Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. He gained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, Bihar, preached his first sermon in Sarnath, and eventually attained Maha-Pari Nirvana in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. The life of Gautam Buddha and the places related to him are legacies for over 4 million people who follow the teachings, beliefs, and wisdom of Budhha. Considering this, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) runs Buddhist Circuit to the important pilgrimage sites associated with Buddhism.
Visiting these holy sites is a way to discover the life of Buddha and witness the art and architecture of that time. India, where Buddhism originated, holds rich memories of the legendary life of Gautam Buddha. The land of sects welcomes several pilgrims from all over the world to experience Buddhism’s splendid beauty and peace.
Buddhist tourist Circuit India covers all those sites that witness the presence of Lord Buddha and Buddhist saints all across India. You can explore them via the nation’s lifeline, Indian Railways.
How to Explore Buddhist Circuit in India?
Bodhgaya is vested on the Niranjana River, 10 kilometres south of the Gaya Junction. It is where Prince Siddhartha of Lumbini, Nepal, attained Nirvana or enlightenment and became Mahatma Buddha. Lord Buddha meditated here for a long time under a Peepal tree later known as Bodhi Vriksha. Bodh Gaya is a holy and spiritual site related to Gautam Budhha. People from all across the world come to Bodhgaya to witness the aura of Lord Buddha. The air of this small town blows with the serenity that provides peace to the heart.
Major attractions of Bodhgaya are:
- Mahabodhi temple (Inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2002)
- Bodhi Tree
- Archaeological Society Of India Museum
- Paragbodhi (Where Buddha spent 7 years before attaining Nirvana)
- Great Buddha Statue
- Chinese Temple
- Burmese Vihara Monastery
- Royal Bhutan Monastery
- Sujata Stupa
- Thailand Monastery
Besides, you can visit Gurupada Giri around 54 km and Barabar caves around 40 km away from Bodhgaya on your Buddha tour.
Gurupada Giri also known as Gurpa Hill or Kukkutapada Giri has a stupa and temple. The faith of Buddhism says that Mahakasyapa, one of the ten prime disciples of Buddha, resides on the hill, waiting for the future Buddha, Maitreya, to arrive on earth.
Barabar Caves, built by Mauryan king Ashoka, are the oldest rock-cut caves in India. It is the only remains of Ajivika ascetics of Buddhism. These caves cluster four caves, namely Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama, and Visvakarma. You can find a few statues related to Hinduism and Jainism in this cave.
Apart 2km away from the Barabar caves, There is Nagarjuni Cave, a cluster of three caves also considered from the time of Ashoka. Barabar caves and Nagarjuni Cave together are called ‘Satghar’.
Rajgir & Nalanda
Rajgir is located in the Nalanda district of Bihar. In ancient times, Rajgir was the capital of the Magadh region, known by its old name Rajagriha. The city encompasses hills which makes the buddha trip more sightseeing. In this city, Gautam Buddha is believed to spend several years meditating and Preaching. The town is among the magic sites of Budhha’s life. It is said that in Rajgir, Gautam Buddha conquered the angry elephant. Apart, the first Buddhist council was also organised in Rajgir after the death of Buddha.
Significant Buddha tourist places of Rajgir are :
- Vishwa Shanti Stupa (also called the World Peace Pagoda, located at a 400m altitude of Ratnagiri Hill)
- Ghora Katora, Saptaparni Cave (where the first Buddhist Council was held),
- Gridhakuta Hill (where Buddha preached his Lotus sermon)
- Amaravana or Jivika’s Mango Garden (where Buddha received treatment after getting injured)
- Venuvan (First place gifted to Buddha)
- Pippala cave
- Ajatshatru Fort
In Nalanda, the Ruins of Nalanda University, Sariputra Stupa (dedicated to Buddha’s follower Sariputra), and the Black Buddha temple are significant sites of the buddha tourism circuit. Nalanda University was the leading teaching centre of Mahayana Buddhism and other disciplines. Because of the high quality of education, many international students from China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and other Asian countries came to study. At the end of the 12th century, the infamous Bakhityar Khilji destroyed the University. People from across the world come to see the relics of the teaching institute.
