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The holy places of Buddhism, where Lord Buddha was born and He taught, preached, and attained ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Nirvana’, are termed as Buddhist Circuit. These are the spiritual homes of Buddhism, housing temples and monasteries of high religious significances, where followers of Buddhism associate themselves with the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddhist Circuit has evolved as tourist centres for not only the followers of Buddhism but also others.
Actually, one visit will not be sufficient if you really desire to pay a visit to all of them. What you can, however, do is find out the ones that are nearby and pay a visit to them. A number of circuits will come up in this process. However, if you are wondering whether undertaking a trip to these circuits will be good enough, just go through this section.
Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar are the primary pilgrimage places of Buddhist Circuits associated with the life and teachings of the Lord Buddha. There are numerous other sites where the Buddha and the saints that followed traveled during his life after his transformation, which are held in deep veneration. Visitors can travel through this Buddhist Circuit today, to savor the splendid beauty and great appeal of Buddhism.
The greatest impetus to Buddha's teachings came from the Indian King Ashoka who went on a great pilgrimage visiting the important sites that are directly associated with his life, in the Footsteps of Lord Buddha. Primary amongst these holy places are Lumbini in Nepal, and Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar in India. There are other places of lesser significance on the Footsteps of Lord Buddha visitor circuit associated closely with Buddha's life. Amongst these are Buddha's monsoon retreats of Vaishali, Rajgir and Sravastii in India, and his early home at Tilaurakot in Kapilavastu Nepal.
In India, Buddhist Circuit is in Bodhgaya, Vaishali and Rajgir in Bihar, Sarnath in Varanasi, Shravasti and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. All these are the main pilgrimage centres for Buddhism in India. Let us get an idea of these places in Buddhist Circuit;
Bodhgaya: Located in Bihar, this is the place where Prince Siddhartha found enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. After meditating for 49 days, he became Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One. In Bodhgaya, the important tourist attractions are Bodhi Tree, Mahabodhi Temple, Vajrasana Throne donated by King Ashoka, Muchalinda Lake, Animesh Lochan Chaitya, some other holy trees like Ratnachankramana, Ratnagaraha, Ajapala Nigrodha and Rajyatna. It also has a number of monasteries, established by Buddhists of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, etc. Hence, it is a major attraction for foreign tourists.
Sarnath: This is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. This was given after he achieved enlightenment. Sarnath is about 10 km from the holy city of Varanasi. It was at Sarnath that Buddha established his sangha or first disciples to promote his new doctrine. The proud symbol of India, the famous lion capital pillar or the Ashoka pillar was erected by King Ashoka originally at Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath. You also can see Chaukhandi Stupa, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar and Sarnath Ashram here.
Kushinagar: This place is located in the Gorakhpur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. It is en route to Kapilavastu, the place where Lord Buddha fell ill and died in 543 BC. It is said that the mortal remains of Lord Buddha were distributed by King Ashoka into more than 80,000 stupas across his kingdom and outside. Important places to see here are Mukatanabandhana Stupa and the reclining Buddha statue in red sandstone. Other attractions are Wat Thai Temple, Chinese Temple, Japanese Temple, Mahanirvana Temple, etc. This is the place where Lord Buddha attained salvation.
Vaishali: This was the place where Lord Buddha gave his last sermon. The place is 60 km away from the capital of Bihar, Patna. It is said that Buddha told his disciple Ananda about his imminent demise in this place. The place is also known for the second Buddhist Council, which took place about 110 years later.
Rajgir: Rajgir, about 70 km from Bodhgaya, was the Lord’s monsoon retreat for 12 years. While spreading his doctrine, He preached about the precepts of Lotus Sutra and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. The location was Gridhakuta Hill in Rajgir. The first Buddhist council was held at the Saptaparni Caves on Vaibhar Hill in Rajgir. The teachings of Buddha were compiled after his death and preached in the council. The world-renowned university of Nalanda is another important site to visit in Rajgir.
Shravasti: Shravasti was Buddha’s favourite rainy season retreat. It was located about 150 km from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and it was at this place Buddha performed his first miracle.
Lumbini: Situated in the Rupandehi district of Nepal, Lumbini is the place where Lord Buddha was born. Today, it is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Being a neighbour country, Lumbini is also sometimes included in the Buddhist Circuit in India by tour operators.