How To Plan a Trip To Bodhgaya
The centre of Buddhism, Bodhgaya is where Prince Siddhartha is said to have attained enlightenment, over 2600 years ago, while seated beneath a bodi tree, and thus becoming the Buddha (the awakened one). The small town is as sacred to Buddhists, as Jerusalem is to Christians — thousands of pilgrims come from around the globe to pray, meditate and study here. There are various sacred sites around the town from monasteries to the Mahabodhi Temple, here’s a few tips to help you plan your trip.
Get to know the area
The city of Bodhgaya is located in the state of Bihar, in northern India. After travelling around the region and learning about the many hardships and lessons of life, Prince Siddartha came here to meditate, and while doing so, attained enlightenment during a 7 week period. There are many sites associated with him around the city. Since then, the town became an important pilgrim site for many, and celebrated travellers like Fa Hien travelled to the city.Thanks in part to its connection with Buddhism, the city developed quickly, and prospered for several centuries before it was attacked and claimed by the Turkish in the 13th century. The modern city is not only a beacon for pilgrims, but a historically and culturally rich area that attracts tourists as well.
The best time to visit is between the months of October and march, when the weather is at its best. However, these are also the months when most Bodhgaya hotels are fully booked. If you plan on going during the season, book your room ahead of time. Affordable hotels are easy enough to find, with many offering comfortable accommodation, but during the summer months, it is best to pay a little extra for a room with air conditioning, as the heat can be extremely uncomfortable. Deluxe rooms are actually cheaper in this city than other towns in India, and provide all the basic facilities like air conditioning and double beds. In addition, there are a few luxury hotels in town that cater to both the leisure and business traveller, such as the Oaks Bodhgaya, for example.
Finding places to eat and drink
There are plenty of multi-cuisine vegetarian and non-vegetarian eateries in the city to suit everyone’s taste. Restaurants around the temple area in particular, are cheap and serve simple but tasty meals. Because the temple has so many smaller temples dedicated to Buddha, from other regions, like Tibet, Japan and so forth, you’ll find several restaurants serving up authentic Vietnamese, Japanese and other Asian cuisines. Do note that possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages have been banned by the state. Certain hotels do serve alcohol, but it must be consumed indoors.
Places to see
Bodhgaya is a small city, and most of the pilgrimage sites are within walking distance of each other. The Mahabodhi Temple is the main temple which houses the bodhi tree that is said to be a direct descendant of the tree Buddha sat under, and the site where he attained enlightenment. The main temple was built in 7th century AD by the Indian King, Asoka, and has undergone repeated repairs since. Intricately carved, stone railings encircle the massive temple complex, which aside from the bodhi tree, contains several smaller attractions within. One popular way of seeing the temple is by ‘walking in the steps of Buddha’. Following the path he took from meditation, to enlightenment around the complex. Do note that after a bombing in 2013, security around the temple is strict. No mobiles or laptops are allowed inside the temple complex, and bags must be opened for inspection by guards.