We all know about the famous Mahabodhi Temple and the Bodhi Tree, under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment, but not many of us know that there’s more to Bodh Gaya than just these two world famous sites. So, before you head out to plan your itineraries for the coming vacation, do add these places to your bucket-list to find yourself neck-deep in the stories and legends from the yore.
Located to the right of Mahabodhi Temple, lies the beautiful Muchalinda Lake (or Lotus Pond) in Bodh Gaya, which is known for its spiritual beauty and epic story behind it. According to legends, it is believed a strong storm broke out from the heavens and the waves started lashing Lord Buddha, when he was in his sixth week of meditation. It was then that Muchalinda, the Snake King, came out from his abode beneath the lake to protect Gautama Buddha from the uproarious storm and rains.
Feel pensive at Lotus Pond (Muchalinda Lake) amidst lush greenery and cool atmosphere. Image Credits: MouthShut (www.mouthshut.com)
The Snake King used his hood so as not to disturb Buddha’s meditation. The structure depicting this epic story is placed at the centre of Muchalinda Lake and is a part of the Mahabodhi Temple complex. Popularly known as the Lotus Pond, it is surrounded by lush greenery and peaceful atmosphere, just what you would expect in a spiritual environment. The pond water is sacred and is home to thousands of fishes. Decoration and lightings at the periphery of the lake make it look amazing during the day and night hours.
Cankamana – Cloister Walk
Lord Buddha spent his third week here, walking up and down in meditation. Image Credits: Sheshank (tripbodhgaya.blogspot.com)
During his third week of meditation, Lord Buddha was practicing walking meditation on the pathway located on the northern side of the temple. The path that he traced during his meditation later came to be known as Cankamana or Cloister Walk. Considered as one of the most sacred shrines, this spot denotes the footsteps of Gautama Buddha carved out as lotuses in black stone.
There are 15 elevated platforms with carved lotus flowers, which mark the exact spots where he put his footsteps while practicing walking meditation. Many Buddhist monks can be seen here chanting in praise of Lord Buddha, creating a surreal and soothing atmosphere which awakens the spiritual feeling inside you. This is one of the most important Buddhist shrines to visit, and looks utterly spiritual and devotional when in the evening, after sunset, the pathway is decorated with flowers and candles. The entire ambience creates an awe-inspiring impression on your mind, which makes this place worth visiting.
Built by the King of Bhutan as a tribute to Lord Buddha, the Royal Bhutan Monastery houses a meticulous collection of events showcasing the life of Lord Buddha in form of beautifully carved clay sculptures. At the main Prayer Hall, there’s a 7-feet tall Buddha shrine instated at the temple, which is further carved with the Buddhist symbols and scriptures. The monastery also has a rest house, along with spacious rooms, 24-hour room service and provides a complete home-like experience for visiting Buddhist monks.
The Royal Bhutan Monastery houses a meticulous collection of events showcasing the life of Lord Buddha. Image Credits: The Wolff Chronicles (www.wolffchronicles.com)
One of the most magnificent monasteries in Bodh Gaya, the Royal Bhutan Monastery attracts millions of Buddhist followers from across the world. Every day, the monks gather in the lawns and gardens to preach the discourse on Lord Buddha and His teachings on life, guide individual and group meditation activities, and organise peace prayers at the temple. The adorable traditional architecture of the monastery tugs at your heart and will surely ring the spiritual bells within you.
Located close to the famous Mahabodhi Temple, sits the Bodh Gaya Archaeological Museum housing an impressive collection of various Buddhist and Hindu relics and sculptures dating back to centuries. The museum aptly portrays the life of Lord Buddha, and features two galleries and an open courtyard displaying the age-old exhibits. This must visit museum has rare antique collections of coins from several dynasties, religious relics, miniature carvings and copper items, terracotta items and sculptures, and idols of Hindu gods in silver, gold and bronze.
Delve deep in the age-old exhibits at Bodh Gaya Archaeological Museum. Image Credits: Jatak Travels
In the first gallery, you can see all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, known as Dasavathara, and enormous idols of Lord Buddha in different postures and attitudes. So, step inside the cool hallways of this museum and be transported back in time to find yourself among the legends and stories that have always intrigued you.