Buddhism was born in India. In a time of great spiritual awakening around 5th century B.C Prince Siddhartha Gautama who would become the Buddha walked the earth in the geographical segment that today is known as North India and Nepal. There he was born, it was there he left his family in his search of enlightenment, it was there he sat under a tree in meditation and found the middle way, there he gave his first lectures to his first group of followers and it was there he had died and left his earthly body after achieving blissful Nirvana.
The story of the Buddha and the story of early Buddhism is a classic and epic tale, made in India. Today, Buddhism no longer exists in India. It has spread out to all Asian countries and also vastly to the West, but has almost disappeared from India. The cause of this disappearance lies within a long historical process that I will not go into detail in this post.
Life of Buddha, BBC documentary
But India is still the best place in the world to trace the origins of Buddhism and this fascinating religion (some would say philosophy or a way of life, and not a religion). While traveling in India, we can visit some of the most important places of Buddhism, places that are connected directly to the historical life of the Buddha:
Lumbini was where the Buddha born, raised and lived until the age of 29. This is the habitat of the Shakya tribe where his father ruled and he was a prince. Modern Lumbini is located in south-west Nepal in the footsteps of the Himalayas, only 20km from the Indian border and north of the Indian city, Gorakhpur. Lumbini is not a very interesting place, but has several important temples and is the first station in Buddha’s life.
Arguably the most important station in the Journey of Buddha’s life. Here Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree known as the ‘awakening tree’ and searched for the solution of the suffering in the world. After a deep and long meditation, he found the solution to the problem of suffering and became the Buddha. Today, the tree is still there (well, at least from the same roots…) and everyone is welcome to try it. The modern city of Bodhgaya is a bustling center of pilgrims from all over the Buddhist world. Here every Buddhist country has a temple dedicated to its countries name. In the middle of town lies the huge Mahabuddhi temple, which is a must-visit. Bodhgaya is located in the state of Bihar in North India, 15km from the city of Gaya that is well connected by trains to all big cities and transportation hubs.
Sarnath is located 13km north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India. According to tradition, here in a deer park Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma – the Buddhist teaching, and is where the Buddhist Sangha (community) came into existence for the first time. Today it’s a pleasant green park with an old Stupa (Buddhist monastery) and temples. It is an interesting day trip from Varanasi and well connected to the city by buses and Rickshaws.
Kushinagar is a town in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 50km from the city of Gorakhpur on the banks of the river Gorga. It is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Gautama Buddha had died in great pains from severe food poisoning. This is the last place that the Buddha had walked the earth. From here he would no longer be reincarnated after attending the great Nirvana.
So if you are interested in Buddhism in India check out one of these historical places