Gaya Tourism And Travel Guide
11° C / 51.7° F
November to February
2 to 4 Days
Bodh Gaya Airport (5 kms)
Gaya Junction (2.5 kms)
Gaya is one of the most visited cities in India. This is mainly because of its close proximity to Bodh Gaya and the Mahabodhi Temple. Wherever you go in these areas you cannot help but feel that more than 2000 years ago a great man, Buddha, had passed this way. Tourism in Gaya is therefore very Buddha-centric. A travel guide to Gaya is placed below to help visitors during the course of their planning a visit and thereafter.
How to Reach
The roads in the vicinity of Gaya are in a bit of a mess. However, it is understood that there is a massive work under way to do up these roads leading to Patna and Delhi among other major cities. It is recommended that you check up current data before you venture a drive leading to Gaya. The latest information is that it takes about fourteen hours to do the Delhi to Gaya drive which is around 1000km long.
The rail connectivity between Gaya and the rest of India is excellent. One example is that there are 22 trains running between Delhi and Gaya. Similarly, two trains run between Gaya and Mumbai and the distance of 1690km between the two is covered by Kolkata Mail in around 29 hours.
Bodh Gaya Airport, the name for the airport in Gaya, is fairly convenient for air travellers to Gaya. If you are coming from abroad there are flights to Gaya from Myanmar and Thailand besides Vietnam, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Japan. There are a number of domestic flights from Bodh Gaya airport to several major cities in India as well.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Gaya has a sub-tropical climate. It is hot in summer and fairly wet in the monsoon. Winters are cold but comfortable. Winters are the best period for a visit to Gaya. You will not tire out and can visit sites right through the day.
The summer season in Gaya is most unbearable. There are days when the temperature could go up to 45°C and above. Visitors will not find it at all comfortable to walk to sites during summer. It is best not to visit Gaya during the summer season.
Monsoons are very wet and trying in Gaya due to the close proximity to the Himalayas. July and August are very wet indeed. The annual rainfall received on an average over a 70 year period ending 1970 was 1090mm. Visitors had best not visit Gaya during the rainy season.
The winter season in Gaya is glorious and most comfortable. It is also the pilgrimage season. Of course Buddhists come in thousands during Buddha Purnima on which Buddha was born more than 2000 years ago. But, since this is the period between April and May it is best that you visit Gaya during the winter season.
Things to Do
Gaya revolves around the Mahabodhi Temple. A UNESCO Heritage Site, the temple has been rebuilt several times over during the 2000 years of its existence. However, there are several portions in the temple which are just the same when the temple was first built during the time of Ashoka. The temple’s importance stems from the fact that Buddha attained his enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree here at this temple. Here, you will find a descendant of the same Bodhi Tree.
The Vietnamese Temple is the latest addition to the various Buddhist Temples in Bodh Gaya. Built by the Government of Vietnam it reflects the impressive style of architecture being practised in Vietnam. Visitors are treated to a grand spectacle of a beautiful and very well maintained garden that is spread all around the temple.
Great Buddha Statue:
The Great Buddha Statue in a dhyan mudra on a lotus is 64’ in height. This site is definitely visited by all Buddhists on a tour to Bodh Gaya. Constructed over a period of seven years by 12,000 masons, the statue is made of red granite and sandstone blocks. The statue was consecrated on 18th of November 1989 by the 14th Dalai Lama.
The Bodhi Tree which is located in the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya is worshipped by all Buddhists and is venerated by Hindus. This is one of the ancestors of the same tree under which Buddha had meditated two thousand years and more ago. This tree has grown from one of the branches of the Bodhi Tree that is in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Bodhi Tree has grown from a branch from the original Bodhi Tree.
The Sacred Cankamana:
The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya has another important place of worship known as the sacred Cankamana which is a sacred shrine. This is said to be the path which was used by Buddha at the time when he was in the third week of his meditation. Here you will see Buddha’s footsteps that are carved out in the form of lotuses in black stone. The site is indeed very serene due to the continuous chanting by Buddhist monks. At night you will be mesmerised by the effect of lit candles.
Make Purchases at Tibetan Refugee Market:
If you wish to buy good quality souvenirs in Bodh Gaya, the Tibetan Refugee Market is the perfect place. Located at the town centre the market has a fair stock of attractive woollens for visitors to buy at very reasonable price. The market permits certain amount of bargaining and you may pick up beautiful figurines of Buddha at a very low price.
Impressive Archaeological Society of India Museum:
Established in 1956, the Archaeological Museum in Bodh Gaya is an excellent source for all kinds of information on both Buddha and Buddhism. Since it is located very close to the Mahabodhi, it is easy to combine this visit to the main one at the Mahabodhi Temple. The museum’s collection of articles that are related to Buddha is very formidable. Here you will find pots, statues, terracotta articles, relics and coins all related to Buddha and the two great empires of the period, the Mauryan and the Gupta.
Where to Eat
According to a foodie based in Gaya you should try out the local delicacies such as tilkut and anarsa. The location where these are available in the right quality is Shri Ram Tilkut Bhandar. For those who love street food a visit to Promod Laddu Bhandar is recommended. The restaurants where you could dine include Yuvraj Restaurant and The Spice Affair. Try Nirvana The Veg Café and Veg Plaza-Paprika Restaurant too.
Generally visitors are in search of souvenirs. If this is true for you the best place for you is the Tibetan Refugee Market at the town centre where the market also has huge stocks of woollens that are colourful and a great bargain. Here you can buy statues of Buddha and diverse kinds of artefacts as well. The other option for you is to buy souvenirs at Kundan Bazar where there is a quaint shop that sells not only souvenirs and Buddha statues but also books on Buddhism and Buddha. You will love the place.