Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya is a village in the state of Bihar. It was the site of the Buddha Shakyamuni's enlightenment, and is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites.

The main temple complex houses the famous Mahabodhi temple/stupa and a descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. There are also temples or monasteries from many other nations with a Buddhist tradition such as Thailand, Tibet and Japan.

Understand

The Mahabodhi Temple

The man who became the Buddha was born in Lumbini, now in Nepal. He was the son of the local ruler, raised in some luxury and well-educated by the standards of the place and time. As a young man he became a seeker of knowledge, giving up luxuries, travelling a good deal, and learning from several teachers. Bodh Gaya is where he achieved enlightenment while meditating under a tree.

Get in

By plane

The nearest airport is at Gaya (10 km) - Druk Air flies from Bangkok once a week. Thai Airways flies to Gaya daily. Indian Airlines flies from Kolkata on Fridays at 10:00 and returns on Mondays at around 15:00.

Alternatively, you may take a flight to the Patna Airport (110 km away) and take a train or a taxi to Bodh Gaya as Patna has multiple daily direct flights to Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.

By car

You may take a flight to the Patna Airport (110 km away) and take a train or a taxi to Bodh Gaya as Patna has multiple daily direct flights to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Lucknow and Hyderabad. The road is very rough and narrow so the journey can be quite slow and dangerous. It takes roughly 3 hours from Patna to reach, on best way is to avoid the Gaya market, as the roads are very narrow.

By train

The nearest railway station is Gaya, 16 km away. From there you can take a bus or a three wheel taxi (Rickshaw) to Bodh Gaya. Rickshaw prices are variable, but the going rate was ₹20 for shared ride or ₹150 for entire rickshaw no matter what time of the day in April 2015. There is rarely a shortage of rickshaws.

The train from Patna (which as the nearest good size airport and railhead) to Gaya costs ₹25 for passenger train and ₹50 for express non-reserved seat. The fastest express trains in the early am takes about two and half hours and slow passenger train takes about four hours, which is still comparable to buses. Trains leave one to two hour interval.

Best train travel from Calcutta is about 8 hours; from Delhi, about 15 hours (2nd class air con costs 161 book upstairs at Gaya station then pay downstairs at window 29).

The road from Patna is in bad condition at the moment, train is also recommended.

By bus

The Bihar State Tourist Development Corporation (☎ +91 612 225411) runs seasonal deluxe bus services to and from Patna.

Private buses leave in the morning for Varanasi, Nalanda, Rajgir, and overnight for Kolkata and Bhutan through Siliguri.

Get around

By car

By far the most convenient way to get around Bodh Gaya are the auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, and tourist taxis. As always, make sure to bargain and agree on a price before setting out on the trip. The costs are usually quite low; a few rupees(₹) will likely get you most places in the city.

By foot

Bodh Gaya is very walkable. Most of the major destinations and are within two kilometers (about a half-hour walk) from the Mahabdohi Temple complex. There are lots of pilgrims visiting for much of the year, so the streets will have people in them.

As with any location in the Bihar province, avoid walking in the streets alone at night.

See

Most temples open from 06:00 to sunset and close between noon and 14:00.

The colossal 80-foot Buddha Statue in Bodh Gaya

Do

Buddha statue in Mahabodhi Temple

Bodh Gaya is essentially a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists and all of its main attractions are related to this. The subsidiary tourist industry that has grown up around it (shopping, eating, and accommodation) is not really the main attraction. Perhaps unique to Bodh Gaya are the rather cheesy CDs for sale near the temple entrance that purport to be monks chanting Buddhist texts. You will know whether you want to take this home with you!

Whether you're a Buddhist or not, the main thing to do in Bodh Gaya is just to absorb the vibe of the place where the Buddha attained awakening: the vapour trail of that energy is still in the air!

Learn

While there is plenty to learn from just walking around in Bodh Gaya, there are some institutions that offer instruction specifically geared toward travellers and pilgrims.

Eat

Drink

Bodh Gaya may have been a "dry" town, without liquor outlets. Hotels and guesthouses will in their restaurants serve beer (100-150 IR), provided it is drunk indoors out of public view. However in 2009 there are government liquor stores selling wine (USD10/ litre) and rum, whiskey, and other spirits for approximately the same price as the wine. Beer is ₹60 per can.

Sleep

Monasteries

Monastery guest houses offer a cheap alternative to hotels, though guests are expected to adhere to their house rules. They do not charge fixed nightly rates, but instead accept donations (ask other guests for the going rate). There is a whole string of guesthouses just opposite the park from the Mahabodhi Temple. All pretty much the same well maintained with restaurants on the ground floor at around ₹200 a single. Another group of mostly simple guesthouses is located north of Kalachakra Maidan.

Budget

Mid-range

Connect

Internet

Most, maybe all internet cafes in town refuse to let you connect anything to the computer such as a camera or thumb drive, and they refuse to let you upload or download photos.

"Eyes Of Compassion" Cyber Cafe (EOC) on Bodhgaya Road appears to be the only cafe in town that lets you use Skype or upload photos however you have to pay ₹5 per photo uploaded or ₹5 per minute that you use Skype. The internet is quite slow all over town. Near Om Restaurant, downstairs.

Many of the restaurants listed in the "Eat" section also provide WiFi.

Respect

Temples

Monks participating in prayer at Mahabodhi Temple

As in many sacred places, you must take off your shoes before entering the inner parts of the main Mahabodhi Temple complex, as well as any of the monasteries around the area. In fact, due to this, it is recommend you wear sandals or shoes that are easy to slip on and off. A guideline more specific to Mahabodhi is to circumambulate the stupa and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction. Although it should go without saying, do not climb onto statues, monuments and other sacred objects.

As it is a very religious town filled with pilgrims and monks, dressing modestly is a sign of respect. Loose-fitting clothing should suffice.

Sacred Cow Doctrine

As India is the home of the sacred cow doctrine, seeing cows wondering the streets of Bodh Gaya is not an uncommon sight. It is illegal to strike or otherwise offend cows, so refrain from doing this. Furthermore, be sure drivers of any rickshaws you are in are cautious, as hitting a cow with a vehicle is a very serious crime. Foreigners have been fined heavily for these offenses.

Beggars

For a non-Indian it is almost impossible to walk twenty meters in the streets without being accosted. Approaching the precincts of the Mahabodi-Temple one understands why Jesus threw the money-lenders out of the Temple in Jerusalem. Riksha-Wallahs and the hordes of beggars, particularly the groups of children sent to beg instead of going to school, are much more persistent than in other places.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, January 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.