The town of Dharamsala is situated in Himachal Pradesh, on the high slopes in the upper reaches of Kangra Valley. With the Dhauladhar Mountains serving as its backdrop, the town presents a picturesque sight. Dharamsala is divided into two parts, the Upper Dharamsala and the Lower Dharamsala, differing by approximately 1000 m in altitude. The town serves as the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile. Dharamshala is also the seat of His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama in India.
It houses a large settlement of Tibetan refugee. Monks in their robes and old Tibetans walking with rosaries in their hands or turning the prayer wheels is a common sight here. There are a number of monasteries and temples in Dharamsala, which serves as the major attractions for the tourists coming here. There are also several institutes here, set up to conserve the art, culture and traditions of Tibet.
Tourist Attractions of Dharamsala
The personal monastery of The Dalai Lama, Namgyal is situated in Upper Dharamsala. It houses huge stucco statues of the Buddha, Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava. The monastery also consists of an institute for learning, where futures Lamas are provided with higher Tibet studies.
The offices of the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives are located here.
Monastery of Nechung Oracle
The monastery of Nechung Oracle is situated within the complex of Gangchen Kyishong. The official oracle of The Dalai Lama sits here.
It is the center for Tibetan Medicine, located very near to Nechung.
The beautiful monastery of Norbulingka boasts of a rich collection of art, paintings, handicrafts and thankas.
Rewalsar lies very near to Dharamshala. Here, you can visit the cave temple of the great Indian Tantrik Guru Padmasambhava.
How to Reach Dharamsala
By Air : The nearest Airport is at Gaggla, approxiamtely 13 km away from the town.
By Rail : The nearest railway station is that of Pathankot, approxiamtely 85 km away.
By Road : There are regular bus services from Manali, Delhi and Shimla to Dharamsala. The Bodhi Tree
At the western side of the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya stands the large and historic Bodhi Tree under which Shakyamuni Buddha, then known as Gautama, attained enlightenment some 2540 years ago.
Gautama, had been practicing austerities for six years in the area of the Niranjana River near Bodhgaya. Finally understanding that this could not lead to realisation, he abandoned his austerities and in the nearby village of Senani (now also known as Sujata) the Brahmin girl Sujata offered him milk-rice. Strengthened by this, he took some kusha grass for a mat and sat under the pipal tree facing east. He resolved not to rise until he attained enlightenment.
As he sat in deep meditation, Mara, Lord of Illusion, symbolising the delusions of one's own mind, tried tirelessly to distract him from his purpose. Gautama then touched the earth, calling it to bear witness to the countless lifetimes of virtue that led him to this place of enlightenment. The earth shook confirming the truth of his words. Mara unleashed his army of demons to distract and tempt Gautama from his purpose, but Gautama triumphed over the inner obstacles and the power of his compassion transformed the demons' weapons into flowers. His mind was utterly subdued. For seven days after the enlightenment, Buddha continued to meditate under the tree without moving from his seat. Another week passed in walking meditation, and for a third the Buddha contemplated under the Bodhi Tree. The earliest records on the tree are in the 'Kalingabodhi Jataka', which gives a vivid description of the tree and the surrounding area prior to the enlightenment, and the 'Asokavadana', which relates the story of King Ashoka's (3rd century B.C) conversion to Buddhism. His subsequent worship under the sacred tree apparently angered his queen to the point where she ordered the tree to be felled. Ashoka then piled up earth around the stump and poured milk on its roots. The tree miraculously revived and grew to a height of 37-metres. He then surrounded the tree with a stone wall some three-meters high for its protection. Ashoka's daughter Sangamitta, a Buddhist nun, took a shoot of the tree to Sri Lanka where the King, Devanampiyatissa, planted it at the Mahavihara monastery in Anuradhapura. The fourth direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree still flourishes today and is the oldest continually documented tree in the world.
In 600AD, the tree was again destroyed; this time by the zealous King Sesanka. The event was recorded by Hiuen T'sang, along with the planting of a new Bodhi Tree sapling (taken from the original) by King Purnavarma in 620AD. At this time, during the annual celebration of Vaisakha, thousands of people from all over India would gather to anoint the roots of the holy tree with perfumed water and scented milk, and to offer flowers and music. Hiuen T'sang wrote, "The tree stands inside a fort-like structure surrounded on the south, west and north by a brick wall. It has pointed leaves of a bright green colour. Having opened a door, one could see a large trench in the shape of a basin. Devotees worship with curd, milk and perfumes such as sandalwood, camphor and so on."
