Gaya


Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar

Gaya is an ancient city. History of Gaya goes back to the times of the Mahabharata and Ramayana when it is believed that Lord Ram and Lakshman descended upon Gaya to offer the ‘Pind Daan’ ritual of his father Dasharath for moksha of his soul. In the Mahabharata, the place is referred to as Gayapuri. Bodh Gaya near Gaya is the place where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment. The Buddha stayed at Gaya on several occasions: once at Gayāsīsa and also near the Tankitamañca, the residence of Suciloma.

Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)
Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)

Buddhaghosa says that Gaya was the name given both to the village and a bathing ghat near to it (also called Gayāpokkharanī). Dhamma-pāla, on the other hand, speaks of a Gayānadī and a Gayāpokkharanī as being two distinct bathing ghats, both commonly called Gayātittha, and both considered to possess the power of washing away sins. People went there, offered sacrifices to the gods, recited the Vedas, and immersed themselves in the water. Elsewhere it is stated that every year, in the earlier half of the month of Phagguna (March), people held a bathing festival at the bathing ghat at Gaya, the festival being called Gayāphaggunī. It was at one of these festivals that Senaka Thera was converted by the Buddha. This explanation of Gayāphaggu is, perhaps, not quite correct, for, according to some, the river (Nerañjarā) which ran by Gaya was itself called Phaggu. Neumann says that the village of Gayā itself was called Phaggu. The town of Gaya is often called Brahmagaya to distinguish it from Buddhagaya.


View of Gaya from Sita Kund.
View of Gaya from Sita Kund.


Gaya was a place of pilgrimage for people all over the world even prior to this event. Gaya has a rich history of several dynasties ruling the region - stretching from 6th century BC to the 18th century AD. Ancient Bihar, and in particular Gaya, boasts a history of knowledge, learning, art and culture. The Sisunaga dynasty ruled the region in 600 BC, coincided with Buddha's enlightenment, and its ruler Bimbisara became a disciple of Buddha. The Gupta Empire ruled the Gaya region in the 4th and 5th century AD and Gaya was the capital of the Bihar region. The Nanda dynasty guarded Gaya for a brief period sometime between 343 and 321 BC and was then followed by the Maurya Empire headed by Ashoka; the chief proponent of Buddhism during those times. During the Hindu revivalism age, the Guptas ruled for two centuries between 4th and 5th century AD, and then Gaya was passed to the Pala Empire, whose leader Gopala built the Bodh Gaya temple. The Khilji dynasty briefly held power in Gaya, Sher Shah Suri then held the reins and brought the entire Bihar region back to its glory days. The Mughals ruled the region for years before the British took over control. Gaya was passed on to Britishers after the battle of Buxar in 1764. Gaya, along with other parts of the country, won freedom in the year 1947. Gaya formed a part of the district of Behar and Ramgarh till 1864.


Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)
Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)

It was given the status of independent district in 1865. Aurangabad and Nawada Districts were carved out of original Gaya in the year 1976. Subsequently, in May 1981, Magadh Division was created by the Bihar State Government with the districts of Gaya, Nawada, Aurangabad and Jehanabad. All these districts were at the level of sub-division when the Gaya district was created in 1865.


Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)
Ancient city Gaya (Brahmagaya or Gayakshetra in Bihar)

Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur, Which means Gaya-demon. According to Vayu Purana, Gaya was the name of a demon or Asura whose body was pious after he performed rigid penance and secured blessings from Lord Vishnu. It was said that the body of Gayasura was transformed into the hills that made the present city of Gaya. It was said that Gayasura's body would continue to be known as Gaya Kshetra.



Beautiful Marhi Village Rohtang Pass
Kachori is a spicy snack which is very popular in Gaya

It is a place sanctified by the Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist religions. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangla-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (eastern) side. The city has a mix of natural surroundings, age old buildings, green areas and narrow by lanes.


Lovely Marhi Village Rohtang Pass
Popular sweet Anarsa in Gaya. Anarsa is an Indian pastry-like snack commonly associated with the Hindu festival of Diwali in Bihar. Its ingredients include jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), rice, poppy seed and ghee (clarified butter).

Places to see in Gaya


1. Vishnupad Temple

Once a demon known as Gayasura, did a heavy penance and sought a boon that whoever see him should attain salvation (Moksham). Since salvation is achieved through being righteous in one's lifetime, people started obtaining it easily. To prevent immoral people from attaining salvation Lord Vishnu asked Gayasura to go beneath the earth and did so by placing his right foot on asura's head.

Vishnupad Temple, Gaya, Bihar
Vishnupad Temple, Gaya, Bihar

After pushing Gayasura below the surface of earth, Lord Vishnu's foot print remained on the surface that we see even today known as Dharmasila. The footprint consists of nine different symbols including Shankam, Chakram and Gadham. These are believed to be weapons of the lord. Gayasura now pushed into earth pleaded for food. Lord Vishnu gave him a boon that every day, someone will offer him food. Whoever does so, their souls will reach heaven. The day Gayasura doesn't get food; it is believed that he will come out. Every day, one or the other from different parts of India will pray for welfare of his departed and offer food, feeding Gayasura. More >>



2. Brahmayoni Hill

The hill is located in Maranpur , to the south of Gaya around 1.5 km away from Vishnupad Temple. There is a natural fissure on top of the hill which is believed to represent the female energy component of Lord Brahma. The hill derives its name from this. There is a small temple on the hill which has a five-headed deity as the presiding form which is worshiped as Brahmayoni (female energy of Brahma).

View of Gaya from Brahmayoni Hill
View of Gaya from Brahmayoni Hill

This Mountain is not only religious but adventurous too. Brahmayoni Hill is about 450 feet high and has approximately 423 stone made stapes. Pilgrims are allowed to visit the place till 5 pm. More >>