A traveller’s guide to Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s Awakening

BODH GAYA IS Buddhism’s Mecca, Vatican, and Wailing Wall. Among the eight great Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India, Bodh Gaya is the most visited. But unlike the holy places of those other faiths, the great center of the Buddhist world revolves around not a building or a shrine but a single living tree.

For six years the seeker Gautama, hoping to find a way out of suffering, had practiced and painful austerities along the nearby Niranjana River. But finally realizing this was not the path to ultimate happiness, he wrapped himself in a yellow shroud taken off a corpse marked for cremation and accepted a bowl of rice milk from a young village girl named Sujata. This strengthened him. Taking fresh green grass for a mat, he then sat facing east under a local pipal tree and vowed not to rise until he had attained enlightenment.

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