Gaya is a place sanctified by both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangala-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (western) side.
Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the demon), demon (asur, a Sanskrit word) and Gaya. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur, the holy demon by using the pressure of his foot over him. This incident transformed Gayasur into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city. Gaya was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform Shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors. Gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasur's body after he died, and the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and goddesses. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of the pilgrimage circuit.
Gaya is 100 kilometres south of Patna, and is situated on the banks of Falgu River.
Gaya is covered by Jehanabad district on the north, on the south by Chatra district of Jharkhand. On the east by Nawada district and on the west by Aurangabad district.
Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the demon). According to Vayu Purana, Gaya was the name of a demon (Asura) whose body was pious after he performed rigid penance and secured blessings from Vishnu.
Gayasura was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform Shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors.
Gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasur's body after he died, and the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and goddesses. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of pilgrimage circuit, and grand staircases have been built up to most of them.
Gaya is a holy place for buddhism and hindusim.
Gaya is significant to Hindus from the point of view of salvation to the souls of ancestors (a ritual called pinda daan). According to Ramayana, Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita to perform pindadanam. While Lord Rama had gone to have his bath before offering this pindadanam, his father King Dasharath's hands appeared and a voice spoke to Sita asking her to offer the pindam herself, as the King was very hungry. Moved by this, Sita prepared pindams out of sand, and offered them herself to the hands that appeared to receive them.
After some time, Lord Rama came back and started performing the rites. When it was time to give the pindadanam, he was surprised and pained to see his father's not receiving it. Sita then explained what had occurred. She called for the river Phalgu, a Brahman standing nearby, cow, and a banyan tree nearby as a witness to this miraculous occurrence.
Except for the banyan tree that supported her, rest of them denied her story - Brahman had a greed for more money as offerings, river Phalgu in a wish to receive more offerings from Lord Rama, and the cow in awe of the Lord. So, Sita cursed the three liars. Ramayana states that on account of this curse, Phalgu River lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes.
At the same time Sita blessed a banyan tree to be immortal. This tree is known as Akshyavat. Akshyavat is combination of two words Akshya (which never decay) and Vat (Banyan tree). Once a year banyan trees shed leaves, but this particular tree never sheds its leaves which keeps it green even in times of drought.
For Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrimage place because it was at Brahmayoni hill that Buddha preached the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to a thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all became enlightened while listening to this discourse. At that time, the hill was called Gayasisa.
Jama Masjid of Gaya is the largest mosque of Bihar. It has been constructioned approx 180 years ago by Royal Family of Muzaffarpur. Thousand of peoples can offer Namaz together. It is a big of centre of Tabligh in Bihar. Now these day this mosque is being shown as a historical place.
There are many fairs organised in Gaya − some on the basis of business or some on the basis of extending its culture. Here a fair of animals is organised twice in a year at the bank of river Phalgu just opposite to the Vishnu pad.
Luxury services have been introduced by Bihar State Road Transport Corporation for Muzaffarpur, Patna, munger, bhagalpur, Motihari, Hazaribagh and Ramgarh. The National Highway 2 Grand Trunk Road from Kolkata to Delhi passes about 30 km from Gaya. This connects Gaya to Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Rourkela, Durgapur, Kolkata (495 km), Varanasi (252 km), Allahabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Amritsar, and to the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. Gaya is connected to Patna (105 km) by NH 83, Nawada, Rajgir (78 km) and Bihar Sharif by NH 82. Plans have been made to construct a four lane road from Gaya to Patna
Situated between Gaya (7 km) and Bodh Gaya (11 km), Gaya International Airport is the only operating international airport in Bihar and Jharkhand. It is connected to Colombo, Sri Lanka through two airline operators; Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore and Paro, Bhutan. It is said to be being developed as a stand-by to the Kolkata airport. Gaya Airport is served by Indian Airlines for domestic flights and Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Drukair, Jet Airways, Thai Airways and Indian Airlines for international flights. Currently, there are domestic operations to New Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi from this airport.
The staple food of Gaya is common to the rest of Bihar and Jharkhand. The other special preparations found in Gaya are typically traditional Bihari food. The most popular of them include sattu, litti-chhokha, litti, pittha, pua, marua-ka-roti, bari-dal, sattu-ka-roti, baigan-bharta, sukhaota, kopal ki kofta and also famous chat from tower chowk etc. The spicy 'Achar', made by the women of Gaya, is also a delicacy.
Gaya has been the origin of several sweet delicacies popular in the whole of Bihar, Jharkhand and the rest of India. Tilkut, Khaja, Kesaria Peda, Lai, Anarsa of Ramana road and tekari road are the most popular sweets that bear the trademark of Gaya.
Tilkut being the most popular of them is prepared using til[disambiguation needed] or sesame seeds (Sesamum Indicum) and jaggery or sugar. It is a seasonal (winter) sweet and only the karigars (workers) from Gaya are believed to impart the real taste of Tilkut. One can find Tilkuts carrying the label "Ramna, Gaya" and "Tekari road, Gaya"even in far flung places like Kolkata and Delhi.
Kesaria peda is yet another delicious sweet prepared from khoya (solid milk cream) and kesar (saffron). The Chowk area of the city specializes in Kesaria Peda production.
There are several varieties of Lai available in Bihar, including Lai from Gaya. The main component of this Lai is Ram dana seeds. These ram danas are processed and mixed with khoya and sugar to give rise to a disk shaped sweet.
Anarsa is also based on khoya, but is deep fried and processed with sugar. Anarsa comes in two shapes 'thin disk' and 'spherical'. The sweet is finally embedded with til (sesame) toppings.
These sweets are dry and hence easily packagable, preserved, and transported, unlike Bengali sweets, many of which are soaked in sugar syrups. There is a tradition among the residents to gift the visitors with these sweets when they depart, as a token of love. Besides this, in Gaya one must try roadside eateries like Aloo-kaChaloo & Chaat. Aloo-Kachaloo is made up of boiled potatoes sprinkled with red chilly powder and jeera powder, salt and tamarind water specially at the place of Batamore. One can easily find such joints outside schools and colleges as it is a favourite of kids and teenagers.
The people of Gaya are fond of spicy-sour traditional snacks. There are certain snacks that are found only in Gaya. The most popular among them are Samosa Chat, Alu-Kachalu and Sabudana-Badam Bhoonja, aalu chaat.
Sabudana-Badam Bhoonja is a dry snack that is unique to the Gaya city. It is a mixture of fried sabudana (sago) and fried badam (groundnut or moongfali is called badam or sometime chiniya-badam in Bihar) along with salt (both white and black), chili powder and jeera (cumin seeds) powder. The mobile bhoonja vendors shouting humorous slogans can be found in every bylane of the Gaya city during the twilight hours. Chanajor garam is one of the most spicy snacks made up of black gram and traditional(typical)masala,being served with lemon juice and typical powder. Bakarkahni and Chai Biscuit are also very famous of Chatta Masjid.