Lord Buddha | The Land of Buddha | Bodh Gaya, India | Pindadaan, Shaktipeeth & Falgu River
The Land of Buddha, in Bodh Gaya, Bihar (a Central Northern province in India, South Asia) has one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites in entire Asia, The Maha Bodhi Temple. Its where the religion “Buddhism – the world’s fourth-largest religion” originated between 6-4 BC. Gaya is not only of importance just for Buddhism but also a well-known shrine in Hinduism. In this blog, I will cover both of its sides in this travel blog.
Bodh Gaya, India :
As I was born in this same state, Bihar, I had been surrounded with the ideology of both the religions. Let me describe the geography from a local’s point of view, which to some extent I am. Anyway, to the west bank of Falgu River(a river in Gaya) is the Maha Bodhi Temple with the main attraction, a special tree, under which Prince Siddharth (Lord Buddha) attained enlightenment. Now this tree, the Mahabodhi Tree, can be seen inside a huge temple complex. This temple complex consists of many sub-temples & a meditation ground and also a pond with a statue of Lord Buddha in the middle of it.
What gets, even more, mesmerizing is that the entire city may seem to be a sub-temple of a bigger temple complex which is this city Gaya. To be more clear, let me put it this way- You will find one Buddhist temple every other kilometer with almost every Asian country’s name, a few being Japan, Thailand, etc. While driving through the city, I almost felt like I drove from South Asia to Far East Asia in just hours.
The Great Buddha Statue:
The other most visited place visited in Bodh Gaya is where the Great Buddha Statue is. This statue, inside a huge open ground complex, is 64 ft. high with Lord Buddha in a seated meditation pose. It is a beautiful & huge structure built with a mix of sandstone blocks and red granite & it was consecrated by the 14th Dalai Lama on 18 November 1989.
Nalanda University, Bihar, India:
Another part of the Buddhist tourism circuit (in Bihar) is the Nalanda University, one of the oldest universities in India with scholars from all around Asia. It was a center of learning from the fifth century CE to c. 1200 CE & is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hindu Shrines in Gaya, India:
Pindadan at Falgu River, Gaya:
Now let me introduce you to some of the Hindu Shrines in Gaya, Bihar. The river that I mentioned before, the Falgu River, is of great religious significance in Hinduism. The River Falgu or Phalgu comes into existence on the combination of Niranjan/Nilanjan & Mohana streams, two large hill streams each of which is over 270 meters wide. This stream, when reaching Gaya, attains a breadth of over 820 meters and is seen mostly in dry(thin stream) state during the non-monsoon season. It mostly appears to be sand dunes & when anyone digs in, the stream of water can be seen flowing.
Here is how its history goes according to Ramayana. Lord Ram, his brothers & Goddess Sita went to Phalgu River to pray for the salvation of Ram’s father. Some mis-incident happened (long story, just google it) after which Goddess Sita had cursed the Falgu River due to which it lost its water (during the non-monsoon seasons). This story is a bit long but now the River Falgu is of great religious significance because it has been the first holy site visited by the pilgrim and here his/her first offering must be made for the souls of his ancestors. According to Hindu belief, the soul wanders after death until pindadan, or religious service seeking salvation for the dead from the cycle of rebirth, is performed. This procedure of salvation, Pindadan, is traditionally offered on the banks of River Phalgu at Gaya, Bihar. After this, the priests conduct the ritual where the prayers are performed at the Vishnupad Mandir (Temple) in Gaya.
Maha Shaktipeeth, Gaya:
Speaking of temples, Gaya is the home to one of the 8 Maha Shaktipeeths, which is the Mangala Gauri Temple. Mangalagauri is worshiped as the Goddess of benevolence & this shrine is dedicated to Goddess Sati / Goddess Durga.
I tried my best to include content, based on my experience, from both Buddhism & Hinduism aspects. I hope you find this travel blog helpful and informative.