India Top 25 Buddhist Destinations - buddhist pilgrimage sites

India Top 25 Buddhist Destinations - buddhist pilgrimage sites - Destination Overview

India Top 25 Buddhist Destinations

1. Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh gaya, Bihar

The Mahabodhi Vihar  is a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, . It is the most sacred site in Buddhism and visited regularly by both Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims.  Mahabodhi Temple is one of the ancient and most important shrines of India. Located at Bodhgaya, Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple is easily accessible from the major towns and cities of Bihar. India is one of those four foremost sites venerated by the Buddhists as it still reveres the Buddha's enlightenment. It was here that Siddhartha realised the 'Middle Way', which subsequently became the centre of His teachings. The Maha Bodhi temple is administered by the Hindus and the Buddhist council jointly as the Hindus also consider the Buddha as a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. Therefore, the combined contribution of both the sects presents the core of the vivid Indian culture in form of unity.

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2. Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kushinagar

The Mahaparinirvana Temple of Kushinagar was discovered during excavations here by archaeologist A.C.L. Carlleyle in 1876. When the excavation work for the Mahaparinirvana Stupa was being carried out, a temple was found close to the Stupa while removing the debris from the site.  Behind the temple is an ancient 19m-tall stupa, and in the surrounding park is a large bell erected by the Dalai Lama. It is one of the India’s best and most visited stupa, inside this temple, there is Reclining Buddha image lying on its right side with the head to the north. The statue is 6.1 m long and rests on a stone couch.

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3. BuddhisT Golden Temple, Coorg, Karnataka

BuddhisT Golden Temple Located at a distance of 34 km from Madikeri, 4.5 km from Kushalnagar, 7 km from Cauvery Nisargadhama & 87 km from Mysore, the Golden Temple or Namdroling Monastery is a beautiful Buddhist Monastery situated at Bylakuppe. It is one of the most popular tourist places to visit in Coorg. Bylakuppe is the second largest Tibetans settlement in India after Dharamshala.

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4. Sarnath, Varanasi

Sarnath is a city located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi near the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati rivers in Uttar Pradesh, India. Lord Buddha had visited Sarnath looking for his five companions who abandoned him in Rajgir while they deviated from the viewpoint of Lord Buddha on self-mortification. The Emperor Ashoka (c 304 - 232 BC), who spread the Buddha's message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234 BC, and erected a stupa here. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD.

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5. Rajgir – Nalanda, Bihar

Rajgir s a city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. Rajgir, which means 'the royal palace', is a place of great sanctity and significance for the Buddhists and Jains. Lord Buddha had delivered many of His sermons over here during His 12-years stay at Rajgir or Rajgriha. Situated 100 kilometers southeast of Patna, the state capital of Bihar, the city of Rajgir is also famous for health and winter resort with its warm water pond. Rajgir is famous for rock-cut caves, forts, Buddhist ruins, shell inscriptions, Hindu and Jain temples and Muslim tombs. Lord Buddha converted one of the pilgrims to Buddhism, The place is linked with the son of Brahma, Vasu who is said have created the ancient Girivraja

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6. Sankasia, Sankasia

Sankassa was an ancient city in India. The city came into prominence at the time of Gautama Buddha. According to a Buddhist source, it was thirty leagues from Savatthi At the spot of descent stands a temple with a statue of the Buddha. The place is also known for a temple dedicated to Bisari Devi and an excavated Ashokan Elephant Pillar. The temple have marked the place where both of them descended. Chinese pilgrims, Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang had visited sankasia in order to mention the pilgrimage as 'Sankis-a' or 'Kapittha' in their relevant travelogues.

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7. Sravasti, Sravasti

Shravasti was a city of ancient India and one of the six largest cities in India during Gautama Buddha's lifetime. Sravasti is one of the major destinations of interest for Buddhists. There are many old structures and relics of Gautam Buddha's hut at Jetavana Monastery that one can explore on their tour to Sravasti. The place has numerous temples, ancient stupas and grand viharas in proximity to the town of Sahet- Mahet creating Lord Buddha's connection with Shravasti.

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8. Vaishali - Bihar

Vaishali was a city in Bihar, India, and is now an archeological site. It is a part of the Tirhut Division.  The first republic of the world, Vaishali holds special significance for the Buddhist devotees. The ancient city of Vaishali was the place, where Lord Buddha had delivered his last sermons and announced His prospective mahaparinirvana that was to take place in Kushinagar. The place is steeped in history and has appealing myths that draw the tourists from all across the world. Named after King Vishal of the Mahabharata time, some experts said that the name of this village was given owing to its richness.

