Buddhism is a historically wide spread religion, and therefore has many different interpretations, perspectives, pilgrimages, and methods of worship that have developed for centuries in different locations.
However, regardless of historical context, cultural interpretation, method of worship, or personal view there are four scared sites recognized throughout Buddhism as being significant sites to the religion as a whole.
Lumbini: birthplace (in Nepal)
Bodh Gaya: the place of his Enlightenment (in the current Mahabodhi Temple)
Sarnath: (formally Isipathana) where he delivered his first teaching
Kusinara: (now Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India) where he died
These sites are fundamentally connected through the life and travels of the Buddha. Thousands of pilgrims a year travel to these sites, seeking a connection to Buddhist beliefs and practices, as well as to cultivate a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. Pilgrims have travelled from around the world, over great distances for hundreds of years to visit these sites in order to gain enlightenment.
The beliefs and practices of Buddhism are some of the key features that unite all of these pilgrimages and locations.
"Crash Course (World History) Thought Bubble #6: Buddha and Ashoka" Animation, Design & Illustration by:
Thought Café. Narrated by:John Green. www.youtube.com
The journey to Lumbini, where the Buddha was born and first realised the Four Noble Truths, plays an important role in the foundation of the Buddhist belief and has significant symbolic meaning. Buddhists and non-Buddhists recognized the extreme importance of this site in the history of one of the world’s oldest religions still practiced today.
Directly connected to Lumbini is Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha gained enlightenment while seated under the Bodhi Tree. This site is often directly connected to Lumbini through the common practice of a pilgrimage between the four sites that mark the Buddha’s journey. People who visit the site have been recorded throughout history to have felt a special connection to all those who have been to the site previously. The Bodh Gaya scared site is regarded by Buddhists as being a place that possesses “wide-ranging power” and is described as “the only site that can sustain mediations leading to achieving true enlightenment.”
Because not everyone has the means to make a pilgrimage within their lifetime to places such as Lumbini or Bodh Gaya, recreations such as Mahaboudha, in Patan are founded around the world in order to increase Buddhist presence and make traveling to significant scared sites easier for people. Sites such as Mahaboudha are revered as places that hold symbolic connections to places like Lumbini, and Bodh Gaya, as well as connecting pilgrimage sites from different countries. The Mahaboudha temple is particularly unique in that the temple is a literal copy of the Mahabodhi temple at the site in Bodh Gaya. This was done in order to give the site prominence and bring the religion of Buddhist to different parts of the world.