The holiest Buddhist pilgrim places - Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world. Siddhartha Gautama,better known as Gautama Buddha was the divine philosopher who laid its foundation as early as 563 BC. The four holy places of Buddhist pilgrimage are Lumbini where Buddha was born, Bodh Gaya where he attained enlightment, Sarnath where he first preached & Kushinagar where he achieved Parinirvana

Gautama Buddha who was a prince, could live life in a niche of all luxuries & pleasures. But he renounced his materialistic life to free himself from enslavement to all worldly attachments. The four noble signs he encountered in his life inspired him to enter the sacred world of spirituality to detach misery from human life & pursue an ascetic life. A pilgrimage to these four holy sites shall bring about spiritual bliss for the followers of Buddhism


It is said that Kapilavastu near Lumbini is the exact birth place of Buddha. It is a beautiful place nestled in the foot hills of Himalayas (at present in Nepal). Buddha was brought up here and lived there until the age of 29. It is believed that Maha Devi, Buddha's mother on the way to her parental home was enthralled by the beautiful gardens and serenity of Lumbini. As she stood in awe of the garden's beauty she got labor pains & the baby was born there under a Sal tree with a halo around his head. Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini in 249 BC and constructed four stupas & a stone pillar . The stone pillar has figure of a horse on top and an inscription denoting that the pillar is dedicated to Sakyamuni (Buddha) as he was borne there & Lumbini was taxed lesser. In 1895 a German Archaeologist discovered the pillar and the excavation of surrounding area lead to the revelation of a brick temple and sandstone sculpture inside the temple depicting the scene of Buddhs's birth. It is believed that Maha Devi temple was perhaps built on an Ashoka stupa. There is a sacred pool known as Puskarni on the south of the temple where Maha Devi is believed to have taken her ritual dip before Buddha's birth and it is also where Buddha had his first bath. A flawless stone was unearthed by archaeologists in 1996, which was placed by Emperor Ashoka to mark the precise location of Buddh's birth though it hasn't been authenticated. Presently Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the holy site also has remains of ancient monasteries and a Bodhi tree. It is bordered by a monastic zone where only monasteries can be built

How to reach Lumbini?

The nearest airport is Gautama Buddha Airport ,Bhairahawa which has flights to and from Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a 10h drive from Lumbini

Accomodation in Lumbini

You can stay in either guest houses like Seven Angels Guest House,Lumbini Guest House or Hotels like Buddha Maya Garden or Lumbini Garden Lodge

Bodh Gaya

Gautama who was yet to attain enlightenment was dwelling on the banks of the river Nairanjana practicing austerities with his five followers when he realized he had failed to be touched upon by enlightment. His followers abandoned him and Buddha went to the village of Senani and took seat under a Pipal tree facing east. There he resolved not to rise again until he was enlightened and plunged in deep meditation. The Lord of illusion, Mara tried to distract Buddha but the earth shook in the power of his enlightment and finally Mara's illusions were driven away by Buddha's wisdom & compassion

The Maha Bodhi temple was built by Ashoka 250 years after the enlightenment. The diamond throne, Vajrasana supported by four pillars which is the seat of enlightenment was erected by him. Inside the temple ,colossal image of Buddha which is said to be 1700 years old is seen in 'touching the ground pose' facing east in the place where he was enlightened under the Bodhi tree. Chankramanar, the jewel walk adorned with nineteen lotuses is seen parallel to the temple which was built in relation to Buddha's walking meditation in the 2nd week after enlightenment. North to Chankramanar ,Animeschalochana which is a stupa is seen. In the back of the temple the Bodhi tree under which Buddha meditated is seen though it is considered as a descendant of the orginal tree. The Bodhi tree had become a focus of devotion in early history itself and today pilgrims from all over the world take away leaves and seeds from the tree as blessings. Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world visit this site of enlightenment for their spiritual enrichment

How to reach Bodh Gaya?

