Bodhgaya: The Place where one’s soul is awakened

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Bodhgaya is the place that defines- “Nothing is permanent; Everything is subject to change. Being is always becoming Buddha“. The precepts of Buddha have always inspired me as it relates to your actions. The chapter on Buddhism in my history book is still crystal clear in my judgement, and since then, I have aspired to sit under the Bodhi tree. At the same time, I am not a big fan of meditation, as I have been trying to learn for a long but have yet to succeed. But one time, I wanted to experience the natural meditative feeling that Lord Buddha felt. I might not see the halo of enlightenment, but I expect peace of creative thinking at least. Hence, I was ready to visit another UNESCO heritage site, the Maha Bodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
Bodhi Tree

Since I was holidaying in my hometown Dhanbad, planning this trip was comfortable. We chose the rail route, as it’s convenient & economical. The first train from Dhanbad to Gaya is at 06:00 am, the Dhanbad-Gaya Intercity Express, which arrives in Gaya at 10.05 am. It is comfortable rail travel for 4hrs 5min, and the same train departs from Gaya at 5.35 pm, & arrives in Dhanbad at 9.45 pm. On reaching Gaya, you can hire taxis readily available outside the station or hail the Bihar state buses to your desired area destination. We reserved a cab as we had a stay in Bodh Gaya. 

Railway station

On a crispy December cold, we drove towards Bodh Gaya from the railway station on a mist-ridden foggy morning. It was 30 min drive(26 Km), and along the way could only hear the rustling of leaves against the cold draught of wind. As usual, I booked the Tourism Lodging accommodation Hotel Heritage under BSDTC. It is one of the city’s most preferred affordable luxury hotels, located close to Bodhi Temple. The rooms were spacious, with all comforts. Bodh Gaya pulls pilgrims, backpackers and tourists from all over the world. Hence all types of accommodation are available, from luxury to budget or lodges. The tariff starts as cheap as Rs 500/night and proceeds up to Rs 3500/night. Upon reaching, we checked in, took a quick shower & ate our complimentary breakfast.  

Hotel Heritage

I wished to visit the Maha Bodhi temple early morning, hence postponing it for the following day. Well, if we talk about monasteries here, the total number is over 60, out of which more than 55 are foreign Buddhist monasteries. Hell! That’s a considerable number. My trip was approximately three days. As I found myself lost in a place, amongst different cultures, following other routines, I realized to understand, explore, and feel the spirituality and the innate peace that Bodhgaya brings, a couple of days is required.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
The stupa

Though Bodhgaya is an all-year destination, winters are incredibly busy when the temple complex is adorned with thousands of marigolds, and the visiting monks, in their trademark orange and maroon robes, make the town a riot of colour. Even Dalai Lama visits the spot to attend the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo festival for world peace between Dec-Jan. I set off my tour with Vein Giac Instituteiac( Trung Tam Vien Giac).

Vietnam Monastery

The Vietnam Temple is located close to the Mahabodhi Temple. The architecture reflects the Vietnamese culture and traditions, built-in 2002. The synagogue houses a statue of Avalokiteswara (in a simple form), a prayer hall and a library. It was so calm that it reminded me of a Buddha teaching” peace comes from within, do not seek it without”.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened

My Next destination was Burmese Vihar, less than a Km away from the Mahabodhi Temple. It was made in 1936 and was established by the Venerable Nandamala. A beautiful Burmese architect with golden rooftops, a lush green garden, two prayer halls, a meditation hall and a guest house for the convenience of pilgrims. The tranquil environment will ask you, “Let the past makes you better, not bitter”-Buddha.

Burmese Monastery

Further ahead, I went to Ngagyur Palyul Thupten Monastery, close to the Buddha statue. It’s a large monastery with colourful Gompa & Stupa, and over 1000 small golden Buddha statues are kept inside the temple.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
Ngagyur Palyul Thupten Monastery

This monastery preaches instruction in Kama teachings, teaches Buddhist courses, leads retreats, and instructs on Tibetan yoga and Chi practices.


I called for a break from monasteries, as there were a couple more to see, so I walked towards the great Buddha statue. An 80 feet tall statue, where the sculpture has been chiselled to perfection to depict the calmness in the facial expression of Lord Buddha. An expansive tree-lined path leads to this stunning Lord Buddha statue sitting in a Padmaaasan and surrounded by his ten disciples’ statues. This statue of Buddha was commissioned and built by Japanese Buddhists, and Dalai Lama inaugurated it in 1989. My photographer in me kicked alive to snap a few pictures. The craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. 

