India is the birthplace of Buddhism and from here Buddhism evolved and spread throughout Central, East, and Southeast Asia. Today, Buddhism has millions of followers across the globe. The famous Buddhist temples and monasteries situated in diverse corners of the country are home to Buddhist monks who live under religious vows and follow the life and teachings of Buddha.
Buddhist culture and ethos thrive in these institutions. The monasteries and temples are the abodes of peace, tranquillity, and serenity. The vivid and vibrant festoons, the sounds of chanting, and the tinkling bells, instantly calm the mind and the body.
Check out these Buddhist temples and monasteries in India for a serenely spiritual and harmonious experience.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Mahabodhi Temple is considered one of the most important and sacred pilgrim sites in Buddhism. The original tree under which Siddhartha Gautama sat is no longer living. The existing Mahabodhi Tree (sacred fig tree) growing at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, is often cited as a direct descendant of the original tree. This tree, planted around 250 BCE, is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites, says Wikipedia.
The main temple is in the form of a huge 180 feet pyramid structure which has several motifs engraved on it. It reflects the customs, traditions, culture, and teachings of Buddhism. The temple is also home to a spellbinding statue of Buddha made from yellow sandstone.
Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
Located in the spectacular terrain of Ladakh, Hemis Monastery is a Himalayan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa Lineage and is the largest and richest monastery in Leh. The monastery existed before the 11th century but was re-established in India in 1652 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal.
It houses a famous collection of ancient statues, sacred thangkas, and various other artifacts. Plan your trip around the annual Hemis Spiritual Retreat run by the monks in June or July.
Simple accommodations and food are provided. Some villagers also offer homestay accommodations to visitors. The captivating masked dance is something not to be missed.
Tawang Monastery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Picturesque Himalayan ranges form the backdrop of the Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh which stands at a height of 10,000 feet above sea level. This is, in fact, the largest Buddhist monastery in India and the second largest in Asia and is the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama.
A key attraction at Tawang Monastery is the Losar festival celebrated to mark the Tibetan New Year and runs for 15 days. The Torgya Festival in January is also a fun cultural event where famed masked dances take place.
Sarnath Temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Sarnath Temple is one of the holiest and must-visit pilgrim sites holding great significance in Buddhism. It was built by Emperor Ashoka and it is believed that at this place the first spiritual discourse as an enlightened master was given by Lord Buddha.
This mesmerising temple also features Chaukhandi Stupa, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, Dhamek Stupa, Dharmarajika Stupa as well as many other architectural masterpieces.
Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh
Thiksey Monastery will transport you into a fairy-tale world with its setting and architecture. This second most important Ladakh monastery is systematically arranged on one side of the hill with the most important building being on the top.
This whitewashed grandeur is a sight to behold, especially during sunset. The main attraction is the 49-feet-high statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Plan your trip around the annual festival and fair held here from October to November.
Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh
Mahaparinirvana Temple is one of the holiest shrines in Buddhism. Besides being an important pilgrim site, the place is very popular among domestic and foreign travellers for its spiritual aura and beautiful architecture.
It is famous for housing a huge six-metre–long idol of Buddha in a sleeping posture. It represents the highest state of salvation that Lord Buddha had attained when he finally left for his heavenly abode.
Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
Mindrolling Monastery is famous for the 185-feet-high stupa, the largest in the world. The largest Buddha statue is also present in this architectural marvel.
The colourful landscaped gardens, the relics, and the elaborate murals provide a harmonising experience. There is also a shopping complex that has artifacts, clothes, and handicrafts made by Buddhist monks.
Belonging to the Nyingma school in Tibet, this is a great centre for learning Buddhist scriptures and traditional Tibetan medicine.
Sanchi Stupa, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Sanchi Stupa is one of the oldest stone structures present in India representing the beauty of Buddhist art and architecture. The stupa has a huge hemispherical dome housing many relics of Lord Buddha and four intricately carved gateways that face different directions.
Emperor Ashoka’s wife Devi and daughter Sanghamitra supervised the construction of the temple. UNESCO recognizes it as a world heritage site.
Visit these monasteries to feel the grandeur and serenity of the aesthetic structures. Let your soul be one with the divine presence.
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