Bodh Gaya

Overview

Introduction

It was in Bodh Gaya, India, that Buddha attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree—which you can still visit, 225 mi/365 km northwest of Kolkata. However, the current tree is the fourth generation: The original was chopped down by Ashoka's wife, the second was struck by lightning, and the third was cut down by an invader.

As you might expect, Bodh Gaya has interesting temples, notably the Maha Bodhi, an ornate structure believed to have been built more than two millennia ago. (Much of the original building was destroyed by invaders in the 11th century and rebuilt with assistance from the Burmese government in the late 1800s; still, some columns and gateways remain that were built more than 2,000 years ago.) You'll also find meditation centers—many offer multiday courses and retreats.

Northeast of Bodh Gaya are the ruins of Nalanda University, once home to 10,000 Buddhist students, 2,000 teachers and 9 million texts. Near the ruins are a small museum and a Buddhist research center.

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