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
The Buddha Statue

It was past noon, lunchtime; hence I got hold of a battery-powered e-rickshaws to search for a restaurant. Besides, most monasteries close here by noon, so the next round of monastery trips starts post-lunch. Eventually, I found Be happy Cafe, -a vegan cafe with; a lovely ambience that is relaxing & laid back. I chose the outdoor seating so that I could enjoy the sun. I put in for pasta, carrot cake & coffee. Though a little expensive, the food was good. After relaxing for an hour, I set out with my unfinished tour.

Be happy Cafe

I walked towards the oldest Monastery in Bodhgaya -the Tenzing Tibetan Temple, also known as a Chinese monastery. The monastery has three elegantly carved Buddhas. The statues in three contrasting patterns were built-in 1945. The architecture is a traditional Chinese flair. It was renovated in the year 1997. It also holds a large stupa on one side of the temple.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
The Tenzing Tibetan Temple

I skipped the Bangladesh Monastery and moved to the Royal Bhutanese Monastery. It’s a beautiful, colourful temple, with tons of colour called the colour of Happiness, along with intricate frescoes.

Royal Bhutan Monastery

The belief in the Buddha’s teaching -” The Happiness of life depends on the quality of your thoughts”, came alive here. The simplicity of the monks & serenity of the place amused me.  

Interiors of the temple

 I walked further down the road to Indosan Nipponji Japanese Temple. It is a simple wooden architecture but a lovely Zen temple that runs a free school for local kids and provides complimentary food and medical services. There is a well-kept garden, and at its one corner is a giant bell rung a day thrice to call people for Zen meditation.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
Indosan Nipponji Japanese Temple

There is an aroma of the disciple as you enter the temple, and I can hear teaching lessons in the classroom. Here it’s very evident that monks follow Buddha’s teachings to the core, so “the person who masters himself through self-control & disciple is truly undefeatable”- Buddha.

Zen Disciple

I walked down the road further to the Tibetan Karma Temple, next to the second Japanese temple – the Daijokyo Buddhist Temple. A little walk ahead is the Cambodian monastery, but I just clicked the picture from outside.

Bodhgaya: The Place where one's soul is awakened
Daijokyo Buddhist Temple
Cambodian Monastery
Tibetian Karma Monastery


I walked to my last Monastry of the day Wat Thai. Sited along the main road is this classic specimen of Thai architecture. One of the most beautiful monasteries in Bodh Gaya. It has a giant ‘Ashtadhatu’ statue of Buddha inside the Temple. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited the Royal Government of Thailand to build a monastery in Bodh Gaya in 1957.

Wat Thai

This was to mark the 2500 years of Buddhism and strengthen Indo-Thai friendship. The temple also houses a guest house for the convenience of pilgrims. It also conducts meditation classes in the morning and evening.

Interiors of the temple

By the time I wrapped my monastery tour, it was 6 pm and a chilly and windy winter evening. It was time for coffee and some relaxation for my hurting foot. Looking around, I saw a small eating house, preferably a coffee-cum-souvenir shop with free WiFi on the premises of Wat Thai. Visitors are welcome to a complimentary cup of coffee at the self-service counter. The best piece was the lady at the Cafe & the guy operating the souvenir counter can only speak Thai. That’s Lovely. We have to communicate in sign language. The coffee was delectable, and the ambience was excellent. Everything is clean & tidy. 


Seating at the Cafe, looking at the retreating crowd, my notion of Bodhgaya being similar to Mcleodganj was disregarded. Here it’s not merely about a bunch of Buddhist monks rotating a prayer wheel while chanting their favourite mantra and representing an extended lost community. It is beyond that. There is one fundamental belief of Buddhism, which is often referred to as reincarnation -the concept that people are reborn after death. This one aspect is searched, followed & lived in Bodh Gaya.

Retreating crowd

I walked back to my hotel, had a quick dinner in my room & headed to bed. Set my alarm for 5.30 am, and as I lay on my bed, exhaustion took over me & I was snoring to glory under my blankets.

How to Reach:

By Air: 

The nearest airport is Gaya Airport, 17 km away from Bodhgaya. Patna is another airport approximately 135 kilometres away from Bodhgaya. A cab can be hired outside the airport.

By Rail. 

Gaya Junction is the nearest railhead, which is 13 kilometres away from Bodhgaya. A taxi can be hired outside the station, or even local buses can opt. 

By Road: 

The roads are well connected with Bodh Gaya. Bus(standard as well as deluxe buses) of Bihar State Tourism Corporation ply twice daily from Patna to Bodh Gaya. Buses also ply from Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi and Kathmandu. Even a new line of luxury air-conditioned Volvo buses has been introduced that connect Bodh Gaya with nearby towns and cities. You can self-drive or take cab services from various operators. But only a few drives as the road connecting to Gaya is rough and uncomfortable to drive on the rocky path.


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