Sometimes its amongst landscapes you have never seen before, colours you didn’t know existed and and lives you didn’t know could be lived, that you find the answers and reasons you were looking for. A vacation, holiday, journey and travelling thus can sometimes give you answers to questions you didn’t even know you were asking. These are 14 Buddhist Places in India for a Buddhist Pilgrimage tour, a journey that will make you look inside, above and beyond, otherwise known as the Buddhist trail in India.
1. Bodh Gaya, Bihar- Where Buddha achieved enlightenment
Bodh Gaya is undoubtedly the center of Buddhism in India. It’s the most important of all Buddhist places in India. Descendents of the Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha attained enlightenment can still be seen, having survived much from both nature and man. Equally fascinating are the Mahabodhi temple and an 80 feet tall statue of Lord Buddha. Other than these there are three monasteries and a number of organizations offering programmes and disciplines on Buddhist philosophy. Dhamma Bodhi Vipassana center, in the area, also offers 10 day courses on Vipassana meditation beginning on the 1st and 16th of every month, and can have 80 students at a time.
2. Leh, Jammu and Kashmir- Monasteries and Mountains
Along with dreamy sceneries and landscapes, Leh houses some of the most distinct and colourful Buddhist India cultures and monasteries. The area has numerous monasteries, most of which are the richest, largest and oldest imprints of Buddhism in India. The more known ones include Hemis Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Lamayuru Monastery. During the tourist season, one can stay at Hemis Monastery and participate in the Hemis Spiritual Retreat run by the monks. Another thing that you must not miss is the Hemis Festival in June-July which hosts a masked dance which will leave you spellbound.
3. Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh- Echoes of Buddha’s first sermons
Sarnath marks the beginning of Buddha’s sermons and preaching. It was in a deer park, in this very district that Buddha gave his first sermons, after enlightenment. Sarnath is one of the four sacred Buddhist places in India with structures such as Dhamekh Stupa and Chaukhandi Stupa that celebrate its historical significance.
4.Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim- A colorful, living, breathing monastery
Sikkim houses about 200 monasteries. Yet this one stands out given its richness in color, culture and sheer grandeur. The monastery becomes all the more mesmerising during the mask dances that it holds around May-June and the Tibetan new year. Apart from these, the monastery holds chanting and ritual services in mornings and evenings.
5. Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun- A Buddhist college and a magnificent Stupa
Mindrolling Monastery is a storehouse of knowledge and bits of history of Buddhism in India. The Ngagyur Nyingma College is one of the most prominent Buddhist Indian institutes to study and practice Buddhism. The area also houses the Great Stupa, which is 60 mt tall and said to be the tallest Stupa in the world. Inside this sacred marvel are numerous shrine rooms, murals and relics.
6. Namdroling Nyingmapa Tibetan Monastery and Golden temple, Karnataka – A glittering, colorful spirituality
This monastery stands out not only because of its geography but also due to its generosity in the colour, glitter and sparkle that it adds to spirituality. The grand gold statues of Lord Buddha, ornamented with the richest tints and cultures are awe-inspiring. The area is also home to the second largest population of Tibetans in India, giving it a distinct Tibetan cultural influence. You can also buy some traditional Tibetan products here.
7. Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh – Ashoka’s Great Stupa
Sanchi is almost synonymous to the Great Stupa here commissioned by Emperor Ashoka, the oldest stone monument in India. The Stupa is built over relics of Buddha and has some of the most exquisite carvings on its entrances and gates. You will also find a number of other pillars, temples, sculptures and monasteries in the area, making it an important Buddhist place in India. A recent development here is the Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies, close to this world heritage site itself.
8. Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh- A tourist’s favorite
This largest monastery in India is popular as the rich, grand and colorful center of spirituality and knowledge that it is. The locals know the monastery as Galden Namgey Lhatse which means ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’ and the monastery justifies this name in every sense. This is where Arunachal Pradesh derives most of its spirituality and culture from, from its sprawling courts, halls and magnificent views. The monastery’s library fosters a huge collection of some of the most sacred and significant scriptures. It also houses a Centre for Buddhist India Cultural Studies, for the young monks.
9. Rajgir, Bihar- A sparkling white Stupa and a sacred cave
Rajgir is known as one of Buddha’s favorite places where he gave two of his most famous sermons. The Saptparni cave here housed the first Buddhist council while the Gridhakuta hill was where Budha gave the Lotus Sutra and the Prajnaparamita, two of his imporatnt sutras. An equally enchanting sight here is the white Shanti Stupa which has four gold statues of Buddha.
10. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh- A spiritual treasure
Dharamsala – Mcleodganj is home to all that you can ask from a Buddhist place in India. From a Vipassana meditation center, numerous Buddhist meditation centers and schools to Dalai Lama’s official residence and a grand monastery full of colours and chants. The Sikhara Dhamma provides 10-day meditation courses every fortnight from April through November and is blessed with immense natural beauty to provide you the perfect backdrop to your calm, peaceful and spiritual experience. Do visit the Tsuglagkhang Complex and the Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat.
11. Vaishali, Bihar- Of several encounters with Lord Buddha
Vaishali fosters important historical, cultural and religious significance for Buddhism in India. Buddha visited the city quite often and the second Buddhist council was held here. Buddha also came here in the fifth year of his enlightenment in the rains. Today, the city has a number of relic stupas and shrines. You will also find here, many fine Pillars of Ashoka.
12. Spiti, Himachal Pradesh- Of beautiful monasteries and meditation caves
Spiti, other than landscapes which are unique and breathtaking, has a number of monasteries that foster immense color, culture, artworks, scriptures and statues for a fascinating experience ornamented with these spiritual and cultural treasure. The Tabo Monastery has numerous meditation caves, where one can spend some time celebrating silence and have an experience like no other.
13. Dhamma Setu, Tamil Nadu- A meditation center brimming with freshness and greenery
This Vipassana meditation center in Chennai, is a recent center with huge capacity and hundreds of individual meditation cells. The 10-day courses are held twice every month. The setup, brimming with natural lush green beauty of the area provides a perfect and peaceful experience. Courses for children are also available here.
14. Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh- Where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana
Kushinagar is one of the 4 sacred places for Buddhists in India as this is where at the age of 81, Buddha passed away. This is also the site of his last lesson where he said “All things must pass. Decay is inherent in all things”. The area houses the Rambhar Stupa which is said to have been built at the same place as where Buddha was cremated. There is also a Mahaparinirvana temple which holds a magnificent statue of Buddha in reclining position. Other than these, there are a number of temples, stupas, shrines and a museum here. It’s one of the most important buddhist places in India.