Pilgrimage sites

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The most important pilgrimage sites in Buddhism are located in the Gangetic plains of Northern India and Southern Nepal, in the area between New Delhi and Rajgir. This is the area where Gautama Buddha lived and taught.

Four main pilgrimage sites

Gautama Buddha is said to have identified four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, saying that they would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency. These are:[1]

  • Bodh Gaya: (Bihar, India) is the site of the Bodhi tree, where the Buddha attained enlightenment; this is the most important place of pilgrimage
  • Lumbini: (Nepal) birthplace of Gautama Buddha
  • Sarnath: (Uttar pradesh, India) where Gautama Buddha delivered his first teaching.
  • Kuśinagara: (now Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India) where Gautama Buddha died and attained Parinirvana.

Eight great places

In the later texts, four additional sites are also recognized as important places of pilgrimage. The original four sites and the four newer sites are known collectively as the "Eight great places" (Pali: Attha-mahathanani).

The first four of the eight great places are identical to the places mentioned by the Buddha:

The last four are places where certain miraculous events are reported to have occurred:

  • Sravasti: a major city in ancient India, where the Buddha spent the largest amount of time and performed the Sravasti miracles
  • Rajgir: Place of the subduing of Nalagiri, the angry elephant, through friendliness. Rajgir was another major city of ancient India.
  • Sankisa: Place of the descending to earth from Tusita heaven (after a stay of 3 months teaching his mother the Abhidhamma).
  • Vaishali: Place of receiving an offering of honey from a monkey. Vaishali was the capital of the Licchavi state of ancient India.
The Eight Great Places in Buddhism (Four Great Places are plotted in red.)

Other sites

Other pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama Buddha are:


  1. The Buddha mentions these four pilgrimage sites in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. See, for instance, Thanissaro (1998)[1] and Vajira & Story (1998)[2].

External links