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10 Local Vibes To Feel In Bodh Gaya, India

by Travelature Team

#Quickfacts

Country: Bodh Gaya is a religious and pilgrimage site in the Indian state of Bihar.

Currency: The currency used in Bodh Gaya is Indian Rupee (₹).

Language: The main languages to be spoken here are Hindi, Bhojpuri and English.

How We Pronounce Ljubljana: bodhe·guh·yaa

Bodh Gaya is the land of the Buddha, Dharma, and Nirvana. 

India is the country where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Mahabodhi tree in Bodh Gaya and also delivered his first sermon in Sarnath.

One can very well understand that the country of India is of massive importance to Buddhism and Bodh Gaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage destination in the world. 

Every year, hundreds of pilgrims make their way to Bodh Gaya, heavily influenced by Ashoka. Located in the district of Gaya, Bihar, where the Buddha illuminated himself during intense meditation under the Bodhi tree. The exact location is now marked by the vast temple complex of Mahabodhi. 

In this peaceful place, you’ll find monks from all over Asia sitting at the foot of a great carved Buddha statue, reading the Holy Scriptures and in deep contemplation. 

The city is also home to dozens of Buddhist monasteries administered by various Buddhist countries. 

Here are 10 attractions integrating local vibes; if you want to experience a number of things for an enlightening visit. If the locals are feeling good, you’re sure to feel blissed out, too.

10. Barabar Hill Caves

Image by William Lee-Wright via flickr

Although we are all familiar with the murals and temple complexes of Ajanta and Ellora, did you know that there are up to 1,200 rock cave shrines throughout India, more than 800 of which are in the Western Ghats alone? Kanheri, Karle, Bhedse, Junnar, Udayagiri…the list is long.

While most of them are Buddhist shrines built along ancient and important trade routes, there is one older than all the others, dedicated to the forgotten sect. To visit it, you must go to Gaya.

The Barabara Caves, about 24 km north of Gaya in Bihar, are the remains of the lost Ajivika sect. Ajivikas, dating from the 5th-century BCE., once competed with Buddhism and Jainism for influence, only to lose and be expelled. Today, everything, including the texts of this faith, is lost.

The Barabar cave complex is one place where you must make a visit and get a peep into their history.

9. Gayasisa hill

Image by myself via Wikimedia Commons

In the Vinaya, the Fire Sermon (Ādittapariyāya Sutta) is the third discourse delivered by the Buddha (after the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta and the Anattalakkhana Sutta), several months after his enlightenment, on top of the Gayasisa Hill, near Gaya, India.

You do not want to miss out on hiking the Gayasisa Hill. Now known as Brahmayoni Hill, where Buddha preached the Fire Sermon to a thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all got enlightenment while listening to the discourse. 

If you take the old road to Bodh Gaya which follows the river you will see Gayasisa on the right. Climb the stairs and after passing through the gateway halfway up, follow the rough path to the left. The large area of exposed rock is probably where the audience sat while the Buddha delivered his sermon to a thousand newly converted ascetics ( also known as bhikkhus). 

8. Tibetan Refugee Market

Image by Antefixus21 via flickr

Right in the heart of the Bihar city of Bodh Gaya lies a nice and beautiful shopping market, popularly known as the Tibetan refugee market Bodhgaya. 

The Tibetan refugee market is quite popular with locals and travellers alike who are looking to buy woollen clothes and other textile material and want to surprise their taste buds with exotic Chinese food from the food stalls in this market. 

In this market, you can get complete fashion and lifestyle solutions, from cheap products to expensive goods along with a wide range of souvenirs.

7. Kundan Bazar

Image Courtesy: Kundan Bazar

This small shop in the guest house has gained great popularity with visitors. Located on the main road near the Embassy Hotel, it has a good collection of clothes, gifts and books. 

It is an ideal place in Bodh Gaya for those looking for souvenirs to take back home, some good collection of books and other crafts from the region. Although prices aren’t that high, you can negotiate if you find that some items have the wrong price.

6. The flavour of Bihari dishes

Image by Vinay Sah via Wikimedia Commons

Bodh Gaya is famous for its sweets and is the place of origination for a number of the same. The main sweets to eat here are Enursa, Tilkut, Khaja, Lai and Kesariya peda all of which are exclusive to Bihar. 

Don’t miss the Bihari fast food available in Gaya is not a typical fast food you can find in cities today. These are some varieties of traditional foods and adaptations of some traditional dishes. 

