Buddhist Temples



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.


Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha and located near the Nepal-India border, to the north of Gorakpur. Just before His birth, Bodhisattva was the lord of Tushita deva realm. There He had resolved to be reborn for the last time and show the attainment of enlightenment to the world. He had made five investigations and determined that this southern continent, where men lived for one hundred years, was the most suitable place and. Since the royal caste was the most respected at that point of time and the lineages of King Suddhodana and his Queen Mayadevi were pure, He chose to be born as their son, a prince of the Shakya dynasty. After placing crowning His successor Maitreya, Bodhisattva descended from Tushita to the world of man.

Presently, only Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, has been identified with certainty. Kapilavastu is still tentatively located. Till date, these sites are still being explored and some ruins have been unearthed. One can see the remains of Ashoka's pillar as well as a shrine, of indeterminate age, dedicated to Queen Mayadevi. A Nepalese Buddhist temple was built in 1956 and a Tibetan monastery of the Sakya order was completed in 1975. The monastery, along with a beautiful and elaborate shrine, is well illustrated by the traditional murals. Many young monks are studying here and practicing Buddha's teachings. Thus, they are performing two pious acts, aiding the revival of Lumbini as a place of Buddhist practice and preserving the great traditions lost in Tibet.

The Nepalese temple, which is cared for by a monk of the Theravada tradition, also has rest houses within its grounds, provided by Buddhists from Japan and the former U.N. General Secretary, U Thant. In cooperation with the Nepalese Government, UNESCO is also helping to improve and develop this pilgrimage.


Bodhisattva, having renounced the luxurious life of Prince Siddhartha, became Gautama, the ascetic. After leaving his home, he started walking in the southeastern direction from Kapilavastu and came to Vaishali. There, he listened briefly to the teaching of Arada Kalapa, an aberrant samkhya, but left dissatisfied. Crossing the river Ganges, he once again entered the kingdom of Magadha and came to Rajgir, its capital, where he listened to the yogic teachings of Rudraka. Again dissatisfied, he left the place, followed by five ascetics. Along with them, he came to the village of Uravilva, situated on the banks of the Nairanjana River, close to the place now known as Bodhgaya. There, they engaged in long, austere practices. For the first two years, Gautama ate only one grain of rice a day and for the next four years, he ate nothing at all. Despite almost full degeneration of his body, he remained sitting in continual meditation.

Pilgrims abound in Bodhgaya. In the recent years, thousands have had the fortune to listen to the Dharma there. Many Buddhist masters are again traveling to Bodhgaya to turn the wheel of Dharma. For example, over 100,000 devotees attended the Kalachakra empowerment given by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, in the year 1974. The Tibetan monastery now offers a two-month meditation course every year, for the international Buddhist community. It also provides meditation courses. Occasionally, the teachings are given in the Burmese, Thai, Japanese and other temples.


All the thousand Buddhas of this aeon, after demonstrating the attainment of enlightenment at Vajrasana, proceed to Sarnath to give the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Similarly, Shakyamuni also walked from Bodhgaya to Sarnath, to meet the five ascetics who had left him earlier. Coming to the Ganges, he crossed it in one step. It was here that Emperor Ashoka later made Pataliputra his capital city. He entered Benares early morning, made his alms round, bathed, ate his meal and, leaving by the east gate of the city, walked northwards to Rishipatana Mrigadava, the Rishi's Deer Park.


Kushinagar is the place where Shakyamuni entered Mahaparinirvana. When Lord Buddha reached His eighty-first year, He gave his last major teaching. The subject of the teaching consisted of the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment. After this, He left Vulture's Peak with Ananda to journey north. After sleeping at Nalanda, he crossed the Ganges for the last time at the place where Patna now stands and came to the village of Beluva. Here, the Buddha fell ill, but he suppressed the sickness and continued towards Vaishali. This was a city where Shakyamuni had often stayed in the beautiful parks that had been offered to him. It was also the principal location of the third turning of the wheel of Dharma.


Sanchi is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. It lies at a distance of approximately 52 km from the capital city of Bhopal and 10 km from Vidisha. The major attractions of Sanchi include a number of Buddhist stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars. All these structures date back to somewhere between 3rd century BC and 12th century AD. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka founded all the stupas at Sanchi in the honor of Lord Buddha. They have the distinction of being included by UNESCO in its list of World Heritage Sites.

However, the most magnificent as well as the largest one of these is the "Great Stupa of Sanchi". One of the best-preserved stupas, it is also the oldest of the existing structures in India, dating back to the Buddhist period. Encircling the Great Sanchi Stupa is a railing, with four carved gateways, each facing one of the four directions. It is believed that these gateways were carved around 100 AD. All the stupas at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, have a unique feature of not having any images of Lord Buddha in human form.

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