In 2007 and 2010 I visited Bodh Gaya with a professional digital camera, the Canon 5D and the 5D Mark II. I kept a journal of my 2010 trip that you can read, with more pictures, at http://thomasriddle.net/india.
The pictures below are available in two resolutions. By clicking on any picture below, a typical computer screen resolution will open. If you have a giant monitor or you want to print any of these please click here to see the pictures at 1400 pixels across.
By far the most popular of the four traditional Buddhist holy sites (Sarnath, site of the first sermon; Kushinigar, the place where Buddha died; Lumbini, where the Buddha was born; and of course Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha became enlightened), Bodh Gaya is fascinating. Here the modern pilgrim can practice meditation or devotional exercises at the very place where the Buddha himself did.
The park, which is beautiful and very well maintained, is surrounded by the village of Bodh Gaya which these days contains a variety of temples, hotels, and guest houses. During my last visit to Bodh Gaya, I made a promotional video for the Pragya Vihara School. For more on that please see, http://thomasriddle.net/pv .
Gautama Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta identified four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, saying that they would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency. This is especially true of Bodh Gaya, even with the distraction of its somewhat carnival-like atmosphere.
The quote below comes from the excellent:
Middle Land, Middle Way
A Pilgrim's Guide to the Buddha's India by Ven. S. Dhammika Published by Buddhist Publication Society
Then being a quester for the good, searching for the incomparable, matchless path of peace, while walking on tour through Magadha I arrived at Uruvela, the army township. There I saw a beautiful stretch of ground, a lovely woodland grove, a clear flowing river with a beautiful ford with a village nearby for support. And I thought: "Indeed, this is a good place for a young man set on striving'' So I sat down there, thinking: "Indeed, this is a good place for striving''
In 528 BCE, after six years of learning under different teachers and experimenting with self-mortification, Prince Siddhattha arrived on the outskirts of the small village of Uruvela in Magadha. Like most Indian villages even today, Uruvela had a tree-shrine at which people would worship in the hope of having their wishes fulfilled, and it was under this tree that Prince Siddhattha sat and began his meditation. He probably chose this particular locality because, unlike the fearful forests where he had lived in the recent past, the environment around Uruvela was sylvan and non-threatening. And he probably chose to meditate at the foot of this particular tree because he knew that, sooner or later, someone would come to worship, see him, and probably bring him food. The Jatakas describe the Bodhimanda, the area around the Bodhi Tree, prior to the Buddha's enlightenment as being a smooth area of silver sand without a blade of grass growing on it and with all the surrounding trees and flowering shrubs bending, as if in homage, towards the Bodhi Tree.
As he sat meditating, his mind disciplined and purified by years, even lifetimes, of practising the Perfections (parami), he exerted himself one final time to overcome the last traces of doubt, ignorance and desire. The Padhana Sutta and many later Buddhist literary works describe this final struggle allegorically as a battle against Mara, the personification of evil. Having "defeated Mara and his army'' the highest wisdom arose in his mind and Prince Siddhattha became The Buddha, The Fully Enlightened One. The Buddha spent the next seven weeks in the vicinity of the Bodhi Tree experiencing the joy of enlightenment and contemplating the implications of the truths he had realized, after which he set off for Sarnath. He returned later that year and converted three eminent ascetics who lived in the area, Gaya Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Uruvela Kassapa. After that, he set out to proclaim his Dhamma to the world, apparently never to return to Uruvela again.