Gaya9 min read
Gaya is 100 kilometers south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. Situated on the banks of Falgu River (Niranjana, as mentioned in Ramayana), it is a place sanctified by both the Hindu 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 (western) side. The city has a mix of natural surroundings, age old buildings and narrow bylanes.
Gaya was a part of the ancient state Magadha.
Importance to Hindu Mythology
Gayasisa or Brahmayoni hill, where Buddha taught the Fire Sutta
Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the holy demon), demon (asur, a Sanskrit word) and Gaya. Over its history dating millennia, the word asur got deleted and the name Gaya remained in currency. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur, the holy demon by using the pressure of his foot over him. This incident transformed Gayasur 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 Gayasur’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.
Women performing Chhat Puja in the Falgu River in Gaya.
Holy Sites in Gaya
Sacred places in Gaya correspond to physical features, most of which occur naturally. Ghats and temples line the banks of the sacred Falgu River. Trees such as pipal trees and Akshayavat, the undying banyan, are especially sacred. The Mangla Gauri shrine is marked by two rounded stones that symbolize the breasts of the mythological Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva. The most popular temple today 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 Gayasur by placing his foot on Gayasur’s chest. The present day temple was rebuilt by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore, in the 18th century. Buddhist tradition regards the footstep in the Vishnupad Temple as a footstep of Buddha (who is regarded as an avatar of Vishnu by Hindus).
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.
Same time Sita blessed a banyan tree to be immortal. This tree is known as Akshyavat. Akshyavat is combination of two words Akshya (which never decay) and Vat (Banyan tree). Once in year every banyan tree releases all its leaves, but this Akshyavat tree does not release its leaves at all and remain green always even in draught too.
For Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrimage place because it was at Brahmayoni hill that Buddha preached the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to one thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all became enlightened while listening to this discourse. At that time, the hill was called Gayasisa.
Bitho Sharif (10 km from main city) situated on Gaya-Patna route, is one of the notable pilgrimage place. The great Sufi of Chishtia-Ashrafi order Hazrat Makhdoom Syed Shah Durwesh Ashraf (R.A) setteled 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 Hz.Mk. Durwesh Ashraf (R.A.) is celebrated every year from 10th-12th of Islamic month of Shabaan.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya. The site where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.
The 300 ft. tall Vishal Buddha Mandir, Bodh Gaya.
Documented history of Gaya dates back to the enlightment of Gautam Buddha. About 15 km from Gaya town is Bodh Gaya, the place where Gautam Buddha got 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.
Gaya has also immensely contributed in the Indian Independence Movement. It has also been a place of the Gandhian leader Bihar BibhutiDr.Anugrah Narayan Sinha. During the independence movement,the All india session of the Congress was held under the presidency of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das in 1922, which was attended by great illumanaries and prominent leaders of the Indian Independence Movement, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad,Anugrah Narayan Sinha , Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Nehru and Sri Krishna Sinha. jai parkash narayan spend months in patluka village in barachatti when he flew from hazaribagh jail in 1942
Gaya is located at 24°47’N 85°00’E24.78°N 85.0°E. It has an average elevation of 111 metres (364 ft).
As of 2001 India census, Gaya(district) had a population of 3,473,428. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Gaya has an average literacy rate of 68%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 74%, and female literacy is 60%. In Gaya, 14% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Gaya is well connected to the rest of India and the world by roadways, railways and airways.
The Grand Trunk Road (NH-2, which is undergoing a revival under The Golden Quadrilateral project) is about 30 km. from Gaya city . Thus, Gaya is well connected to Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Rourkela, Hazaribag,Kolkata, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Amritsar, and to the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. The highway connecting Gaya to Patna,Gaya to Nawada,Rajgir and Bihar Sharif is now in a good condition.
Gaya is the second most important station in Bihar after Patna. It is a junction and is connected to the all the four metropolis New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai through Important Broad Gauge Routes (direct trains). Now it is also directly connected to Guwahati(N-E India) including the Grand Chord line. There is a direct non-stop train, the Mahabodhi Express from New Delhi to Gaya daily. It takes around 16 hours to reach Gaya from New Delhi through train.
There are direct trains from Gaya to other important stations in India like Ranchi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, Mathura, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Indore, Nagpur, Puri,Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Amritsar, Dehradun, Kalka, Jammu, etc. There are also two broad gauge train lines from Gaya, one to Patna and the other to Kiul.
Gaya Airport is the only international airport in Bihar and Jharkhand taken together. It is an international airport connected to Colombo, Sri Lanka through two airline operators; Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore, and Paro, Bhutan. It is said to be being developed as a stand-by to the Calcutta airport. Gaya Airport is served by Indian Airlines for domestic flights and Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, Drukair and Indian Airlines for international flights. Thai Airways is planning a non stop flight to Gaya from Bangkok. The distance of gaya airport to National Heritage sites “Bodh-Gaya” about 5 Kilometers.
