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Author: Laxman Burdak लक्ष्मण बुरड़क
Gaya District Map
Vishnupad Temple Gaya
Falguni River Gaya

Gaya (गया) is a city and district in Bihar.


Gaya is 100 kilometers south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. It is situated on the banks of Falgu River also called Niranjana in Ramayana). It is a place sanctified by the Hindu, the Muslim and the 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.

Origin of name

Gaya derives its name from the mythological Asura named Gayasura. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasura by using the pressure of his foot over him. This incident transformed Gayasura into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city. Gaya was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform Shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors. Gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasura's body after he died, and the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and goddesses. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of the pilgrimage circuit, and grand staircases have been built up to most of them.

Jat clans

Gaya is a Gotra of the Anjana Jats in Gujarat.


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[1] ने लेख किया है ...कीकट (AS, p.192) गया (बिहार) का परिवर्ती प्रदेश था. पुराणों के अनुसार बुद्धावतार कीकट देश में ही हुआ था. कीकट का सर्वप्रथम उल्लेख ऋग्वेद में है-- ' किंते कृण्वंति कीकटेषु गावो नाशिरं दुहे न तपन्ति धर्मं आनोभरप्रमगंदस्य वेदो नैचाशाखं के मधवत्रन्ध्यान:' 3,53, 14. इस उद्धरण में कीकट के शासक है प्रमगंद का उल्लेख है. यास्क के अनुसार (निरुक्त 6,32) कीकट अनार्य देश था. पुराण काल में कीकट मगध ही का एक नाम था तथा इससे सामन्यत: अपवित्र समझा जाता था; केवल गया और राजगृह तीर्थ रूप में पूजित थे-- 'कीकटेषु गया पुण्या पुण्यं राजगृहं वनम्' वायु पुराण 108,73. बृहद्धर्मपुराण में भी कीकट अनिष्ट देश माना गया है किन्तु कर्णदा और गया को अपवाद कहा गया है-- 'तत्र देशे गया नाम पुण्यदेशोस्ति वुश्रुत:, नदी च कर्णदा नाम पितृणां स्वर्गदायिनी' 26,47. श्रीमद्भागवत में कतिपय अपवित्र अथवा अनार्य लोगों के देशों में कीकट या मगध की गणना की गई है. महाभारत काल में भी ऐसी ही मान्यता थी. पांडवों की तीर्थ यात्रा के प्रसंग में वर्णन है कि वे जब मगध की [p.193] सीमा के अंदर प्रवेश करने जा रहे थे तो उनके सहयात्री ब्राह्मण वहां से लौट आए. संभव है कि इस मान्यता का आधार वैदिक सभ्यता का मगध या पूर्वोत्तर भारत में देर से पहुंचना हो. अथर्ववेद 5,22,14 से भी अंग और मगध का वैदिक सभ्यता के प्रसार के बाहर होना सिद्ध होता है. पुराण काल में शायद बौद्ध धर्म का केंद्र होने के कारण ही मगध को अपुण्य देश समझा जाता था.

Mention by Panini

Gaya (गया), is name of a place mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi under Varanadi (वरणादि) (4.2.82) group. [2]

Sub Divisions

Gaya District comprises 4 Sub-divisions:

Blocks: Gaya Sadar, Manpur, Bodh Gaya, Wazirganj, Belaganj; Khizarsarai, Atri, Nimchakbathani, Muhra; Sherghati, Amas, Mohanpur, Fatehpur, Barachatti, Imamganj, Dumaria, Bankey Bazar, Dobhi, Tankuppa, Gurua, Guraru, Paraiya, Tekari, Konch,


Gaya was a part of the ancient state Magadha. Documented history of Gaya dates back to the enlightenment of Gautam Buddha. About 11 km from Gaya town is Bodh Gaya, the place where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment. Since then the places around Gaya (Rajgir, Nalanda, Vaishali, Patliputra) had been the citadel of knowledge for the ancient world. These centers of knowledge further flourished under the rule of dynasties like the Mauryans who ruled from Patliputra (modern Patna) and covered the area beyond the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent. During this period, Gaya was a part of the Magadh region.

