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Buddhist pilgrimage

The most important places of pilgrimage 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, and the main sites connected to his life are now important places of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus. However, many countries that are or were predominantly Buddhist have shrines and places which can be visited as a pilgrimage. Pilgrims, Tsurphu Gompa, Tibet, 1993


Places where Buddha lived

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]

The Eight Great Places

In the later commentarial tradition, four other sites are also raised to a special status because Buddha had performed a certain miracle there. These four places, partly through the inclusion in this list of commentarial origin, became important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in ancient India, as the Attha-mahathanani (Pali for 'The Eight Great Places'). It is important to note, however, that some of these events do not occur in the Tipitaka and are thus purely commentarial.

The first four of the Eight Great Places are identical to the places mentioned by the Buddha:

The last four are places where a certain miraculous event is reported to have occurred:

  • Sravasti: Place of the Twin Miracle, showing his supernatural abilities in performance of miracles. Sravasti is also the place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time, being a major city in ancient India.
  • Rajgir: Place of the subduing of Nalagiri, the angry elephant, through friendliness. Rajgir was another major city of ancient India.
  • Sankassa: 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 Vajjian Republic of ancient India.

Other sites

Some other pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama Buddha are: Pataliputta, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Gaya, Kapilavastu, Kosambi, Amaravati, Nagarjuna Konda, Sanchi, Varanasi, Kesariya, Devadaha, Pava and MathuraMandaver(Bijnor U.P),Hapur(ghaziabad U.P). Most of these places are located in the Gangetic plain.

Famous pilgrims

A few influential historical Buddhist pilgrims are:

  • King Ashoka the Great (250 BCE)
  • The Liu Song and Tang pilgrim monks Faxian (399 412 CE), Xuanzang (630 646 CE), and I Ching (673 687 CE)
  • The Silla monk Hyecho (723 727 CE)
  • The Tibetan monk Dharmaswamin (Chag Lotsawa) (1235 CE)
  • The Sri Lankan national Anagarika Dharmapala (1891)

Other pilgrimage places

Other famous places for Buddhist pilgrimage in various countries include:

  • Afghanistan: the Bamiyan Buddhas.
  • Cambodia: Angkor Thom, Silver Pagoda.
  • China: Yungang Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes. The Four Sacred Mountains namely W t i Sh n( ), m i Sh n( ), Ji hu Sh n( ), P tu Sh n( ), Potala Palace, Mount Kailash, Lake Nam-tso.

Elderly pilgrim, Tsurphu Gompa, Tibet, 1993

  • India: Sanchi, Ellora, Ajanta.
  • Indonesia: Borobudur, Mendut, Sewu.
  • Japan: Kyoto, Nara, Shikoku Pilgrimage, Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage
  • Laos: Luang Prabang.
  • Myanmar: Bagan, Sagaing Hill, Mandalay Hill, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Shwedagon Pagoda.
  • Nepal: Boudnanath Stupa, Swayambhunath, Kapilavastu.
  • Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura (the Atamasthana or 'eight places') , Mihintale, Polonnaruwa, the Temple of the Tooth (Kandy), Sri Pada.
  • South Korea: Bulguksa, Three Jewel Temples
  • Thailand: Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Doi Suthep, Phra Pathom Chedi, Phra Buddha Chinnarat.
  • United States of America: City of Ten Thousand Buddhas - Largest Monastery-Nunnery in USA in terms of numbers of ordained monastic Bhikshus and Bhikshunis. First full ordination on American soil.


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

External links

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