Along with Hinduism, India is home to several other religions too, one of which is Buddhism that went even beyond the borders of India, towards East, South and South East Asia. Gautam Buddha was born a prince in Lumbini as King Siddhartha. He began his journey towards India in search of the answers to a number of questions about life and suffering. Finally, after years of meditation, he attained ‘nirvana’ (enlightenment). Later, he preached and taught sermons, till leaving to his heavenly abode from Kushinagar.
The Buddhist Circuit Tour comprises of the four places that were extremely significant in the life of Buddha– the place where he was born, attained Enlightenment, preached first Sermon and then reached Nirvana. Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar are important places in the Buddhist Circuits that are linked to the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. Along with these, there are various other important sites too where Buddha had travelled to, during his lifetime.
The teachings of Lord Buddha became popular after King Ashoka of India, embarked on a journey where he visited the important sites following the Footsteps of Lord Buddha. These places include Lumbini in Nepal and Bodhgaya, Sarnath as well as Kushinagar in India. The other important places of Buddha’s life include Vaishali, Rajgir and Sravastii (India) and his early home at Tilaurakot in Kapilvastu, Nepal.
The birth place of Prince Siddhartha, Lumbini is situated in southern region of Nepal near Shakya, the capital of Kapilvastu. His mother was Queen Mayadevi. The major attractions here are the site of the birth of Siddhartha, the Pashkarni pond, the Mayadevi temple and the Ashoka pillar. It was in the year 1886, that an archeologist chanced upon a stone pillar, which confirmed that Lumbini was the exact place where Lord Buddha was born.
Bodhgaya in Bihar is popular as that site where Prince Siddhartha found nirvana (Enlightenment) after meditating for 49 days under the Bodhi tree. After the title of a bodhisattva that is a mentor, he now became Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One. The list of important sites here include the Bodhi tree, the Mahabodhi Temple, the Vajrasan throne donated by King Ashoka, the Muchalinda Lake, the Animesh Lochana chaitya, the Ratnagaraha, the Ajapala Nigrodha Tree, the Rajayatna Tree and the Ratnachankramana.
Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after he attained enlightenment. It is around 10 kms from the holy city of Varanasi. During his first sermon, Dharamchakra Privartna, beginning his wheel of the teaching, he taught his followers the 4 noble truths and the concept of the 3 jewels of Buddha- Dharma and Sangha through the 8 fold path, for attaining inner peace and enlightenment. Sarnath was the place where he founded his first disciples (sangha) for the promotion of his new doctrine. Dhamekha Stupa was erected by King Ashoka as the famous lion capital pillar, an important attraction now.
While on his way to Kapilvastu, in Kushinagar, near Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Lord Buddha fell ill and left this world in 543 BC. His earthly remains had been preserved in 8 commemoration Chortens that were later furthered by King Ashoka into 84,000 Stupas all around his kingdom. Once here, visit the Mukatanabandhana Stupa and the reclining Buddha statue made up of red sandstone during of the Gupta period.
Before passing away, Buddha had taught his last sermon at Vaishali in Bihar, around 60 kms from Patna. This was the place where he informed Ananda, his disciple about his forthcoming death. After around 110 years, Vaishali played host to the Second Buddhist Council.
Rajgir and Nalanda University
Rajgir, around 70 kms from Bodhgaya, was the home of Buddha for 12 years when he was spread his principles. Up on the Gridhkuta Hill, he talked about his principles of Lotus Sutra and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. The Saptaparni Caves, on Vaibhar Hill was the place where the First Buddhist Council was organized. During the events, after Buddha’s death, all his teachings were compiled. Nalanda University, a world-renowned university is another major attraction here.
Shravasti, popular in the form of Buddha’s favorite rainy season retreat, was also the place where he performed his first miracle. It is around 150 kms from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.