Top 10 Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in India

Popular Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in India

Based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha and practiced by almost 9% to 10% of the entire world population, the roots of this religion can be traced back to India. Some of the most popular Buddhist Stupas, monasteries and temples here are dedicated to the great saint and the ‘enlightened one’ Gautam Buddha making it an ideal and one of the most significant destinations for Buddhist pilgrimages.

If you are looking to go on a spiritually enlightening journey then here are a few rejuvenating and spiritually uplifting pilgrimage then here are a few options:

1- Bodhgaya

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya

Home to the iconic UNESCO world heritage site of Mahabodhi temple complex, Bodhgaya has always attracted a number of Buddhist tourists from across the globe. This is also a crucial part of the Buddhist pilgrimage sites, others being Kushinagar, Lumbini and Sarnath since this is the place where Lord Buddha had attained his enlightenment.

Best Time to Visit

Ideally the best time to visit is between the months of November to February.

How to Reach

By Air – The closest airport is located at a distance of 17 kms to the main city which caters to a number of flights on a daily basis.

By Road – There is a well-connected network of roads leading to Bodhgaya from some major and minor towns.

By Train – The closest railway station is situated in Gaya at a distance of 16 kms from where you can get a bus or hire a taxi for Bodhgaya.

Sightseeing Places

Mahabodhi temple, the great Buddha statue, Dungeshwari cave.

2- Sarnath

Chaukhandi Stupa, Sarnath

Located at a mere distance of 10 kms from the holy city of Varanasi close to the confluence of the holy rive Ganga Sarnath is not only an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination but it is also a pious pilgrimage destination for the people following Jainism. This is the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have taught the teachings of Dhamma to his pupils for the first time after attaining his nirvana.

Best Time to Visit

The months of October to February are considered to be a good time to visit.

How to Reach

By Air – The closest airport is located at a distance of 25 kms from the main town of Varanasi. After which you will be required to hire a cab or get on a bus in order to reach Sarnath.

By Road – There is no dearth of roads leading up to this holy destination. You can opt for either state run buses or hire a cab or even get your own private car to reach Sarnath.

By Rail – There are not many trains that cater to Sarnath, so it is advisable for you to take a train heading to Varanasi.

Sightseeing Places

Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Golden Temple, Sarnath Museum.

3- Kushinagar

Ramabhar Stupa, Kushinagar

This place is popular for being one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Buddhist followers since this is the place Gautam Buddha is believed have achieved his Parinirvana after his death. People flock here especially from Asian countries to offer their prayers to ‘the enlightened one’.

Best Time to Visit

Summers on the plain regions are unbearable, it is advised for you to visit Kushinagar during the months of – September to February

How to Reach

By Air – The closest airport is the Gorakhpur airport, which caters to a number of flights from major and minor cities.

By Rail – Located at a distance of 51 kms from Kushinagar is the nearest railhead of Gorakhpur railway station. This rail head caters to a number of trains running to and from various big and small cities of India.

By Road – The entire city is connected with a range of network of roads and there are state run buses plying here on a regular basis.

Sightseeing Places

Ramabhar Stupa, Japanese temple, Parinirvana Stupa.

4- Rajgir

Shanti Stupa, Rajgir

This city holds immense relevance for devout Jains and Buddhists and is believed to be one of the favorite places for Gautama Buddha. The name literally translates into ‘royal house’, and its importance can be traced back to the 5th century, this place is also known for being a top notch pilgrimage destination for Buddhists.

Best Time to Visit

Escape the scorching heat by visiting this place during the winter months of October to March.

How to Reach

By Road – Rajgir is connected to a network of roads that cater to all the neighboring big and small locations like Patna, Gaya & Nalanda etc.

By Air – The airport at Gaya is located at a distance of 68 kms and caters to flights from Delhi, Kolkata and Varanasi along with catering to international flights from Bangkok, Kathmandu and Colombo.

By Rail – The main railway station for Rajgir is situated at a mere distance of less than 1 km from the main centre of the city.

Sightseeing Places

Venuvan, Japanese Stupa, Griddhakuta (vulture’s peak), Saptaparni Caves.

5- Shravasti:

Jetavana, Shravasti

Considered to be one of the ancient cities of India and 6th largest during the lifetime of Gautama Buddha this holy site is believed to be the place where Gautam Buddha is believed to have spent a few months here. This place is also one of the most significant Buddhist pilgrimage destinations.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Shravasti is between the comfortable winter months of October to March.