Vaishali, located south of Bihar’s capital Patna, is considered the first republic of India where elections used to happen for administration. It was established before the birth of Gautam Buddha and flourished as a great city during the time of Vajjis and Lichchavis. Lord Buddha visited the Vaishali numerous times, and It is believed that he performed a miracle by accepting honey and water from a monkey.
In Vaishali, Gautam Buddha spent some last days of his life, delivered his final sermon, and decided on his bodily death. In this city only, the Second Buddhist council was organised later after the death of Lord Buddha. That is why the Buddha circuit in India includes Vaishali as an important buddha tourist place.
Major Buddhist attractions of the city are :
- The Ashokan pillar
- Relic Stupa 1 & 2 (enshrines parts of the sacred ashes of Lord Buddha after he attained Maha-Parinirvana)
- The newly built Vishwa Shanti Stupa
Beside, one can visit Kesariya stupa in Kesariya, East Champaran 110 km away from Patna. Kesariya stupa is one of the tallest and largest Buddhist stupas. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has manifested the stupa as a protected monument of national importance.
Sarnath, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, is nestled 10 km away from the stunning city Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, near the confluence of the Ganga and Varuna rivers. The small town, calm and free from the chaos of Kashi, is among the four major Buddhist pilgrimages.
Here, Gautam Buddha set the dharma wheel, met his first five disciples, and helped them become ascetics. People worldwide come to Sarnath to adore the city’s beauty.
Major Varanasi – Sarnath Buddha places are
- Chaukhandi stupa (where Lord Buddha met his first five disciples)
- Ashoka Pillar
- Dhamek Stupa (the site where Buddha preached his first sermon)
- Mulagandha Kuti Vihar
- Sarnath Archeological Museum
- Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
- Japanese temple
- Bodhi tree
- Deer Park
- Garden of spiritual wisdom
- Chinese Buddhist temple
- Thai temple and Monastery
Varanasi Buddhist tour in India includes Buddhist places of Sarnath and beautiful sites of Varanasi. The charm of the city of light forces tourists to stare at the Ganga ghat, newly inaugurated corridor, Kashi Vishwanath temple, and many more.
Sravasti, located in the northwestern part of Uttar Pradesh in the Shravasti district, vested near the bank of the Rapti river, is one of the most revered places for Buddhism. It is close to the Nepal border. It is said that here, Buddha spent most of his time after attaining Nirvana, which is almost 24 rainy seasons. In Sravasti, he also performed a miracle by producing water and fire from his body at the same time and preached several teachings. The place is well known for Buddhism learnings.
However, the ancient town of Sravasti was destroyed and covered with mounds after the 13th century. During 1986 and 1996, excavations of the city started, and oodles of scriptures and shreds of evidence were found. Today, It is one of the most famous places of Buddha that welcome numerous Buddhist travellers to the site from all across India and the World.
Major Buddha sites in Sravasti are:
- Miracle Stupa (where Lord Buddha spent his time after attaining enlightenment)
- Pakki Kutti (ruins of Anathapindika’s Stupa)
- Kachi Kutti (ruins of Angulimala’s Stupa)
- Jetavana Monastery (where Buddha spent 19 rainy seasons)
Apart, you can see several Buddhist monks doing meditation under the Peepal tree and plenty of Buddhist monasteries constructed by different nations like South Korea, Tibet, and Thailand.
The Buddha tour passes through Sanchi or, well said, the town of Buddhist stupas. It is located 46 km away from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. The structures of the stupas of Sanchi are hemispherical, typically containing relics of the Buddha or his followers. Emperor Ashoka built these stupas to preserve and spread the philosophy of Buddhism. Sanchi is the centre city of Buddhist tourism.