There are several good hotels in Gaya. Hotel Heritage In, Hotel Gharana, Hotel Royal Surya and Ajat Satru (Opp Railway Station),Hotel Pankaj are good hotels to stay.
The staple food of Gaya is common to the rest of Bihar and Jharkhand. The other special preparations found in Gaya are typically traditional Bihari. The most popular of them include sattu, litti, pittha, pua, marua-ka-roti, bari-dal, sattu-ka-roti, baigan-bharta, sukhaota, etc.
Gaya has been the origin of several sweet delicacies popular in the whole of Bihar, Jharkhand and the rest of India. Tilkut, Kesaria Peda, Lai, Anarsa of Ramana road and tekari road are the most popular sweets that bear the trademark of Gaya.
Tilkut being the most popular of them is prepared using til or sesame seeds (Sesamum Indicum) and jaggery or sugar. It is a seasonal (winter) sweet and only the karigars (workers) from Gaya are believed to impart the real taste of Tilkut. One can find Tilkuts carrying the label “Ramna, Gaya” even in far flung places like Kolkata and Delhi. Ramna and Tekari Road are the areas in the city where every other house is a Tilkut factory.
Kesaria peda is yet another delicious sweet prepared from khoya (solid milk cream) and kesar (saffron). The Chowk area of the city specializes in Kesaria Peda production.
There are several varieties of Lai available in Bihar, including Lai from Gaya. The main component of this Lai is Ram dana seeds. These ram danas are processed and mixed with koya and sugar to give rise to a disk shaped sweet.
Anarsa is also based on khoya, but is deep fried and processed with sugar. Anarsa comes in two shapes ‘thin disk’ and ‘spherical’. The sweet is finally embedded with til(sesame) toppings.
These sweets are dry and hence easily packagable, preserved, and transported, unlike the bengali sweets which are soaked in sugar syrups. There is a tradition among the residents to gift the visitors with these sweets when they depart, as a token of love.
Beside this in Gaya one should must try roadside eateries like Aloo ka Chaloo & Chaat. Aloo ka Chaloo is made up of boiled potatoes sprinkled with red chilly powder and jeera powder, salt and tamarind water. One can easily find such joints outside schools and colleges as it is favourite of kids and teenagers.
The people of Gaya are fond of spicy-soury traditional snacks. There are certain snacks that are found only in Gaya. The most popular among them are Samosa Chat, Alu-Kachalu and Sabudana-Badam Bhoonja.
Alu-Kachalu is a wet and sour snack prepared from aloo (potato) and imli (tamarind) mixed with black salt, chilly powder, jeera (cumin seeds), etc. This snack is popular among the students returning from schools in the day time. One can find herds of thelas (vendor’s vehicle) standing outside the schools during the closing hours.
Sabudana-Badam Bhoonja is a dry snack that is unique to the Gaya city. It is a mixture of fried sabudana (sago) and fried badam (groundnut or moongfali is called badam or sometime chiniya-badam in Bihar) along with salt (both white and black), chilly powder and jeera (cumin seeds) powder. The mobile bhoonja vendors shouting humorous slogans can be found in every bylane of the Gaya city during the twilight hours.
Bakarkhani near jama(sarai) masjid is very famous across india and chai wala biscuit(bara biscuit) of chatta masjid area is very popular
Chienese Foods are also very popular here now.
Map of Gaya.
Most of the government-run schools in Gaya (notably Zila School, Haridas Seminary – also known as Town School, Theosophical Model School, Gaya High School,Anugrah Kanya Vidayalaya, Mahaveer School,Qasmi High School and Hadi Hashmi School, Government Girls High School) are affiliated to Bihar School Examination Board. There are two Central Schools (Kendriya Vidyalaya) affiliated with the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, New Delhi. Most of the private schools are affiliated to ICSE and CBSE boards. The major ones being Creane Memorial High School, Nazareth Academy,D.A.V Public School Medical Road, Gyan Bharti Public school, D.A.V Public School Cantonment Area, Greenfield Public School,Sir Syed Memorial School Bhadeya,Elegent Public School and many more. Nazareth Academy is one of the oldest schools, which is managed by a US based congregation called ‘Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’. The government-run public schools lack many facilities, but are the only options for the poor who cannot afford the fees in private schools.
The only university at Gaya is Magadh University established by eminent educationist and then Education Minister. Late Satyendra Narayan Sinha in 1962,located near Bodhgaya.Gaya has several colleges with graduate and post-graduate courses offered in sciences, arts, commerce, management and Computer Application. The well known ones include Gaya College, Anugrah Memorial College, Jagjivan College, Mirza Ghalib College. Gautam Buddha Mahila College (GBM College) is exclusively meant for women.
Anugraha Narayan Magadh Medical College and Hospital (ANMMCH) is the medical college in Gaya.
Gaya has an Industrial Training Institute for vocational education located on Bodhgaya Road.