Bodh Gaya in Bihar is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists. It is believed that, around 528 BC, a young prince, Siddhartha, who had given up his right to the throne and was travelling around the country in search for wisdom, was attracted by the peaceful surroundings there. He settled down under a Peepul tree, vowing not to move till he had received enlightenment. Three nights and days later, on a full-moon night in the month of Vaisakh (April-May in the modern calendar), he achieved what he was looking for – Bodhi. He spent the next seven weeks at the place, thinking about the enlightenment he had received. He came to be known as The Buddha, the Enlightened One.
As The Buddha spread his message, his disciples began visiting the place during the full moon in Vaisakh. The date came to be called ‘Buddha Purnima’ and the place Bodh Gaya. Emperor Ashoka who ruled India long ago built the Mahabodhi Temple there and tried to preserve the ‘Mahabodhi Tree’. The Peepul standing very close to the temple now is believed to be the fifth generation of that original tree.
There are many sacred spots in Bodh Gaya. Beneath the Mahabodhi Tree is the Vajrasana or ‘Diamond Throne’, a platform marking the place where Siddhartha had sat in meditation. He is believed to have stood at a particular spot and stared unblinkingly at the Mahabodhi Tree after being enlightened. A pillar known as the Animeshlocha (Unblinking) Stupa marks that spot. The Ratnachakarma or Jewel Walk is the path between the stupa and the Mahabodhi Tree. It is said that as The Buddha walked up and down, lotus flowers sprang up. Devotees now offer flowers at this path.