sacred site of Lama Buddhism. The place possesses a pristine beauty characterized by an emerald green lake, and surrounded by thick wood on all sides.


Lahaul-Spiti is also located in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The main attraction of the place is a multi storied structure, with white-washed wall and fluttering flags, it houses a series of enormous prayer-wheels representing Buddha’s Dharma-Chakra, which revolve on the slightest touch.


Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir is popularly known as ‘hermit kingdom’. Ladakh is a land of snow carved peaks, translucent lake, barren terrain and mystic culture. Quite like Tibet it has a great Buddhist tradition, which is evident from the high monk to people ratio of 1:8. It has about 13 major Gompas (Monasteries) of which Hemis is considered the Gompa of Gompas.


Tewang is located the state of Arunachal Pradesh and is known for the beautiful Tewang Monastery. The monastery overlooks the valley and is surrounded by mountains, which seem to be guarding the valley and its inhabitants.

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