How to Reach

By Air – the closest airport for Shravasti is situated in Lucknow at a distance of 170 kms and caters to a number of flights from various major and minor cities.

By Road – Shravasti is connected by network of well-made roads to all the destinations in Uttar Pradesh. The closest megacity terminus is 50 kms from Shravasti.

By Rail – the main rail head is situated at a distance of almost 17 kms from Shravasti in Balrampur. Another option is Gonda railway station which is a better option for reaching Shravasti since it caters to a larger number of trains from various different major and minor cities.

Sightseeing Places

Jetavana monastery, Anathapindika’s Stupa, Angulimala’s Stupa

6- Vaishali

Ashoka Pillar at Vaishali

The importance of this ancient city lies in the fact that this was the place where Gautam Buddha had preached his last and final sermon just before his day of death. This is also the place where the 2nd Buddhist council took place under king Kalasoka. The place is popular for its Jain and Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Best Time to Visit

The comfortable months of September to March are considered the most ideal time to visit.

How to Reach

By Road – Vaishali is well connected to a network of major and minor cities and buses are also easily available to reach this holy destination.

By Train – The closest rail head to Vaishali is located in Hajipur which is situated at a distance of 15.2 kms from Vaishali and takes just 17-20 mins. to reach.

Sightseeing Places

The Ashoka Pillar, Vishwa Shanti Stupa, Buddha’s Stupa.

7- Nalanda

Xuan Zang Memorial Hall, Nalanda

Known for being one of the most intellectually active ancient universities in India and this is also the place where Gautam Buddha is said to have spent some time here teaching the word of Dhamma to them. Currently a UNESCO world heritage site this place was also a hub of learning during the 5th century with students coming here from abroad.

Best Time to Visit

Visiting Nalanda during the winter months of October to January is advised since it will also allow you to go on some sightseeing tours.

How to Reach

By Road – Nalanda is connected by a well-built road to Rajgir which is situated at a distance of 12 kms along with other major and minor nearby destinations.

By Rail – The nearest railway station is located in Rajgir which is 12 kms away from Nalanda yet the most convenient option is choosing the rail head at Gaya which is at a distance of 95kms.

Sightseeing Places

Nalanda University, hiuen tsang memorial hall, the great Stupa, Nalanda archeological museum.

8- Sanchi

Sanchi Stupa

This one has to be one of the most popular Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in the world. This Stupa is built over all the remaining relics that belonged to Gautam Buddha and is an important monument depicting the great Indian architecture. This was created by the great king Ashoka who wanted to preserve the relics of Gautam Buddha.

Best Time to Visit

The months of October to April are considered to be the ideal time to go on a visit to this historical site.

How to Reach

By Road – Being a popular Buddhist pilgrimage destination Sanchi is connected to a huge network of roads connecting various states and cities.

By Rail – The closest rail head to Sanchi is situated in Bhopal and Sanchi can be reached from here by opting for a cab or a taxi or even state run local buses.

Sightseeing Places

Sanchi Stupa, Sanchi Museum, Gupta Temple Sanchi, Udaigiri Caves.

9- Kapilavastu

Lumbini Museum

This place is a significant destination for the devout Buddhists who visit here since this place was where Gautam Buddha is said to have spent a majority of his lifetime as a prince before deciding at 29 years that he wanted to leave everything behind and end the sufferings of the world.

Best Time to Visit

The months of September to March are considered to be the best time to visit this holy site.

How to Reach

By road – You have the freedom of choosing a state run bus or any other local transport that will lead you to this holy site.

By Rail – Naugarh railway station is the closest rail head for Kapilavastu which is situated at a distance of 21 kms and is considered to be one of the most convenient ways of reaching there.

Sightseeing Places

Shanti Stupa, Maya Devi Temple, Supa Deurali, Lumbini Museum.

10- Nagarjunakonda

Mahayana Buddha, Nagarjunakonda Island

This historical town is now in the form of an island and is situated in the district of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. This place is believed to be India’s one of the richest Buddhist sites and is named after the Mahayana sect of Buddhism who resided here during the 2nd century.

Best Time to Visit

The winter months of October to April are considered to be the ideal option.

How to Reach

By Road – This place has number of well-made connection of roads and caters numerous state bus services as well as private cars and other local modes of transportation.

By Rail – It does not have a station of its own and the nearest station is located at a distance of 20 kms in Macherla.

Sightseeing Places

Nagarjunakonda Caves / Museum. Dhamma nagajjuna, Kaman Bazaar, Nagarjunasagar Dam / Waterfall.

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