Following In The Footsteps Of Gautama Buddha

Ever since Prince Siddhartha left his royal abode and set off on his quest for truth, he never stopped travelling. This Buddha Purnima, we take a look at some of the places he travelled to in his lifetime.

Gautama Buddha, the peripatetic preacher

Born in Lumbini in Nepal, as Prince Siddhartha, son of King Suddhodana of the Sakya clan and his wife Queen Maya Devi, he finally got the answer to his quest – why did people face sorrow and death – and became ‘Buddha’ or one who knows. He then travelled across the northern part of India to spread his learning among the common people. This Buddha Purnima, we take a tour of the places he visited before breathing his last in Kushinagar, near India’s border with Nepal. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Site citation for Lumbini, Buddha was born in 623 BC.

Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Bodhi Tree in the Mahabodhi Temple Complex Image credit: Radiokafka /

Bodh Gaya’s Mahabodhi Temple complex (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) complex contains several holy sites, including the Bodhi Tree under which, about 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha gained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha; the main temple dating back to the 5th/6th century, the Animeshlochana Temple, Cankamana or the Cloister Walk, Ajapala Nigrodha Tree, the Rajayatana Tree, etc. The temple is usually open between 5am to 9pm. But may have a different schedule on auspicious days.
In Bodhgaya, almost every nation with a Buddhist following has its own monasteries – Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Besides, there are monasteries belonging to the lesser known sects of Indian Buddhism. These monasteries are usually open between 5am-12pm and 2-6pm. Not far from the Thai monastery is a park with the image of the Great Buddha (80feet). Bodh Gaya is connected to the rest of the country through Gaya, 12km away. Avoid travelling to and from Bodh Gaya at night.

Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath Image credit:

Located near Varanasi (13km), Buddha delivered his first sermon to five disciples in Sarnath. Emperor Ashoka built several memorials over here. The two most famous stupas here today are the Chaukhandi and the Dhamek Stupa.  The Mulagandhakuti Vihara, run by the Mahabodhi Society, contains frescos by the famous Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu. The Archaeological Museum (closed on Friday) is said to be the oldest site museum of the Archaeological Survey of India and displays antiquities dating between 3rd century BC and 12th century AD.

Rajgir, Bihar

Peace Pagoda in Rajgir Image credit:

During the rainy season, Buddha would reside at Griddhakuta Hill, a part of the Ratnagiri chain of hills in Rajgir. On the other end of the Ratnagiri is the Saptaparni Cave where the first international Buddhist council was organised after Buddha’s death to write down his teachings. To commemorate the 2,500 years of the first council, the Japanese Buddhist Association built a stupa above the cave and an aerial ropeway connecting it to the bottom of the hill. The ruins of the famous Nalanda Mahavihara, the university town founded in 411 AD, is 11km from here.

Kaushambi, Uttar Pradesh

One of the places where Buddha would often deliver his sermons. Rruins of an Ashokan Pillar, an old fort and a grand monastery, besides a huge number of sculptures and figurines, cast coins and terracotta objects have been found during several excavations. The ruins are about 60km from Prayagraj (Allahabad).

Sravasti, Uttar Pradesh
Known as Sahet-Mahet in ancient times, this is where the Buddha performed several miracles. Sravasti is about 180km from Gorakhpur. 

Vaishali, Bihar

Stupa and Ashokan Pillar at Vaishali Image credit:

Another monsoon retreat which Buddha favoured. It was here that he first allowed women to join the ‘sangha’ or the Buddhist monastic order. It was here that he preached his last sermon and hinted that it was time for his ‘parinirvana’ (death). The Ashokan Pillar is said to mark the spot where he delivered the last sermon. Apart from the relic stupa (which is said to contain one of the eight portions of Buddha’s relics which fell to the share of the Licchavi kingdom), there are other stupas, Kutagarshala Vihar and a World Peace Pagoda (built by the Japanese). Vaishali is located 65km north west of Patna.

Kesariya, Bihar

Not many travellers visit this hallowed site, where Buddha gave his begging bowl to the people of Licchavi who were following him ever since he announced his ‘mahaparinirvana’ was imminent. The ruins of a huge stupa is the main attraction here. It is about 110km from Patna.

Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh

Mahaparinirvana Temple at Kushinagar

The site of Buddha’s mahaparinirvana, Kushinagar is not far from Indo-Nepal border. Since Buddha’s death, many stupas and other memorials have been built here over time. Most of the attractions lie along the 2.5km long Buddha Marg. The most attractive of all is the Mahaparinirvana Temple with its over 20-feet tall statue of reclining Buddha carved in the 5th century. Kushinagar is about 50km by road from Gorakhpur, which is also the nearest airport.