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It was here in Bodh Gaya, under the Bodhi tree that the prince-ascetic Gotama became the fully enlightened Buddha. For two and a half millennia, Bodh Gaya has been a magnet for pilgrims from all Buddhist cultures who come to venerate this sacred site, each in a fashion unique to his or her own tradition. Thus, within a two-mile radius, temples have been constructed to function with the cultural traditions of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Bhutan, and Tibet. As well as being a pilgrimage center for Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is home to several thousand Hindus and Muslims.

The Burmese Vihar, which is right across the street from the Phalgu River, is within a ten-minute walk of both the Mahabodhi Temple and the central bazaar. Like most pilgrimage towns in India, Bodh Gaya can be crowded, dirty, and noisy. Depending on your mood, this can be exhilarating one day and frustrating the next.

Rest assured, however, that Bodh Gaya is never boring.

Visit the program’s Flickr photo gallery for past participants’ pictures of Bodh Gaya.