Top 9 Places to Visit in Bodhgaya in 2021

The sacred town of Bodhgaya is a unique gem in India. It is a meeting point for Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world. Being the birthplace of Buddhism, it is here, under the Bodhi Tree, that Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Dotted with Temples and monasteries, here’s a detailed guide on the top 9 places to visit in Bodhgaya.

Besides the world renowned Mahabodhi Temple Complex, you can visit numerous other sites inspired from Buddhist countries around the world. All of them have unique designs, and architectural features, typical of their countries. 

It’s like going on a journey across the world in one day! The following is a list of temples, tourist sites, and restaurants, we think you shouldn’t miss. Soothe your soul with the spiritual vibe and the tranquility of this holy town.

VISITING BODHGAYA – ESSENTIAL ETIQUETTES

As in every place of religious significance, Bodhgaya too has a list of rules that you need to abide to.  

  • Dress modestly (Avoid any clothing that is above your knees and cover your shoulders)
  • Remove your shoes at the entrance of the temple. 
  • Be quiet in places of prayer 
  • Strictly adhere to the “No Photography” policy where necessary, especially within the temple.

Things to do in Bodhgaya, India Monks at the Mahabodhi Temple (Photo Credit – Matt Stabile)

Mahabodhi Temple 

The Mahabodhi Temple ought to be at the top of your list of places to visit in Bodhgaya. The site where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the sacred Bodhi tree. The Bodhi Tree found here is a descendant of the original sacred tree. You have to leave your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, heavy luggage/ bags at the entrance of the Temple premises.

Camera and video equipment is permitted at a nominal fee. You’ll then be given a ticket which is to be presented at the security check point. If you visit the temple early in the morning, you’ll have the opportunity to silently observe the monks, and pilgrims, chanting and meditating. It is one of the most satisfying spiritual experiences.

Built in the 2nd century AD,  around the complex you’ll find smaller sacred sites where Lord Buddha meditated in the weeks following his enlightenment. Altogether it is a large complex with a beautiful garden and prayer wheels on the top promenade. You can also find the Mucalinda Lake named after the serpent king who protected Gautam Buddha from storm and rain while he was meditating. 

VISITING HOURS: 05:00-21:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 30mins -1 hour

COST: Free

Mahabodhi Temple, Temples to visit in India, Bodhgaya The sacred Bodhi tree inside the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya (Photo Credit – Matt Stabile)

Tibetan Temple – Buddha Temple 

This temple is right across the entry to the Mahabodhi Temple. The monastery and temple complex is one of the largest in Bodhgaya and is annually graced by the presence of the Dali Lama.

The highlight is the large Dharmachakra praying wheel. A 10-meter-high metal drum painted in golden and red color. It’s believed that if rotated, one may get remission from one’s sins. 

Other interesting places to visit in Bodhgaya include: Mongolian Temple, Karma Temple (also Tibetan), Taiwan Temple, China Temple, Vietnam Temple, Burmese Temple, Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling, Tergar Monastery.

VISITING HOURS: 05:00-21:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 30 mins – 1 hour

COST: Free 

Royal Thai Temple – Wat Thai 

If you have been to Thailand you will identify this massive complex on the main road. The Thai architectural style is prominent in the structure of this temple. Full of gold, a steep arched roof, precisely designed garden. This Wat definitely also shows that Thailand is one of the most dedicated and wealthiest Buddhist countries.

There is also a hospital (in case of any medical emergency, you can visit this hospital!), a café, and a shop on the compound. 

VISITING HOURS: 06:00-19:30 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 20 mins -40 mins

COST: Free

Thai Temple – Wat Thai, Things to do in India The entrance of the Thai Temple – Wat Thai(Photo Credit – Michael Eisenriegler)

Totora Tree 

If you’re looking to go off the beaten path.. the Totora tree is among the most fascinating places to visit in Bodhgaya. When you have already crossed the river to see the Sujata Stupa, you should also consider walking in the other direction (northwards, river upwards) to get to the impressively large Totora tree. 

There are no sign boards. In order to get there, you have to seek help from the locals and walk through a couple of small dwellings. The picturesque landscapes make it worth the walk. If the locals don’t know the directions to the Totora Tree ask for the Sarswati Temple (Mandir) which is close by. However, be prepared to be followed by the inquisitive village boys who are fascinated by your presence.

You can sit under the tree and meditate or climb up the massive branches. The sheer tranquility, peace and quiet will instantly rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.

VISITING HOURS: All days

ESTIMATED TIME: 1-2 hours

COST: Free`

Japanese Temple – Indosan Nipponji 

Not too far from the Thai temple is the Japanese Temple. If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Bodhgaya, the simple, yet beautifully designed, Japanese temple is a must visit. This building is a perfect example of Japanese art and architecture, minimalistic, sure to leave you in awe of it’s grandeur.

It’s comparatively less crowded, as not many tourists come to this side of the town. Every morning, at sunrise, and every evening, at 5 pm, you can join the meditation and chanting session. 

VISITING HOURS: 05:00-12:00 hours & 16:00-21:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME: 2-3 hours

COST: Free

Japanese Temple, Temples to visit in India The peaceful Japanese Temple – Indosan Nipponji, Bodhgaya (Photo Credit – Michael Eisenriegler)

The Great Buddha Statue 

Close to the Japanese and Bhutanese Temple you can also find the 80 foot (24.3m) high Buddha statue in meditation pose. It is a significant site for Buddhist pilgrims travelling to Bodhgaya. It took seven years to build and was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama himself, in 1989. 

VISITING HOURS: 07:00-12:00 hours & 16:00-18:00 hour (17:30 hours in winter)

ESTIMATED TIME: 30 mins – 1 hour

COST: Free

Royal Bhutan Temple 

Right next door is the Bhutanese temple which is way more colorful and intricate. We find this temple especially interesting as Bhutan is a country most of us will probably never be able to visit so this temple enables us to get a glimpse of its culture and art. 

VISITING HOURS: All days

ESTIMATED TIME: 30 mins – 1 hour

COST: Free

Royal Bhutan Temple, Places to visit in Bihar, Bodhgaya Pilgrims visiting Royal Bhutan Temple, Bodhgaya (Photo Credit – Shiva Shenoy)

Dungeshwari Cave in the Pragbodhi Hills or Mahakala Cave

The cave in the obvious hills close to Bodhgaya is where Buddha is said to have spent six or seven years as an ascetic before meditating below the Bodhi Tree. In the process, he almost starved to death and then later realized that self- abasement is not the correct way to enlightenment. 

Now there isn’t much to be seen here except a small golden Buddha statue. However, the trip here and the view from the top is nice.

It’s at a distance of 20km towards the east, across the Fagu River. Rickshaws offer 3-hour return trips there or you get yourself a motorbike. Some people also walk there but do consider this only during clear not too hot weather. 

VISITING HOURS: All days

ESTIMATED TIME: 2-3 hours

COST: Free

Sujata Stupa 

This originally much larger and white painted stupa was built to commemorate the village dweller Sujata, a girl who fed Buddha after his six or seven years of asceticism with milk rice. It’s a 20 minutes’ walk from Bodhgaya. 

VISITING HOURS: 07:00-18:00 hours

ESTIMATED TIME:1-2 hours

COST: Free

Places to explore in Bodhgaya, Sujata Stupa The Sujata Stupa in Bodhgaya (Photo Credit – Anandajoti BhikkhuFollow)

Get in touch with our team of experts if you are looking at planning your trip to this interesting city. Along with Bodhgaya, you can also add other interesting cities across North India. Here are a few common routes across North India to get an idea of what to expect.

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