Visit by Fahian

James Legge[3] writes that From this place, after travelling to the west for four yojanas, (the pilgrims) came to the city of Gaya;1 but inside the city all was emptiness and desolation. Going on again to the south for twenty le, they arrived at the place where the Bodhisattva for six years practised with himself painful austerities. All around was forest.

Three le west from here they came to the place where, when Buddha had gone into the water to bathe, a deva bent down the branch of a tree, by means of which he succeeded in getting out of the pool.2

Two le north from this was the place where the Gramika girls presented to Buddha the rice-gruel made with milk;3 and two le north from this (again) was the place where, seated on a rock under a great tree, and facing the east, he ate (the gruel). The tree and the rock are there at the present day. The rock may be six cubits in breadth and length, and rather more than two cubits in height. In Central India the cold and heat are so equally tempered that trees will live in it for several thousand and even for ten thousand years.

Half a yojana from this place to the north-east there was a cavern in the rocks, into which the Bodhisattva entered, and sat cross-legged with his face to the west. (As he did so), he said to himself, “If I am to attain to perfect wisdom (and become Buddha), let there be a supernatural attestation of it.” On the wall of the rock there appeared immediately the shadow of a Buddha, rather more than three feet in length, which is still bright at the present day. At this moment heaven and earth were greatly moved, and devas in the air spoke plainly, “This is not the place where any Buddha of the past, or he that is to come, has attained, or will attain, to perfect Wisdom. Less than half a yojana from this to the south-west will bring you to the patra4 tree, where all past Buddhas have attained, and all to come must attain, to perfect Wisdom.” When they had spoken these words, they immediately led the way forwards to the place, singing as they did so. As they thus went away, the Bodhisattva arose and walked (after them). At a distance of thirty paces from the tree, a deva gave him the grass of lucky omen,5 which he received and went on. After (he had proceeded) fifteen paces, 500 green birds came flying towards him, went round him thrice, and disappeared. The Bodhisattva went forward to the patra tree, placed the kusa grass at the foot of it, and sat down with his face to the east. Then king Mara sent three beautiful young ladies, who came from the north, to tempt him, while he himself came from the south to do the same. The Bodhisattva put his toes down on the ground, and the demon soldiers retired and dispersed, and the three young ladies were changed into old (grand-) mothers.6

At the place mentioned above of the six years’ painful austerities, and at all these other places, men subsequently reared topes and set up images, which all exist at the present day.

Where Buddha, after attaining to perfect wisdom, for seven days contemplated the tree, and experienced the joy of vimukti;7 where, under the patra tree, he walked backwards and forwards from west to east for seven days; where the devas made a hall appear, composed of the seven precious substances, and presented offerings to him for seven days; where the blind dragon Muchilinda8 encircled him for seven days; where he sat under the nyagrodha tree, on a square rock, with his face to the east, and Brahma-deva9 came and made his request to him; where the four deva kings brought to him their alms-bowls;10 where the 500 merchants11 presented to him the roasted flour and honey; and where he converted the brothers Kasyapa and their thousand disciples;12 — at all these places topes were reared.

At the place where Buddha attained to perfect Wisdom, there are three monasteries, in all of which there are monks residing. The families of their people around supply the societies of these monks with an abundant sufficiency of what they require, so that there is no lack or stint.13 The disciplinary rules are strictly observed by them. The laws regulating their demeanour in sitting, rising, and entering when the others are assembled, are those which have been practised by all the saints since Buddha was in the world down to the present day. The places of the four great topes have been fixed, and handed down without break, since Buddha attained to nirvana. Those four great topes are those at the places where Buddha was born; where he attained to Wisdom; where he (began to) move the wheel of his Law; and where he attained to pari-nirvana.

1 Gaya, a city of Magadha, was north-west of the present Gayah (lat. 24d 47s N., lon. 85d 1s E). It was here that Sakyamuni lived for seven years, after quitting his family, until he attained to Buddhaship. The place is still frequented by pilgrims. E. H., p. 41.

2 This is told so as to make us think that he was in danger of being drowned; but this does not appear in the only other account of the incident I have met with — in “The Life of the Buddha,” p. 31. And he was not yet Buddha, though he is here called so; unless indeed the narrative is confused, and the incidents do not follow in the order of time.