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9. Amaravati Stupa, Amrawati

The Amravati stupa, which is also known as Mahachaitya Stupa, has the privilege of being the largest stupa(95 feet high) in India - the birthplace of Buddhism. Built during the 2nd century BCE, the stupa was discovered by a British archaeologist, Colonel Colin Mackenzie in 1797. The stupa was earlier a simple structure with limestone crossbars and simple carvings. The Amravati Stupa is a famous specimen of the Buddhist art and architecture of ancient India. It is located at Amravati in Andhra Pradesh, which is around 65 kms from the city of Vijayawada. Amravati Stupa is visited by hundreds of tourists and pilgrims which makes it one of the popular tourist attractions in Andhra Pradesh

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10. Chandavaram – Guntur, Andhra Pradesh

Chandavaram is a village in Nadendla Mandal, Guntur District, Andhrapradesh, India. Chandavaram is 8 km away from its Mandal headquarters in Nadendla. The main village occupation is agriculture. Paddy, cotton, and mirchi are extensively cultivated. Excavations carried out here revealed a double terraced maha stupa on the hilltop. The local people call this hill Singarakonda. The absence of Ayaka pillars at Chandavarman indicate that Hinayana form of Buddhism was in prevalence in this area in the bygone era. There is another stupa quiet closeby. 

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11. Kesaria, Bihar

Kesariya is a town in Bihar, India in the district of East Champaran, near Rampur Khajuria. It is the site of a stupa built by the Mauryan king Ashoka. . Buddha is also said to have had direct connection with Kesaputta. According to Jataka stories Buddha ruled this place as a Chakravartin Raja in his previous birth. Similarly, it was during one of his visits to Kesaputta that Buddha gave one of his most important discourses, the celebrated Kessaputtiya Sutta, popularly known as Kalama Sutta. Kesariya stupa is believed to have been built to honor the place where Lord Buddha had spent the last days of his journey, Kesaria stupa has a circumference of almost 1400 ft and raises to a height of about 104 feet. It is believed that initially, the height of the stupa was approximately 150 feet. However, after being subjected to the 1934 earthquake that shook India, the stupa got immersed into the ground and was reduced to 123 feet in height.  Kesariy stupa serves as a holy site for the Buddhist pilgrims around the world. Standing tall, it acts as a reminder of the last days of Lord Buddha and his compassionate and gentle approach towards people. In the 1998 excavation, the place around the stupa was found to house significant items, like Islamic coins, arrow heads, copper and terracotta items, earthen lamps, decorated bricks, etc

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12. Shanti Stupa, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir

Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa n a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama, Shanti stupa has provides beautiful and panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. This has become a primary reason for Shanti Stupa to become a popular tourist attraction, apart from its religious significance. The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh.  The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

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13. Nalanda University, Bihar

Nalanda, founded in the 5th century AD, is famous as the ancient seat of learning. The ruins of the world's most ancient university lies here which is 62 km from Bodhgaya and 90 km south of Patna. Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. An International Center for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951. Nearby is Biharsharif, where an annual urs is celebrated at the Dargah or tomb of Malik Ibrahim Baya. Baragaon, 2 km away has a sun temple, famous for Chhath puja. To be visited are Nalanda museum & Nava Nalanda Mahavihar in addition to the great ruins.

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14. Bavikonda – Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Bavikonda Buddhist Complex lies about 16 km from Visakhapatnam, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The term Bavikonda in Telgu language means a hill of wells. As per its name, Bavikonda is a hill which has wells for the collection of rainwater.  Famously known as the City of Destiny, Visakhapatnam sprawls along the seashore of the Bay of Bengal. For tourists, Visakhapatnam offers loads of attractions, from lakes to cool beaches, beautiful hill ranges, caves and valleys enclosures. Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, Ramakrishna Beach, Rishikonda Beach, Vuda Park and Kailasagiri are just some of the names of worthvisiting attraction in Cisakhapatnam.

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15. Ajanta Caves - Ajanta, Maharashtra

The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence. The style of Ajanta has exerted a considerable influence in India and elsewhere, extending to Java. With its two groups of monuments corresponding to two important moments in Indian history, the Ajanta cave ensemble bears exceptional testimony to the evolution of Indian art, as well as to the determining role of the Buddhist community, intellectual and religious foyers, schools and reception centres in the India of the Gupta and their immediate successors.

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16. Barabar Caves – Sultanpur, Bihar

The Barabar Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India. The Barabar caves, which is a group of small caves on the Barabar hills located at a distance of 20 kilometers from Gaya in Bihar, comprises numerous temples constructed from black granite stones. Built for the first time during Ashoka's reign with contributions in the later period also, these caves look like wood from a distance. these caves includes bow shaped arches at the entrance, circular halls and mini caves, all polished from inside. The Sudama cave, a two chambered structure with polished interiors, is the perfect example of this type of cave. Towards the north of the Sudama cave lies Karan Choper or Supriya cave, this is a single chambered structure with a vaulted roof and small gate.  These caves, used by five brothers, the Pandavas in their exile in the Mahabharata period, are small in size.

