'Vesak Day' or 'Wesak', popularly known as 'Buddha Purnima', is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the ancient lunar month of Vesakha, mainly falling in May.

Vesak Day 2017's theme is 'Buddhist teachings for social justice and sustainable world peace. This day commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana) and passing away (Parinirvana) of the Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The United Nations General Assembly acknowledged 'Vesak' as worthy of commemoration through a resolution in 1999.

This Vesak, know the important Buddhist sites in India.

Bodh Gaya

This is considered the holiest pilgrimage site for Buddhists across the world. It is here in Gaya (Bihar) that Lord Buddha attained the enlightenment. Gaya is nearly 100km from Patna, the capital of Bihar. Major attraction in Gaya is the Maha Bodhi Temple or the Vishal Buddha Mandir that has an 80-foot-tall statue of meditating Buddha.

Sarnath

Situated about 11 km from the holy town of Varanasi, Sarnath marks the beginning of Buddha’s sermons after attaining enlightenment. Main attractions here are Dhamekh Stupa and Chaukhandi Stupa.

Sanchi

Synonymous with the Ashoka's Great Stupa, Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh has the oldest stone monument in India. The world famous stupa is a wonderful example of the early Buddhist architecture. It is built over relics of Buddha and exquisite carvings on its entrances and gates.

Kushinagar

Located about 53 km from Gorakhpur and is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha attained ‘Maharparinivana’ — the highest stage of salvation. The Ramabhar Stupa, about 50-foot tall, is one of the major attractions, said to have been built at the same place as where Buddha was cremated. Mahanirvana Temple, Watt Thai Temple; Japanese Temple and the Chinese Temple are the other places worth visiting in Kushinagar.

Sankisa

Situated about 47 km from Uttar Pradesh's Farrukhabad, it is quite a popular Budhhist place in India, believed to be the place where Buddha is believed to have descended after giving sermons to his mother in heaven.

Sravasti

It is believed that Lord Buddha and his disciples stayed and preached for 24 years in this city of Uttar Pradesh. The World Peace Bell, established by Japanese devotees, is yet another tourist attraction here.

Dharamshala

From a Vipassana meditation center, numerous Buddhist temples to the spiritual guru Dalai Lama’s official residence at McLeodganj, Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh) is thronged by Buddhists throughout the year.

Tawang Monastery

Known locally as Galden Namgey Lhatse, it is the largest monastery in India. The term Galden Namgey Lhatse means ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. Situated in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, it also houses the Centre for Buddhist India Cultural Studies for the young monks.

Mindrolling Monastery

A storehouse of knowledge and bits of history of Buddhism in India, Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun is another yet important Buddhist site. The Ngagyur Nyingma College is one of the most prominent Buddhist Indian institutes to study and practise Buddhism.

Sikkim

Sikkim is a popular Buddhist destination as it houses about 200 monasteries belonging to the Nyingma and Kagyu order. The most popular monasteries in Sikkim include Pemayangtse, Rumtek, Enchey, Phensang, Phodang, Labrang, Tashiding, Pal Zurmang Kagyud, Tsuk-La-Khang, Ralong, Sanga Chelling and Dubdi.

Other sites

There are many other significant places in India that have Buddhist sites. Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir; Tabo Monastery in Himachal Pradesh; Nalanda, Rajgir and Vaishali in Bihar; Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, Nagarjunakonda, Bavikonda, Thotlakonda, Salihundam, Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh; Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri in Odisha attract considerable number of tourists as well as devotees every year.