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The Buddhist Religious places in Bihar

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Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya in Gaya
The main Shrine of the Supreme Enlightenment is unique amongst other north Indian temples. It is having a spire instead of the usual curvy-linear contours. The four smaller towers at the four corners give balance to the structure. Inside the shrine is a gilded image of the Buddha. The carved railings round the temple are the oldest remains at Bodhgaya. As regards the origin of this temple no direct evidence is available, however, various traditions ascribe the erection of the third century B.C.

Stone Railing, Bodhgaya in Gaya
Remains of a massive stone railing are at present found enclosing the great Temple on three sides along its plinth. The western side of railing provides with a small entrance facing the Bodhi tree. The total height of the railing from ground level is about 10 ft. Part of the railing is of sandstone while part is of granite. The railing bears carvings such as sculptured panels, medallions, and other ornamental patterns, those on the sandstone portion differing materially from those on the granite portion. The former contain relieves representing scenes from the Buddha’s life, the sacred tree, the wheel, the stupa, the Gaja-Lakshmi, the sun-god with his horse-drawn chariot and human figures like kings, merchants, devotees etc. The latter contain mostly ornamental motifs such as the eagles, chaityas-etc. carved in the characteristic of the Gupta period.

Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya in Gaya
It is the most sacred Pipal Tree (ficus religiosa) under which Prince Siddhartha became Buddha “the Enlightened One”. It is believed to have continued to exist since the days of the Buddha. According to Buddhist tradition, the queen of Emperor Ashoka, Tishyarakshita, destroyed the tree out of rage but the Emperor immediately revived it. King Sashanka of Bengal again uprooted it but the King Purnavarman of Magadha revived it soon thereafter. The present tree is believed to be the fourth or fifth generation offspring of the original.

Vajrasana,, Bodhgaya in Gaya
Vajrasana or the Diamond Throne is a polished platform made of gray sandstone. It was perhaps placed by the emperor Ashoka underneath the Bodhi tree against the Western Wall of the great temple. It represents that place where Lord Buddha sat in deep meditation and attained the Supreme Enlightenment.

The Jewel Walk Shrine, Bodhgaya in Gaya
According to Buddhist tradition, Buddha walked to and fro near the sacred tree for seven days, immediately after attaining the Supreme enlightenment. The spot where he so walked appear to have become sacred quite early and a shrine was built over it in about 1st century B.C.

Muchalinda Tank in Gaya
Close to the south of the Great Mahabodhi Temple is a sacred tank named after Nagaraja Muchalinda (the serpent king) who, according to tradition, protected Lord Buddha from storm and rains while he was engrossed in a deep meditation after attaining the Supreme enlightenment.

Bakraur in Gaya
The village lies in Bodhgaya block on the bank of the river Niranjana about 14 kms. south of Gaya. According to Buddhist tradition, Lord Buddha on his penance and eventual enlightenment was offered here Kheer (rice pudding) by a village maid, Sujata. There is a mound on the village known as Sujata Kutir, said to cover the site of her original home. This is a Buddhist site and religious place for Buddhists.

Guneri in Gaya
The village is situated about 5 kms. to the southeast of Manda hills. Site of a large town and of a Vihara, as well as a tank was observed here to the north of the town site. The ruins of the Vihara and of the Buddhist temples are nowhere found fully described. However, the numerous sculptures collected from these ruins were kept arranged under a modern shed erected by the Central Archaeology Department. They represent mainly Buddhist and Shaiva divinities. Some of the images, however, bear inscriptions from the style of execution of their carvings they maybe assigned to the medieval period (i.e. 9th to 12th Centuries A.D.). Two of the inscriptions, it may be added, refer to the name Sri Gunacharita that was obviously the ancient name of the place.

Ruins of the Nalanda University, Nalanda
The total area of excavation is about 14 hectares. The ruin contains a number of Buddhist stupas and chaityas, monasteries, hotels, cells or rooms on four sides with central courtyard lecture halls and amphitheaters.

Archaeological Museum, Nalanda
This on-site Museum houses a good number of archaeological findings of various eras.

Nav Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda (Nalanda District)
The State Government has established a Pali Postgraduate research Institute at Nalanda for preserving traditions of the ancient Nalanda University, which is known as the Nav Nalanda Mahavihara.

Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall, Nalanda (Nalanda District)
A beautiful structure in the memory of Hieun Tsang, the 5th century Chinese traveller, has been constructed at in modern times at Nalanda near the main
excavation site.

Griddhakoot Hill (Nalanda District)
On the side of the peak of this hill, facing northwest, are two small natural caves. They are approached over a flight of stone steps. Inside one of the caves were found a number of terracotta plaques with the seven Past Buddha and Maitreya, the future Buddha seated in two rows and the Buddhist creed inscribed
below each figure in minute characters. Outside the caves are large stonewalls of structures that once existed at this place. It is said to be the hallowed site of Buddha’s habitation and meditation and has been, therefore, held especially sacred by the Buddhists.

Peace Pagoda, Rajgir in Nalanda
The Buddha Sangha of Japan have constructed a massive modern stupa, the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), at the top of the hill in commemoration of Lord
Buddha’s preachings of his second wheel of law.

Bimbisara Jail in Nalanda
It is situated about half a kilometer southeast of Maniyar Math, inside the limits of the ancient inner city. These ruins are of great antiquity. It is believed that when his son Ajatshatru imprisoned king Bimbisara, he was able to see Buddha on the Griddhakoot hill.

Maniyar Math in Nalanda
This monument occupies a prominent position inside the valley, situated almost in the center of the enclosure of the ancient inner city, on the way to the Son
Bhandar Caves. Legend is that Srenika or Bimbisara had 32 wives to each of which he daily gave new ornaments, and threw the old ones into a well, which is still shown. A small temple of the Jain, quite modern, covers this well.

