Buddhism is one of the largely followed religions in the world. It originated in Southeast Asia particularly in India around the 5th century. Siddhartha Gautuma popularly known as Gautum Buddha was the founder of Buddhism and gave his first sermon that circulated the religion to every corner of the world. In order to spread their philosophies and sermons, disciples of Buddhisms established institutions where everyone without any exclusion can partake in Buddhist activities. Those institutions have now transformed into Buddhist Temples, epicentre of knowledge and Nirvana for Buddhist followers. The foundation of Buddhism is built upon the principle of “Four Noble Truths” of life.
Buddhism elaborates the philosophy of “The Middle Way” that signifies the idea that neither extreme asceticism nor extreme wealth is the path to enlightenment; rather one should maintain a balance in life between those extremes. In the state of deep meditation, one can attain enlightenment and nirvana. There are 250-300 million Buddhist disciples worldwide and these disciples have their own Buddhist temples to worship and meditate all across the globe. Some of the places are located in the Southern part of Asia and are accessible through Singapore Airlines.
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Some of the famous and significant temples are:
This temple located on Indonesian Island of Java, is known to be the largest Buddhist temple and most famous one in the world. Built in the 8th and 9th century, this temple claims to be built in 75 years from an estimated 2 million stone blocks. Borobudur is also considered a UNESCO world heritage site which adds more to its significance. It was abandoned in the 14th century and the reasons behind it remain unknown and for now lay hidden in the depth of the jungle under volcanic ashes.
Wat Arun, Thailand
Situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun has derived its name from the Hindu god Aruna itself. This Buddhist temple is known as the most famous and oldest landmark in Thailand. The temple’s architecture represents Mount Meru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Just like its name, Wat Aruna ( Temple of Dawn) offers a splendid view of the setting sun in the evening. One of the most visited places in Thailand, this place has claimed its position as the national heritage of Thailand. To explore such a place, one needs peace of mind throughout the journey.
Old Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan or pagan is located on the banks of river Ayerwaddy in Myanmar, is known to be home to the largest Buddhist temples, 2229 pagodas and stupas and ruins in the world. Once, Bagan was the capital for many ancient kingdoms and most importantly of Bagan Kingdom which unified different regions to create Burma (Myanmar). Between 11th – 13th century during the reign of Bagan, more than 4000 Buddhist temples were built from which only 2229 have survived till now. The Old Bagan premises are also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Mahabodhi Temple, India
The Mahabodhi Temple which means the Great Enlightenment is located in Bodh Gaya, India. This place holds the greatest significance to Buddhist disciples as the main complex of this Buddhist temple contains the original Bodhi Tree under which Gautum Buddha attained enlightenment. Mahabodhi Temple is one of the biggest sacred pilgrimage sites for buddhists. As per Buddhist inscriptions, Buddha Gautum, born as Siddhaarth Gautum was born in Lumbini, Nepal. He renounced his palace lifestyle, he went on to live as asceticism but after 6 years of hardship, he realised the only way to attain enlightenment is the Middle way, thus he completed his meditation and attained nirvana under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya.
Boudhanath Temple, Nepal
Located in the centre of Kathmandu, Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world. It is also the centre of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal and many refugees from Tibet have also taken shelter here for decades.The constructions of Boudhanath stupa is a semicircle shaped and the huge mandala design on the stupa also makes it one of the largest spherical stupa. This temple is highly regarded among Buddhism as it contains the relic of Gautum Buddha.
Todaiji Temple, Japan
Located in the tranquil environment of Nara, Japan is Todaiji Temple, once known as one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. The temple has gone through many restoration since it was built in 738 CE but still it retained its original glory. This Buddhist temple was constructed in the 8th century by Emperor Shomu as he was the head of all provincial Buddhist temples in Nara. The most alluring part of Todaiji is the Daibutsuden (The Great Buddha Hall), was constructed in 1709 and it houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan and it is the largest wooden structure in Japan as well.
Todaiji Temple serves a major purpose for the Buddhist devotees in Japan.
Located in Lhasa, China, is the urban and administrative centre of Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China. Jokhang is built at the elevation of 11,995 ft above sea level in the valley of Himalayas. Lhasa is the most important sacred site for Tibetan Buddhist and attracts millions of Buddhist devotees and tourists who are intrigued about Buddhism and its culture. Tibetan specifically consider this place sacred and holy in Tibet. The design of the temple is an amalgamation of Tibetan, Indian vihara and Nepalese style.
Jokhag was ransacked numerous times during Mongolian invasions but the building sustained all the invasions and still stands proudly in Lhasa. Today, the temple covers around 25,000 sq metres area. In 2000, Jokhang became a part of UNESCO world Heritage Site.
Mahaparinirvana Temple, India
This temple is among the most important temples of Buddhism, located in Kushinagar,Uttar Pradesh in India. This Buddhist temple is one of the holiest pilgrimage centres in Buddhism. Currently, it is the most visited pilgrimage spot not only for buddhists or domestic visitors but also for foreign travellers because of its spiritual aura and beautiful scenic architecture. This place signifies the time when Buddha Gautum attained nirvana and left for heavenly abode. With a huge 6 metre long idol of Buddha in sleeping posture is placed inside Mahaparinirvana temple.
- Sarnath Temple, India
Sarnath temple is widely famous for its spiritual significance in Buddhism. After Buddha’s enlightenment, this was the very first place where he delivered his first sermon of the ultimate truth of life after becoming an enlightened master. The construction of this Buddhist temple was initiated by Emperor Ashoka of Maurya Clan, who was deeply inspired by Buddha’s teaching and later on renounced the world and became a devotee of Buddhism as well. This place signifies the importance of following a moderate life (neither wealthy nor ascetic) to attain the primal goal of human existence “enlightenment” from worldly emotions.
Sanchi Stupa, India
Known as the oldest stone structures in India displays the immaculate beauty of Buddhist art and architecture in one spot. The nucleus of the Buddhist stupa is built upon the relics of the Buddha. The original structure was built under the supervision of Emperor Ashoka and his wife who overlooked the architecture of the stupa. Now, the Sanchi Stupa is a modern marvel as it is constructed in the shape of a parasol- like dome shape.
It is believed that the intention behind creating this stupa is to preserve Buddha’s philosophy and teaching in an immortal structure that will inspire people to choose the right path of living.
More About Seeking Enlightenment
In order to attain salvation and enlightenment, one needs to have the motivation to search for it. These Buddhist temples have the aura to inspire any soul to lead a positive way of life by following the right principles mentioned in the Buddhist inscriptions. The paramount goal of human existence is to attain enlightenment and that’s what the sermon delivers.