Buddhism, founded by Shakyamuni around 2,500 years ago, is one of the largest religions in the world. It is a school of thought focusing on attaining nirvana, or enlightenment, through good behavior. Buddhism has a large number of followers all over the world, especially in Southeast Asia. As a result, this region is a treasure trove of Buddhist religious sites and monuments. In addition, several monuments highlight the beauty of Buddhist architecture. Here are the top Buddhist attractions around the world.
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Borobudur in Java
Borobudur is undoubtedly the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world. Located near Muntilan in Java, an island of Indonesia, this Mahayana temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. This ancient site is also considered one of the world’s seven wonders. The temple was constructed under the patronage of the Shailendra dynasty during the eighth and ninth centuries. Somewhere around the 14th century, this holy site was abandoned and lay forgotten under volcanic ash until it was rediscovered in 1814. The stone terraces of the temple are lined with Buddha statues, stupas, and carvings. You can also enjoy spectacular views from the top. The sunset here is breathtaking.
Wat Pho in Thailand
Famous for its 46-meter-long reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is a must-visit Buddhist site on Rattanakosin Island in Thailand. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Thailand. Additionally, it is also home to a Bodhi tree grown from a piece of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment. The temple has four great stupas, 91 small stupas, a central shrine, two belfries, and numerous viharas. This temple is also a center of learning, and numerous subjects like literature, science, and religion are taught here. It is also an important center for instruction in Thai medicine. The Nuad Thai, or Thai massage, taught here has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Longmen Caves in China
Located in Luoyang, Henan, China, these caves are a stunning example of Chinese Buddhist artistry. Over 2300 niches and grottoes here house more than 100,000 Buddhist statues. The giant statue is as tall as 17 meters, and the smallest is around 1 inch tall. The site is also home to around 60 pagodas and 2500 stelae. There are many temples on this site, including Xiangshan Temple, the Tomb of Bai Juyi, and the Bai Garden Temple. It is believed that the construction started during the Northern Wei dynasty. It then continued until the wars between the Yuan and Jin dynasties. Many relics from this site were looted by the Japanese and are now preserved in several Japanese museums.
Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong
Located on Lantau Island, this Buddhist monastery is famous for the Tian Tan Buddha, or the Big Buddha, situated next to it. The monastery is an architectural marvel that houses several ornate temples. Many people visit this site to escape the fast-paced and stressful life of urban Hong Kong. In addition, Lantau Island also has remote hiking trails and beaches that offer the best atmosphere for meditation and introspection.
Haeinsa temple in South Korea
Next, the Haeinsa temple is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, a cultural relic dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty. These wood-printed Buddhist scripture blocks are one of the most exhaustive compilations of the Buddhist canon. First constructed in 802 by Aejang of Silla, this temple is considered a part of the Three Jewels Temples. Visitors are also allowed to experience the monastic life in this temple. During the visit, you can wear monastic clothing, chant prayers, eat a vegetarian diet, and indulge in serene monastic life.
Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar
The Golden Pagoda, or Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, is a revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. The shrine is believed to house the remains of the four Buddhas who preceded the current Kalpa. Above all, the most arresting feature of the temple is the 99-meter-tall main stupa, entirely encased in gold. The temple is also filled with colorful, glittering smaller stupas. This temple is held in high reverence in the country, and you will see streams of monks and locals pouring in to say prayers.
Mahabodhi Temple in India
Lastly, the Mahabodhi Temple is the holiest of the holy sites of Buddhism. The temple is in Bodh Gaya, India, where some believe Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, or Buddhatva, underneath a Bodhi tree. This religious site is highly revered because it bore witness to one of the most critical events in Buddhism.
Initially constructed by Emperor Asoka, this temple complex has important holy sites like Vajrasana, Cankamana, Ratanaghara, Muchalinda Sarovar, the Animesha Lochana Chaitya, and the Sacred Bodhi Tree. It also has a meditation park where serious meditators can meditate in peace. The garden is idyllic, peaceful, serene, and blessed with lush greenery. There is also a lotus pond in the garden.