3 An incident similar to this is told, with many additions, in Hardy’s M. B., pp. 166-168; “The Life of the Buddha,” p. 30; and the “Buddhist Birth Stories,” pp. 91, 92; but the name of the ministering girl or girls is different. I take Gramika from a note in Beal’s revised version; it seems to me a happy solution of the difficulty caused by the {.} {.} of Fa-hien.

4 Called “the tree of leaves,” and “the tree of reflection;” a palm tree, the /borassus flabellifera/, described as a tree which never loses its leaves. It is often confounded with the pippala. E. H., p. 92.

5 The kusa grass, mentioned in a previous note.

6 See the account of this contest with Mara in M. B., pp. 171-179, and “Buddhist Birth Stories,” pp. 96-101.

7 See chap. xiii, note 7.

8 Called also Maha, or the Great Muchilinda. Eitel says: “A naga king, the tutelary deity of a lake near which Sakyamuni once sat for seven days absorbed in meditation, whilst the king guarded him.” The account (p. 35) in “The Life of the Buddha” is:—“Buddha went to where lived the naga king Muchilinda, and he, wishing to preserve him from the sun and rain, wrapped his body seven times round him, and spread out his hood over his head; and there he remained seven days in thought.” So also the Nidana Katha, in “Buddhist Birth Stories,” p. 109.

9 This was Brahma himself, though “king” is omitted. What he requested of the Buddha was that he would begin the preaching of his Law. Nidana Katha, p. 111.

10 See chap. xii, note 10.

11 The other accounts mention only two; but in M. B., p. 182, and the Nidana Katha, p. 110, these two have 500 well-laden waggons with them.

12 These must not be confounded with Mahakasyapa of chap. xvi, note 17. They were three brothers, Uruvilva, Gaya, and Nadi-Kasyapa, up to this time holders of “erroneous” views, having 500, 300, and 200 disciples respectively. They became distinguished followers of Sakyamuni; and are — each of them — to become Buddha by-and-by. See the Nidana Katha, pp. 114, 115.

13 This seems to be the meaning; but I do not wonder that some understand the sentence of the benevolence of the monkish population to the travellers.