Litti-chokha, fable, bhurta, bhunjia, samosa, kachori and samosa chaat are different kinds of street food. Road restaurants in Gaya serve dishes such as aloo chole and haat. 

The locals love Kachaloo which is made from boiled potatoes sprinkled with cold red powder and jeera powder, salt and tamarind water and is available in Batamore. You’ll find these joints located outside schools, universities and offices. Many local people make their way to these local joints in the morning to start the day with an excellent breakfast.

5. Not to miss a variety of Tibetan and Korean Cuisines

Bodh Gaya gets a lot of tourists from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and other countries, which means that in this city you will find several restaurants that offer dishes different from North Indian, Chinese or Mughal. 

Bodh Gaya is an easy place to serve Thai, Tibetan, Italian, Japanese and Korean dishes. You’ll find many warm and lovely cafes to stop by once you are done sightseeing for the day.

Since people from different countries come and dine at the cafe, you also get a chance to interact with them and exchange stories.

If you are in Bodh Gaya, don’t miss the pasta, pizza and desserts at the aptly named and brightly painted Be Happy Café; authentic Thai curries at Siam Thai; heart-warming noodle soup at Alice in Gaya Café; and the Omurice, Japanese omelette rice made with ketchup at Om cafe. And also let us know how you liked it.

4. Walk on the banks of the Falgu River

Image by Somujha88 via Wikimedia Commons

You might also like to walk on the bank of Falgu River very popular for Pind Daan – ceremonies for the departed ones, which has endured the Curse of Sita and flows undercurrent to the riverbed. 

Lord Rama, along with his brother Lakshman and his wife Sita is believed to come to Gaya to do pind daan at the falgu river for his father – Dasarath and thus the practice continues.

The River carries water only during the monsoon season. At other times the river bed is externally dry. However, if you scratch some mud you will find water.

During Pitru Paksha around Sept-Oct, there is a mela organised at Gaya every year. 

3. Meditate and Relax

This is the essential thing you need to try at Bodh Gaya. Even if you are not a Buddhist, meditation and absorbing the vibes here can be very soothing and relaxing. It is a sure way to relax the mind from a busy lifestyle. 

To the southeast of the Mahabodhi Temple stands the new Meditation Park, which is a world to itself. With facilities such as meditation huts, discussion rooms and two huge prayer bells, the park is filled with water fountains and a lotus pond is a place of tranquillity in a bustling city. 

Visitors are advised to meditate here from sunrise to sunset. It will help you cleanse your soul of all worldly vices and take you to higher realms of spirituality.

2. Root Institute for Wisdom Culture

Image Courtesy: Root Institute

Sitting on over two acres of land a little outside of town, Root Institute offers tranquil gardens with flowers, fountains, and birdsong for individuals or groups wishing to attend one of their courses, undertake meditation retreat or simply want a peaceful place and a semi-monastic experience stay during a visit to Bodhgaya.

This place is an oasis to come home to after the noise and bustle of Bodhgaya.

1. Mahabodhi Tree

Image by Ken Wieland via Wikimedia Commons

The Bodhi tree is the tree under which Lord Buddha meditated before he could attain enlightenment. ‘Bodhi’ means ‘knowledge’ and tree means tree i.e. ‘tree of knowledge ‘. 

There was also an attempt to destroy this tree by many kings, but each time this tree miraculously grew and stood tall at 80 feet. The area surrounding the temple bustled with people coming and going. Being a sacred place for Buddhists, there were lots of monks from countries all over Asia. 

And with physical appearance; you can often also tell where a monk is from by the colour of his robes–monks who follow the Tibetan schools of Buddhism wear dark maroon robes. 

Monks from Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia) who follow Theravad’s Buddhism, wear saffron orange or ocher robes. And Burmese monks who also wear Theravada dress in maroon. 

Some Buddhist nuns dress in white or pale pink. Monks and nuns from Korea, Japan and China wear grey or black.

Don’t miss sitting cross-legged right under the tree, take a deep breath, close your eyes, raise your head, try to blank out your mind and start chanting “Om… Om…”

If you are visiting Bodhgaya for the first time, it may feel like an East Asian country, but just a few kilometres away you can also see how the city has preserved its centuries-old history and unique presence.

Visiting Bodhgaya is like coming home, as it reminds you to return to yourself.

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