Buddhism: Sacred Sites
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in India and the country still possess a host of relics associated with the origin and the growth of the religion. India is home to various Buddhist monasteries and stupas that have become an important and inseparable part of Indian art, culture, architecture and heritage. There are many Buddhist centers in India which are also known as the Buddhist Circuit on a cumulative basis. The Buddhist Circuit in India comprise places like Nalanda, Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Shravasti, Sankashaya, Sanchi, Rajgir, Vaishali, Ajanta and Ellora, etc. A unique feature about these sites is that most of them are situated around the River Ganges, which add to their spiritual grandeur and attract a huge number of devout every year.
Lumbini - Lumbini is one of the significant centers in the Buddhist Circuit as it is the birthplace of Lord Buddha and has the ruins of the stupa and pillar made by Emperor Ashoka.
Kaushambi - Kaushambi, near Allahabad, was visited by Buddha in the 6th and 9th years after his enlightenment. He delivered several sermons here which resulted in emergence of the place as a centre of Buddhist learnings. Today, one can see the ruins of an Ashoka Pillar, an old fort and the Ghositaram Monastery.
Khushinangar - Khushinagar, one of the key centers of Buddhist pilgrimage, is the place of Mahaparinirvana or ultimate salvation. The place still has that famous 6 meter long statue of the reclining Buddha. The image was unearthed during the excavations in 1876.
Nalanda - Situated in the state of Bihar, Nalanda till 13th Century was one of the famous learning seats of the Buddhist philosophy. Later, it disappeared and now only relics of the famous Nalanda University remain. But it is a very popular site for the followers of the religion and the present government of the state is contemplating rebuilding the ancient university.
Bodhgaya - Bodhgaya is the place where Buddha got enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, which keeps budding again and again even after getting destroyed completely. Then there is Mahabodhi temple which looks after the three monastries.
Vaishali - Nearly five years after enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Buddha made a visit to Vaishali. The city situated on the banks of the Ganga, had witnessed the thunder and a heavy rainfall the moment Buddha set foot on this plague-infected city.