Major attractions of Sanchi for Buddhist travel are :
- Sanchi Stupa (the Great Stupa)
- Sanchi Stupa 2
- Sanchi Museum
- Sanchi Stupa 3
- 4 Gateways of stupas with the most exemplary architecture ( Southern, Eastern, Western and Northern)
- Ashoka pillar
- Great Bowl and Buddhist Monasteries
Sanchi Stupa is a grand structure with 42 ft height and 106 ft width, also called the great stupa. Its central chamber has a large hemispherical dome that contains numerous relics of Lord Buddha. It has also been inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Apart, the four gateways or doorways have complex carvings that depict Buddha’s life, his teachings, and miracles. Tourists come to the site to embrace the Buddha information.
Kushinagar, located in Uttar Pradesh 51 km east of Gorakhpur, is a prominent Buddha site. It is among four sacred places of Buddhism where Lord Buddha fell ill, attained Maha-Parinirvana, and was cremated. This international tourist place has several Buddh Viharas, Monasteries, and stupas.
Buddha’s important places in Kushinagar are:
- Maha Parinirvana Stupa
- Wat Thai temple
- Ramabhar Stupa
- Indo-Japanese Temple
- Burmese Temple
- Chinese Temple
- Korean Temple
- SriLankan temple
- Tibetan temples
- Meditation Park and Museum
In Wat Pho-Thai temple, a reclining nirvana statue of Gautam Buddha represents ‘Dieing-Buddha’. The 6.10 metre-long scripture, designed with monolith red sandstone, holds enormous sacred values. Without paying a visit to this place, a Buddhist trip can remain uncompleted.
Excluding these places, Buddhist travel also includes places like Kushambhi, Nagarjunakonda, Vishakapatnanam, Sankaram, and Kumashpur. With Indian Railways, Buddhist travellers can visit all the small and big sites associated with Buddhism. One can also book tickets on the Buddha tourist train in India to witness major Buddhist centres.
Which train is known as the Buddha Circuit train?
Mahaparinirvan Express, a special tourist train, is a Buddhist tourist train that takes passengers on an 8-days and 7-nights spiritual trip to enfold the learnings and roots of Buddhism.
What is the ticket price of the Buddha Tourist Train?
In the Buddha Circuit train, one can take a complete tour package of ₹88060 in AC First Class and ₹72030 in AC Two Tier or on a per night basis ₹12580 in AC First Class and ₹10290 in AC Two Tier.
What is the route of the Buddhist Circuit Train?
Buddhist tour train originates from Delhi and takes the Buddhist travellers:
- Gaya Junction (to visit Bodhgaya, Rajgir, and Nalanda)
- Varanasi Railway Station (to see Varanasi and Sarnath)
- Nautanwa Railway Station (to explore the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini, Nepal, and Kushinagar, UP)
- Gorakhpur Railway Station (to board tourist train)
- Balrampur Railway Station (to visit ancient town Sravasti )
- Agra Railway Station (to see the world-famous Taj Mahal)
- and then back to Delhi.
What is the Importance of the Buddhism Tourism Circuit?
In 2014, the Ministry of Tourism announced the development of the Buddhist circuit under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, part of ‘Dekho Apna Desh Intiantive’. Its theme-based tourism will attract the maximum number of international tourists to India. Buddhism Tourism Circuit follows the footsteps of Gautam Buddha and connects all those sites related to his life and teachings. Among believers, it holds excellent spiritual value.
The tourist circuit encourages travellers to visit more and explore more which brings the limelight to those places which stay left out. It also helps the tourist to understand a particular thing deeply on a single trip. For example, in the Buddhism odyssey, one can profoundly learn about the Buddha’s life, teachings, and experiences.
If you are also interested in exploring Buddhism or knowing the Lord Buddha. Take a Buddhist circuit tour to Buddham Saranam Gacchami and purify your soul. To plan your Buddhism journey more calmly and stress-free, you can use RailMitra.
RailMitra wishes you a Happy Voyage!