Road: It is well connected to Gaya (17km) by road, Nalanda (101km), Rajgir (78km) ,Patna (135km), Varanasi (252km) & Calcutta (495km )

Railways: Nearest railway station is at Gaya (17km). Regular direct bus services are available from Gaya, Patna &Varanasi. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation runs buses from Patna to Bodh Gaya route. Taxis are also available to Bodh Gaya
Airways: The nearest airport is at Gaya 7kms and Patna 135kms.


Bihar state tourism development corporation runs 3 hotels , Siddhartha Vihar, Buddha Vihar and Sujata Vihar. There is also Hotel Bodhgaya Ashok run by Indian Tourism development Corporation


After enlightenment, Buddha reached Sarnath and preached his first discourse in the deer park and set the Wheel of the Dharma in motion. The holiness of the place was thus marked by the stream of knowledge that flowed from Buddha. Buddha met his earlier disciples here who joined him again as they heard Buddha's words of wisdom and became his first disciples. Buddha preached the Four noble truths ,the Eight fold Path & the Middle way which propelled the necessity to live a life not governed by extremities of luxury or asceticism. His teachings depicted compassion for human beings & their suffering. So it is not suprising that Emperor Ashoka became his devotee who underwent similar emotional turmoil after witnessing battles & killings inflicting suffering to people. Here Ashoka erected a column with four lions which is now treasured in archaeological museum. The four lion capital was later adopted as the emblem of India. The most important structure situated here is the Dhamekha Stupa from which Colonel Cunnigham discovered a stone tablet with the word Dhamekha & mentioning that it was the spot where the first sermon was delivered. Dhamekha means turning the wheel of dharma. The lower part of the stupa has beautifully carved stones and the design constitutes swastika and lotus chiselled artistically.

How to reach Sarnath?

Road: Sarnath is connected to rest of India by roads and long distance buses are available from Varanasi or you can take a cab

Railways: There is a railway station in Sarnath but it is a small station with only few trains stopping there. Varnasi is the major station and is 6km from Sarnath

Airways: Varanasi airport is the nearest to Sarnath (24km away)


Stay is provided by certain dharamshalas like Forest Rest House, Mahabodhi dharamshala, Deer Park Guest House or you can choose to stay in hotels in Varanasi such as Rahi tourist bungalow and Sarnath Indian homestay


On reaching Kusinara of Mallas (Kushinagar in UP), Buddha realized his end was near and informed his disciples. He had already achieved living nirvana & materialistic detachment and so the fear of death couldn't trouble him. He sank into deep meditation and entered Mahaparinirvana (the great passing) which depicts his divinity. Ramabhar Stupa is one of the main attractions here where he attained Mahaparinirvana. His body was taken to the Mukutbandhana Chaitya, the sacred shrine of Mallas and cremated with honours. The ashes after cremation were distributed among kingdoms & have been enshrined in stupas in various parts of Asia. The present temple was built by Indian government in 2500 BE where the reclining Buddha image with the head to north resting on a stone couch can be seen. On the front of the couch 3 sculptures are seen representing Ven Ananda near his feet, Ven Subhadda at the middle and Ven Dabba Malla at the corner. This image of Buddha was pieced together from its scattered form
Buddha himself had identified these four sites of future pilgrimage ie place of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon and death. Though he added not to hinder yourself by honoring his remains

How to reach Kushinagar?

Roadways: It is the best way to enter the city of Kushinagar. The city is connected to rest of Uttar Pradesh through NH -28. Government operates buses from other cities to Kushinagar

Railways: No railway service in the city of Kushinagar. Gorakhpur junction station is located 52km away and Deoria railway station is 35km away

Airways: Gorakhpur airport is 47km from Kushinagar is the closest airport but does not have frequent flights. The airports at Lucknow (251km from Kushinagar) and Varanasi (290km from Kushinagar) will be more convenient


One option is to stay in dharamshalas like Birla Hindu Dharamshala or International Guest House which are quite economical. There are several monasteries located here to attract tourists which provide accomodation like Myanmar Buddha Vihar and Watt Thai Guest House

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Guest Author: SHRISTOCKTIPS21 Oct 2013

Simple yet Detailed write up, want to do this Spiritual trail soon. Thanks for the post.

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