Jarasandh Ki Baithak / Pippala Cave in Nalanda
On the ascent to the top of the hill from the hot springs is seen a large stone structure. It is associated with the primeval King of Rajgir, Jarasandha. It is said that the king had his baithak or open sit-out here. The tradition, as quoted by Fa Hian, says that there was the Pippala Cave here where Buddha used to sit in deep meditation after his mid-day meal.

Sataparni Cave in Nalanda
On the northern cave of the Vaibhara hill, a little below the old Jain temple of Adinatha, is a series of six caves contained in a natural bend of rock. These caves, with the large terrace in front, are now generally believed to be the site where the First Buddhist Council was held a few months after Buddha’s death during the reign of King Ajastshatru.

Ajastshatru Stupa, Rajgir in Nalanda
To the east of the Venuvan area, close by the side of the road on its east are the ruins of a stone structure, built in the fashion of Pippala cave. The site occupies a very prominent situation on the road from the modern Rajgir town to the hot- springs.

Sataparni Cave in Nalanda
On the northern cave of the Vaibhara hill, a little below the old Jain temple of Adinatha, is a series of six caves contained in a natural bend of rock. These caves, with the large terrace in front, are now generally believed to be the site where the First Buddhist Council was held a few months after Buddha’s death during the reign of King Ajastshatru.

Ajastshatru Stupa, Rajgir (Nalanda District)
To the east of the Venuvan area, close by the side of the road on its east are the ruins of a stone structure, built in the fashion of Pippala cave. The site occupies a very prominent situation on the road from the modern Rajgir town to the hot- springs.

Ashokan Pillar in Vaishali 
The Lion Pillar at Kolhua is one of Ashokan pillars, which mark the different stages of the Journey to Nepal, which Ashoka undertook (249 B.C.). It bears no inscription.

Buddha Stupa I & II in Vaishali
Excavations at these sites led to discovery of casket containing the ashes of Lord Buddha.
Raja Vishal Ka Garh in Vaishali
There is huge mound, which is situated close to the north of the modern village. The mound is about 6’ to 10’ high above the surrounding country. There are traces of round towers at corners and of a surrounding ditch. The ramparts rise very slightly above the general level of the area inside the mound but from outside, from the bottom of the ditch, the height is about 15 ft. This mound is called Raja Vishal Ka Garh with a belief that this was originally the King’s fort.

Abhishek Pushkarni in Vaishali
It ia an ancient tank undergoing renovation. It is believed that the Kings of this ancient kingdom had to be first anointed before their coronation with the sacred water of this holy tank. So, it is still a venerated tank.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Vaishali
Japan has recently constructed another World Peace Pagoda in Bihar here at Vaishali, which is similar to that one built at Rajgir on the Ratnagiri Hill.

Kesariya in Champaran
72 kms west from Muzaffarpur, 48 kms north-west from Basarh or modern Vaishali and 22 kms south-west from Chakia, Kesariya in the east Champaran District has the proud privilege of housing the tallest ever excavated. Rising to a height of 104ft., ruined and much reduced than its original height, it even in its crumbled stage is one feet more that of the famous Borobodur stupa in Java, a World Heritage Monument. Before the earthquake of 1934 its height was 123 ft. in its halcyon days when both Kesaria and Borobodur were majestically standing, the total height of Kesariya was 150 ft and Borobodur 138 ft. But the present height of Kesariya id 104 ft and Borobodur 103. It is worth mentioning that the height of Sanchi stupa a World Heritage Monument is only 77.5 ft, almost half of Kesariya Stupa’s original height. Interestingly both Kesariya and Borobodur have six terraces and the diameter of Kesariya is equivalent to the width of Borobodur. But excavators feel that the diameter of Kesariya could be larger as several parts are still under earth and yet to be excavated. But even this incomplete state it is awe inspiring in grandeur and vibrant with life. The stupa commemorates the place where Lord Buddha had stayed and handed over his begging bowl to the people of Vaishali during his last journey to Kushinagara where he breathed his last. Buddha who could see through the future image of history had predicted about his impending death within three months at Chapal Chaitya and then Kutagarshala both in Vaishali. The people of Vaishali who were emotionally attached with Buddha could not bear the news of the impending death of Buddha. Throwing dust on their head and wailing as if some clamity had over taken then the people of Vaishali followed.

Lauriya Areraj in Champaran
The village is situated about 30 kms southwest of Motihari. It has got religious importance for having an old temple of Lord Shiva. Two Kilometers west of Areraj is the Lauriya village where one of the ancient Ashokan stone pillars still stands.

Aurangabad in Champaran
Headquarters town of the district of the same name is situated nearly 14 kms. from Aurangabad Road railway station. There is a group of hills near Madanpur between Aurangabad and Sherghati, on the grand Trunk Road, on which traces of Buddhist shrines are found among the rocks. Burha, nearly 3 kms. to the east, contains several sites in which `Chaityas’ and large `Viharas’ or Buddhist monastries once stood. There are some hot mineral springs, to which the place probably owned its former importance.

Vikramshila in Bhagalpur
Excavations at Vikramshila (Antichak) in Bhagalpur district, 10 kms. north of Kahalgaon revealed the remains of a large monastic site with a brick built stupa decorated with terracotta plaques in the walls of the two –tier circumambulatory paths. The site has been identified with the Vikramshila University was known from the Tibetan sources and also from notices in many manuscripts copied in the Mahavihara. Carved pillars, Votive Stupas, Buddhist images, Images of Hindu deities etc. have been recovered from this ancient site.
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