Gaya is the second largest city of Bihar, India, and it is also the headquarters of Gaya District. Gaya is 100 kilometers south of Patna, the capital city of Bihar. Situated on the banks of the Phalgu (or Niranjana, as mentioned in Ramayana), it is a place sanctified by the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Jain religions. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangla-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (eastern) side. The city has a mix of natural surroundings, age old buildings and narrow bylanes.
Importance to Hindu Religion:
Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the demon), demon (asur, a Sanskrit word) and Gaya. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur, the holy demon by using the pressure of his foot on him. This incident transformed Gayasur into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city.
Gaya was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform Shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors. Gods and goddesses had promised to live on Gayasur's body after he died, and the hilltop protuberances of Gaya are surmounted by temples to various gods and goddesses. These hilltop temples at Rama Shila, Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan and Brahmayoni are part of the pilgrimage circuit, and grand staircases have been built up to most of them.
The site of the Bodhi Tree at Bodhigaya is, according to the Buddhist commentarial scriptures, the same for all Buddhas. According to the Jatakas, it forms the navel of the earth, and no other place can support the weight of the Buddha's attainment. According to Buddhist mythology, if no Bodhi tree grows at the site, the ground around the Bodhi tree is devoid of all plants for a distance of one royal karīsa and nothing can travel in the air immediately above it, not even Sakka.
Buddhist mythology also states that when the World is destroyed at the end of a kalpa, the Bodhimanda is the last spot to disappear and is the first to appear when the world emerges into existence again. The myth also claims that a lotus will bloom there, and if a Buddha is born during that the new kalpa, the lotus flowers in accordance with the number of Buddhas expected to arise.