Being an important destination associated with Lord Buddha, there is no dearth of the places to visit in Gaya. Followers of Buddhism and monks from all over the world visit Gaya in quest of enlightenment as it was here under a banyan tree (Bodhi Tree) that Gautama attained knowledge and became Buddha. From myriad monasteries and temples to museum and lake, everything in Gaya is related to Gautam Buddha. The place is globally renowned for the beautiful Mahabodhi Temple and the Bodhi Tree. Besides, there are Thai Temple and Monastery, Royal Bhutan Monastery, and Chinese Temple and Monastery. Some other unmissable attractions are Animesh Lochan Chaitya, Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum and Muchalinda Lake. Here we have compiled a list of prominent places to visit in Gaya that will surely enrich your experience.
1. Vishnupad Temple
Vishnupad Temple is another famous piece of architecture in Gaya that is of prime religious significance for Hindus. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is marked by his footprint, which is also known as Dharmasila. Located on the banks of the Falgu River, the temple's construction time is unknown but legend has it that Lord Rama visited here once with his wife Goddess Sita. The structure that we see now was restored by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, ruler of Indore, in 1787.
Inside the temple, one can see the 40 cm long footprint of Lord Vishnu imprinted on solid rock. According to Hindu mythology, this footprint marks the act of Vishnu demolishing the realm of a demon called Gayasur by placing his foot on demon's head. Those interested in admiring the breathtaking top view of the temple can mount 1000 stone steps leading to the top of the Brahmajuni Hill, just a kilometre southwest of the temple. From atop the hill, visitors can enjoy some magnificent views of the Vishnupad Temple.
2. Royal Bhutan Monastery
Another place to learn and practise Buddhism in Gaya is the Royal Bhutan Monastery, which is also considered as one of the most magnificent monasteries in the region. The King of Bhutan got this monastery constructed as a tribute to Lord Buddha. This monastery will surely impress you with its splendid architecture, serenity and the seven feet tall statue of Buddha inside. What add to the fame of this monastery are the clay carvings depicting Lord Buddha's life. Buddhism followers from across the globe visit here to witness these brilliant carvings. Bhutanese monks living in this monastery organise peace prayers and also conduct courses on Buddhism and guide people accordingly.
3. Mahabodhi Temple
Located in proximity to Mahabodhi Temple, Chinese Temple and Monastery is a stunning piece of architecture built by Chinese monks in collaboration with the government of China in 1945. The temple boasts three beautiful golden statues of Lord Buddha that are primary attractions of this place. Buddha Jayanti, one of the most important festivals of Buddhists, is celebrated here every year to commemorate the birth of Lord Buddha. Thousands of monks and followers of Buddha from across the globe come here to partake in the holy celebration. During this time, people remember Lord Buddha's journey and his contribution to human lives. So make sure to pay a visit to Chinese Temple and Monastery when in Bodh Gaya.
4. ANIMESH LOCHAN CHAITYA
Animesh Lochan Chaitya, meaning 'open eyes', is one of the prime places connected with Lord Buddha's enlightenment process. Legend has it that Buddha spent seven days (the second week of his enlightenment) here looking at the great Bodhi Tree, without blinking his eyes even once. Holding immense religious significance, the place is also known as the Jewel Walk as Buddha spent another week walking between Animesh Lochan Chaitya and Bodhi Tree. People visiting the Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya make sure to pay their tribute here as well.
5. TIBETAN MONASTERY
Embellished with Tibetan scriptures and a number of Buddhist symbols, Tibetan Monastery is another prime religious centre in Gaya that holds a significant place among Buddhists. Situated close to the Mahabodhi Temple, this monastery was established in the year 1938. The monastery is renowned for housing a 10-metre high dharmachakra (Wheel of Law), which is painted in golden and red. It is believed that rotating this wheel thrice from left to right can free one of all the sins he/she has committed. Another highlight of this site is the image of Maitreya Buddha, which as per Buddhists is the future incarnation of Lord Buddha.