Buddhist pilgrimage sites

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 1993
Pilgrims, Tsurphu Gompa, Tibet, 1993


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 hopefully 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.
The Eight Great Places in Buddhism (Four Great Places are plotted in red.)

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 Mathura. Most of these places are located in the Gangetic plain.

Other pilgrimage places

Other famous places for Buddhist pilgrimage in various countries include:

Elderly Pilgrim, Tsurphu 1993
Elderly pilgrim, Tsurphu Gompa, Tibet, 1993

See also


  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

  • Virtual Tour of Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites on Google Map (Interactive 360° View available on certain sites)
  • Buddhist Pilgrimage (e-book - the eight major Buddhist sites in India)
  • Buddhist Pilgrimage in India and Sri Lanka
  • "Buddhist Pilgrimage". Asia. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
Ambivali Caves

The Ambivali Caves, or Ambivali Leni are a group of Buddhist caves, located near Neral, Raigad district, Maharashtra, 8km southeast of Kalyan. The caves are cut in the low hill located on the concave portion of a river. They consist in 12 viharas celles with verandah and several water cisterns. There is one inscription in Brahmi script on a verandah pillar.

Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India

In religion and spirituality, a pilgrimage is a long journey or search of great moral significance. Sometimes, it is a journey to a sacred place or to a shrine of importance to a person's beliefs and faith. Members of every major religion participate in pilgrimages. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.

There are number of historical Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.

Erravaram Caves

Erravaram Caves are located on the left bank of Yeleru river, at a distance of 45 km from Rajahmundry on Vishakhapatnam route. The caves are located on Dhanla–dibba hillock. The excavations revealed historic remains dated back to 100 A.D. This site flourished from 1st century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.


Gotihawa is a village development committee located about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) southeast of Kapilavastu, in Kapilvastu District, in the Lumbini Zone of southern Nepal. At the time of the 1991 Nepal census it had a population of 3335 people living in 567 individual households.

Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda

The Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda is a Buddhist temple in the Kayin State, Myanmar. The temple complex is built onto prominent limestone rock formation surrounded by an artificial lake, and houses an active community of monks.

List of places where Gautama Buddha stayed

There are various types of places where Buddha stayed. The most important kind are those monasteries which were given for his (or the Sangha's) use. Also, sometimes he was invited to stay in someone's garden or house, or he just stayed in the wilderness (a forest without owner). All these places are located in the Gangetic Plain (located in Northern India and Southern Nepal).

Myazigon Pagoda

The Myazigon Pagoda (sometimes known as the Myasigon Pagoda) is a Buddhist temple in Taungoo, Myanmar. Built in either the 16th or 19th century, the temple contains several images of members of the Toungoo dynasty (which ruled Taungoo) and a large sitting bronze statue of the Buddha that was captured in a Toungoo war against the Ayutthaya Kingdom.


Nigalihawa is a village development committee in Kapilvastu District in the Lumbini Zone of southern Nepal. At the time of the 1991 Nepal census, it had a population of 7564 people living in 1231 individual households.

Pohale Caves

Pohale Caves, also Pohala Caves or Pawala Caves, are a group of Buddhist caves located in Kolhapur District, Maharashtra, India, after 15km northeast of Kolhapur.The caves are rather plain and were excavated in a rocky area near Jyotiba's hill.There is one large vihara, about square of about 34', with 14 columns on three sides and 22 cells around the central hall (7’ long, 5’ broad and 7’ high). There is also a Chaitya, and one more cave with a raised rock-cut seat for a teacher, with a watern cistern.


Sagaing (Burmese: စစ်ကိုင်းမြို့; MLCTS: cac kuing: mrui) is the capital of Sagaing Region and located the Irrawaddy River, 20 km to the south-west of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the river, Sagaing, with numerous Buddhist monasteries is an important religious and monastic centre. The pagodas and monasteries crowd the numerous hills along the ridge running parallel to the river. The central pagoda, Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, is connected by a set of covered staircases that run up the 240 m hill.

Today, with about 70,000 inhabitants, the city is part of Mandalay built-up area with more than 1,022,000 inhabitants estimated in 2011. The city is a frequent tourist destination of day trippers. Within the city are the Sagaing Institute of Education, the Sagaing Education College, Sagaing University, Technological University (Sagaing), and co-operative university (Sagaing).

