Located on the banks of the Falgu River, Gaya is one of the major tourist destinations in Bihar. Situated at a distance of 100 km to the south of the capital city of Bihar, Gaya is a land rich in cultural and religious heritage. It is surrounded by rocky hills such as Mangla-Gauri, Ram-Sheila and Brahmayoni on three sides, while the river flows on the fourth side.
Deriving its name from the mythological demon Gayasur, Gaya is one of the most sacred places for Hindus. It is believed that Gayasur, the holy demon was killed by Lord Vishnu with the pressure of his foot over him. This transformed the demon into the series of rocky hills that forms the landscape of the Gaya city. Gayasur had the power to absolve the sins of all those who touched him or even looked at him.
The city has experienced the rise and fall of several dynasties in the Magadh region. Gaya has played a vital role in the cultural history of the region extending from the 6th century BC to the 18th century AD. The destination came into the limelight, when Sisunaga, who was the founder of the Sisunaga dynasty, ruled over Patna and Gaya around 600 BC.
In 519 BC, Bimbisara ruled the destination during which it was exposed to the outside world and attained an important position in the history of civilisation. During his reign, Gaya witnessed the presence of Bhagwan Mahavir and Gautam Buddha.
After a short spell of the Nanda dynasty, the entire destination, along with the Magadh region came under the power and rule of the Mauryas. Ashoka, the ruler at the time, embraced Buddhism for which he visited Gaya and constructed the first ever temple at Bodh Gaya.
This temple was constructed to commemorate the attainment of supreme enlightenment by Prince Gautama. However, with the arrival of the Gupta Empire during the 4th and 5th century, Hinduism was revived in Gaya.
In the 12th century, Gaya was under the reign of Muhammadan rulers and during this time Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji invaded the region. After the battle of Buxar in 1764, Gaya finally passed over to the British. However, in 1947, Gaya along with other parts of the country gained independence.
The city also has its mention in the great epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana travelled to Gaya for offering pindan to their father Dashrath. On the other hand, in Mahabharata, the place has been identified as Gayapuri. The best time to explore Gaya is from the month of October to April.