Gaya Copper-plate Inscription of Samudragupta Year 9

Ref- Corpus Inscripionum Indicarum, Vol. III by John Faithful Fleet p.254

Places of importance

  • Gaya Museum - The Gaya Museum is worthvisiting because of its large collection of stone sculptures and other artifacts. Highlight of the museum are the bronze statues. The small collection of the Buddha statues and pillars are also attractive. The museum is maintained by ASI, Archaeological Survey of India and is open between 10 am to 5 pm everyday except Monday.
  • Mangla Gauri shrine - It is marked by two rounded stones that symbolize the breasts of the mythological Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva.
  • Vishnupad Temple - The most popular temple in Gaya is Vishnupad Temple, a place along the Falgu River, marked by a footprint of Vishnu incised into a block of basalt, that marks the act of Lord Vishnu subduing Gayasura by placing his foot on Gayasura's chest. Buddhist tradition regards the footstep in the Vishnupad Temple as a footstep of Buddha.
Akshayavat Gaya
  • Akshyavat - Sita blessed a banyan tree to be immortal at Gaya. This tree is known as Akshyavat. Akshyavat is combination of two words Akshya (which never decay) and Vat (Banyan tree). Once a year banyan trees shed leaves, but this particular tree never sheds its leaves which keeps it green even in times of drought.
Brahmyoni Gaya
  • Brahmayoni hill - For Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrimage place because it was at Brahmayoni hill that Buddha preached the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to a thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all became enlightened while listening to this discourse. At that time, the hill was called Gayasisa. At a distnace of 1 km southwest of the Vishnupada Temple, this hill offers some fantastic views of city from its top. Also, on the top are two narrow caves – Brahmayoni and Matreyoni – Passing through these caves, it is believed, no one will experience rebirth. A temple dedicated to the Asthabujadevi and other goddesses is at the top too. To reach the top, you need to take an arduous 40 to 60 minutes walk up 424 high stone steps.
  • Tankitamancha - A place of Buddhist interest, it is now a huge tank known as Sujikind. Here, at this place, it is believed, the Buddha met and conversed with evil spirit, Suchiloma. Reference regarding Suchiloma cam be found in Sutta Nipata, discourse No 5. The tank is surrounded by huge walls of stone block and at its northern end are quiet a few Buddhist stupas and statues.
  • Bitho Sharif - 10 km from main city situated on Gaya-Patna route, is one of the notable pilgrimage place. The great Sufi saint of Chishtia-Ashrafi order Hazrat Makhdoom Syed Shah Durwesh Ashraf settled here in around Ninth Century Hijri and established Khanqah-e-Ashrafia. A large number of Muslims and people from other faith, from all over the Globe visit the Dargah of this great Sufi Saint. Urs of Hazrat Makhdoom Durwesh Ashraf is celebrated every year from 10th-12th of Islamic month of Shabaan.Prof. Syed Shah Shahid Hussain Ashraf is the present Sajjada Nashin of Khanquah Durweshiya Ashrafia Chishtia,Dargah Bitho Sharif.
  • Barabar Caves - 20 kms from Gaya, Barabar Caves are amongst the earliest Buddhist rock cut caves. The caves were initially constructed during the reign of Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century and additions were made later on. The Barabar Caves basically comprise three types of caves – Nagarjuna caves, caves of the five Pandavas and the Hut caves. The first one is the largest one and portray Jataka tales. The second one, as per its name, served as the residence of the five Pandava brothers during their exile. The Hut Caves, again, as per their name, are shaped like hut, three sides have stone walls while the rest is open.
  • Ramshila Hill - Located 5 kms from the Vishnupad temple, the Ramshila Hill has a Sita Ram Lakshman Temple and Paleswara temple at its top. At Ramkund, pinda is offered.
  • Pretshila Hill - 3 kms ahead of the Ramshila Hill is the Pretshila Hill with a kund at the bottom. Here, pind-dan of those who died in accidents is performed.
  • Deo Sun Temple - Deo is located north of the Vishnupada temple on the banks of the Sone river, around 20 km from Gaya.The Sun temple here is extremely famous. During the Chhat puja celebration (6 days after Dipawali), pilgrims stand waist deep in the water of the river and offer prayers as well as newly harvested grains, fruits and home made sweets to Sun god. A fair is also held here during this puja.
  • Gandhi Mandap - This is a pavilion that was constructed to honour the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Bodh Gaya - Bodhgaya is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center in the world. 12 kms from Gaya, Bodh Gaya is one of the four holy spots for Buddhists. It was here that prince Siddharta found enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and became the Buddha. The Bodhi Tree, Maha Bodhi Temple, a number of Buddhist Monasteries and the Bodh Gaya Museum are the main attractions for the Buddhist.
  • Kurkihar : Located 22 km from Gaya, Kurkihar is a small village located on a site that was earlier a monastery. Excavation work carried out in the 1930 unearthed 148 Buddhist bronze artefacts from this area. A whole lot of these artefacts are now placed in the museums of Patna and Kolkata.
  • Gurpa - Gurpa is the place where the Maha Kassapa, the successor of [[Lord Buddha[[, spent his last days in meditation. The mountain, at that point of time, was known as Kukkutapadagiri and was quiet a favourite with Maha Kassapa.
  • Nalanda - Nalanda is 95 km away from Gaya and is famous for its ruins of Buddhist University that existed during the 5th century. The Nalanda Archaeological Museum, the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara and Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall are other attractions of Nalanda.
  • Rajgir : Rajgir is just 12 km from Nalanda and is known for being the place where the first Buddhist Council was convened after the death of the Buddha. Also, during His lifetime, the Buddha spent 12 years teaching here on the Griddhakuta Hill. The Vishwa Shanti Stupa Temple is amongst the attractions of this small town.

Pindadana at Gaya

Gaya is significant to Hindus from the point of view of salvation to the souls of ancestors (a ritual called pinda daan). According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama came to Gaya along with Sita for pitripaksha (or to perform pindadanam), Sita cursed the Falgu River following some disobedience on the part of the river. The mythology states that on account of this curse, Falgu River lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes.


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