Much later the English archeologist Cunningham records, "In 1862 I found this tree very much decayed; one large stem to the westward with three branches was still green, but the other branches were barkless and rotten. I next saw the tree in 1871 and again in 1875, when it had become completely decayed, and shortly afterwards in 1876 the only remaining portion of the tree fell over the west wall during a storm, and the old pipal tree was gone. Many seeds, however, had been collected and the young scion of the parent tree were already in existence to take its place."
The present Bodhi Tree is most probably the fifth descendant of the original tree to be planted at this site. It still performs a very important role to Buddhists of all traditions. Being viewed as the actual Buddha by some, it is a reminder and an inspiration, a symbol of peace, of Buddha's enlightenment and of the ultimate potential that lies within us all.
The Mahabodhi Temple stands east to the Bodhi Tree. Its architectural effect is superb. its basement is 48 square feet and it rises in the form of a slender Pyramid, till it reaches its neck, which is cylindrical in shape. The total height of the temple is 170 feet and on the top of the temple are Chatras which symbolise sovereignty of religion. Four towers on its four corners rise gracefully giving the holy sturcture a poise and balance. This sacred edifice is like a grand banner unfurled by time to proclaim to the world the pious efforts of the Buddha to solve the knots of human miseries to ascend above worldly problems and to attain transcedental peace through wisdom, good conduct and disciplined life. Inside the temple in the main sanctum, on an altar, is a colossal image of Buddha in a sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand. In this posture the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment. The statue is of black stone but it has been guilded by the devotees. The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with a large number of varieties of stupas--votive, decorative, memorative. These stupas are of all sizes built during the past 2500 years ago. Most of them are extremely elegant in structural beauty.
Vajrasana, the seat of stability. The Buddha supposed to have say in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi tree, where the Vajrasana, the stone platform is kept.
The ancient railings which surround the temple are of first cintury BC and are very interesting monuments of the country.
This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha's meditative perambulation during the third week after pious enlightenment. It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.
It is belived that the Buddha spent one week here looking towards the treat Mahabodhi Tree out of gratitude, without twinkling his eyes.
The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed that five colours came out of his body.
The sacred tank where it is believed that Buddha had spent one week.
How To Reach :
Air :The Patna airport is 112 Kms.
Rail : The nearest Railway station is Gaya 16 Kms.
Road : Bodhgaya is connected by road to Gaya. 16 Kms to the Delhi-Calcutta Highway junction (on Grand Trunk Road). Dobhi 22 Kms and Patna 105 Kms (via Jehanabad) or 181 Kms (Via Rajgir).
Places Of Intrest Around Bodhgaya
13 km. from Bodhgaya, Gaya is a very sacred pilgrim centre for Hindus. . Gaya is one of the most important pilgrimage places for the Hindus. It is believed that a Hindu will reach heaven if his last rites are offered under the celebrated ’Akshayabat’ or immortal banyan tree, standing in the yard of Vishnupad temple. Believed to be built on the footsteps of Vishnu, the grand temple was renovated by Ahalyabai, queen of Indore. The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu attracts a very large number of pilgrims.
The Barabar and Nagarjuni Hills are situated about 41 km. from Bodhgaya (25 kms north of Gaya) and contain, in all, seven rock-cut caves of which four are in the Barabar hills. Barabar Caves is an important achaeological site. The caves carved out from solid rocks bear details of the life of Buddha.
Two of the caves, dedicated by Ashoka to Ajivika monks, are in the form of a plain rectangular outer hall. At one end of which is an inner chamber with carved wall and over hanging caves.
The Karan Chaupa Cave
The entire interior of the cave, excluding the platform, bears a high polish. The entrance is in 'Egyptian form'.
The Sudama Cave
The cave entrance is in 'Egyptian form' and consists of two chambers.
The Lomas Rishi Cave
The entrance is in 'Egyptian form and only walls of the outer rooms are polished.
The Visva Zopri Cave
Consists of an outer apartment, bearing the high polish on its walls and flat roof. On the right hand wall, is an inscription record.
Other Places of Interest :
Tibetan Monastery, Thai Monastery, Myanmar Monastery, Chinese Monastery, Bhutanese Monastery, Japanese Monastery and Sri Lankan Monastery etc.
Where to stay
ITDC Hotel Bodh Gaya Ashok, BSTDC Siddhartha Vihar and BSTDC Buddha Vihar are good places to stay
Climate & Best time to Visit
Bodhgaya experiences pleasant weather throughout the year and can be visited anytime. However, the most suitable time are the winter months from October to March when the climate is at its best.