Settawya Pagoda

The Settawya Pagoda is a Buddhist temple in Mingun, Myanmar. Built in the early 19th-century at the behest of King Bodawpaya Konbaung, the temple is one of several prominent pagodas in Mingun; the structure at Settawya was built during the same time as the larger-yet-uncompleted Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which was also built on the orders of Bodawpaya. The stark-white Settwaya Pagoda is located several hundred feet from the Irrawaddy River, and the temple contains a marble footprint of the Buddha.The pagoda survived a major earthquake in 1839, though the structure sustained some damage; its interior has since been reinforced against future earthquakes.

Shirwal Caves

Shirwal Caves are a group of 15 Buddhist caves located in a small village called Shriwal, 48 km south of Pune, India. One is Chaitya and 14 Caves represent Vihara. All caves are plain belonging to the early phase of Buddhism.

Shwesandaw Pagoda (Bagan)

The Shwesandaw Pagoda (Burmese: ရွှေဆံတော်ဘုရား, pronounced [ʃwèsʰàɴdɔ̀ pʰəjá]) is a Buddhist pagoda located in Bagan, Burma. The pagoda contains a series of five terraces, topped with a cylindrical stupa, which has a bejewelled umbrella (hti). The pagoda was built by King Anawrahta in 1057, and once contained terra cotta tiles depicting scenes from the Jataka. Enshrined within the pagoda are sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha, which were obtained from Thaton.

Shwesandaw Pagoda (Pyay)

The Shwesandaw Pagoda, or Shwesandaw Paya (Burmese: ရွှေဆံတော်ဘုရား, pronounced [ʃwè sʰàɴdɔ̀ pʰəjá]) is a Buddhist pagoda in the center of Pyay, Burma. It is one of the more important Buddhist pilgrimage locations in Burma. It is said to contain a couple of the Buddha's hairs, as its name means Golden Hair Relic.

During the full moon day of Tabodwe, Shwesandaw Pagoda holds a miphon pwe (မီးဖုန်းပွဲ), whereby worshippers light bonfires using Sesbania cannabina as tinder.

Sulamani Temple

The Sulamani Temple (Burmese: စူဠာမဏိဘုရား, pronounced [sùlàmənḭ pʰəjá]) is a Buddhist temple located in the village of Minnanthu (southwest of Bagan) in Burma. The temple is one of the most-frequently visited in Bagan.

It was built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu, and is similar to the Thatbyinnyu Temple in design. The Sulamani Temple also shows influence from the Dhammayangyi Temple, and was the model for the Htilominlo Temple. Sulamani Temple was restored after the 1975 earthquake, and utilises brick and stone, with frescoes in the interior of the temple. It was rebuilt in 1994.

Thatbyinnyu Temple

Thatbyinnyu Temple (Burmese: သဗ္ဗညုဘုရား), Sabbannu or "the Omniscient", is a famous temple located in Bagan (formerly Pagan), built in the mid-12th century during the reign of King Alaungsithu. It is adjacent to Ananda Temple. Thatbyinnyu Temple is shaped like a cross, but is not symmetrical. The temple has two primary storeys, with the seated Buddha image located on the second storey.

The earliest known photograph of the temple was taken in 1855, by Linneaus Tripe.


Tilaurakot is a village development committee in Kapilvastu District in the Lumbini Zone of southern Nepal. At the time of the 1991 Nepal census it had a population of 5684 people living in 944 individual households.

It might have been the cardinal point of the ancient Shakyan city of Kapilavastu, where Gautama Buddha spent 29 years of his lifetime. It is situated west of Lumbini Grove, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. The site was listed as a UNESCO tentative site in 1996 by the Nepalese government.

Wai Caves

Wai Caves are 9 Buddhist Caves, situated at Lonara, 7 km north of Wai.

The Chaitya hall containing a Stupa has since been converted into a Shiva temple.

Yadana Zedi Sinmya Shin Pagoda

Yadana Zedi Sinmya Shin Pagoda (Burmese: ဆင်များရှင် ဘုရား) is a relic pagoda built by King Mohnyin of Innwa in 1430 AD in what is now Sagaing, Myanmar.

Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
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