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17. Bharhut – Satna, Madhya Pradesh

Bharhut is a village located in the Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It is known for its famous relics from a Buddhist stupa. The Bharhut sculptures represent some of the earliest examples of Indian and Buddhist art. The stupa of Bharhut is between Allahabad and Jabalpur situated in the erstwhile Nagod state of Madhya Pradesh. It was probably built around 150 B.C. The railings of the stupa are carved. These posts, railing, capping stones and gateways, all fashioned in deep red sandstone, once surrounded a stupa. The remarkable precision of the carvings and liveliness of the figures, narrative scenes and decorative themes testify to the vitality of India's early artistic traditions. Many of the Bharhut posts are carved with yakshis which protrude in past relief; they stand in attitudes of devotion upon ganas or clutch branches of the tree.

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18. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ellora caves are in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. Ellora showcases the experiments that had carried out by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monks some 600 to 300 years back. The former were tolerant of all religions and, under their liberal patronage, the technique of excavating rock-cut temples reached a high degree of perfection.             

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19. Pandavleni Caves  - Nashik, Maharashtra

Pandu Leni are a group of 24 caves carved between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD, representing the Hinayana Buddhist caves and has nothing to do with the characters of Mahabharata (the Pandavas). he caves, known as Trirashmi Buddhist Caves were carved out from the 2nd century BCE till the 5th century CE as a part of donation by the Kings, merchants and local people for the Buddhist monks. The name is derived from the word "Tiranhu" which is inscribed in the Caves. The caves lodge idols of Buddha and Bodhisattva. Some caves are intricately connected by stone-cut ladders that join them to the other caves. Steps lead to the caves from the bottom of the hill. Pandavleni Caves are a group of twenty four, 1200 years old Hinayana Buddhist caves located about 8kms south of Nashik. Nashik is one of the world’s holiest Hindu cities. 

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20. Ratnagiri – Jajpur, Orissa

Ratnagiri, located in the Jajpur district in the state of Orissa, is a renowned Buddhist holy destination. The place consists of several important Buddhist sculptures spotted around the hills.  Excavation work carried out here have exposed two big monasteries, one big stupa, Buddhists shrines, sculptures and votive stupas. The bigger of the two monastery has 60 columns and well decorated gates. The rich Buddhist treasures unearthed from here also include bronze and stone images of the Buddha as well as a number of idols of the Buddhist pantheons. Of special significance is a mammoth image of meditating Buddha, with eyes half open, at the top of the hill.

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21. Sanchi, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. It lies at a distance of approximately 52 km from the capital city of Bhopal and 10 km from Vidisha. The major attractions of Sanchi include a number of Buddhist stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars.Sanchi is famous for outstanding specimen of Buddhist art and architecture, belonging to the period between the third century BC and the twelfth century AD. The most important of all the Sanchi monuments is the Sanchi Stupa. Stupas are large hemispherical domes, containing a central chamber, in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The Sanchi Stupa is one of the best preserved early stupas in central India. The Sanchi Stupa is surrounded by a railing with four carved gateways facing all the four directions.

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22. Udayagiri - Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Udayagiri are partly natural and partly artificial caves of archaeological, historical and religious importance near the city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India. Udayagiri, situated at the foot of a large hill, forms the three major Buddhist attractions of the state along with Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri. This hill provides an extremely grandiose backdrop for Udayagiri Buddhist complex. ere is also another brick monastery which is still not excavated apart from an inscripted stepped stone well and rock cut sculptures There is a large area which is still unexcavated and grips its visitors with thrill and anticipation. They want to know what lies beneath the site.

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23. Hemis Monastery, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir

Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa Lineage, located in Hemis, Ladakh, India. Situated 45 km from Leh, the monastery was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. the Hemis Monastery is the most important monastery belonging to the Drupka order. The history of the monastery states that it was founded by Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630. He was invited by the king of Ladakh, Sengye Namgyal who offered him a religious estate throughout the region. An annual festival to celebrate the victory of Guru Padmasmbhava over the evil forces marks the highlight of the monastery. The festival, known as the Hemis festival, is celebrated on the tenth and eleventh day of fifth Tibetan month as the birthday of Padmasambhava,

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24. Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh

This is an imposing hill station located at about 1700m high in Himachal Pradesh. The area is enriched with many ancient temples, monasteries and structures. Tsuglagkhang is the main temple enshrining Sakyamuni Buddha, Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava, Mcleodganj Destination well known for Tibetan holy leader Dalai Lama.  A Pilgrimage Destination for All divinity and peace Seekers - A Destination which is pretty imposing and cool. The city was named after David McLeod, the former Governor of Punjab under British rule.

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25.Tabo Monastry, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Tabo is a small village, situated on the left bank of river Spiti in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh.  it houses one of the most important Buddhist monastery, that is regarded by many as only next to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet. This monastery is said to be over a thousand years old, founded back in 996 A.D.  It was developed as an advanced centre for learning and till date it has managed to preserve the Buddhist legacy with the same steadfastness. The location of the Tabo Monastery adds to its charm. The monastery stands at a secluded, flat, barren ground occupying an area of 6300 sq km. High boundary wall of mud bricks surround it

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