One day Buddha decided to leave his kingdom, his wife and his child in search of higher truth and this event is known as Great Renunciation. It is said that once Gautama’s charioteer drove him through the town where Gautama saw an old man bent with age. A little later, he saw the sufferings of a sick man who was groaning with pain. Next, he saw the dead body of a man carried by his weeping relatives. All these events touched his heart.
Finally he saw an ascetic in search for salvation or Moksha. These are called Four Great Sights, made Gautama think deeply about the problems of human suffering.
In order to find a solution to human problems, he left his home, wife and child and went in search of truth. For some time he studied under renowned teachers of Rajgriha and then he went to Gaya. There in the jungles he practised seven penances and led a life of extreme austerity. He realised that penance alone could not lead him to his goal. At last he sat for 6 days concentrating and meditating under a Banyan tree at Gaya. At last, one night in 537 B.C. under a banyan tree true light dawned upon him and he became The Buddha or The Enlightened one. At the site where he got enlightenment now stands a big temple known as the Mahabodhi Temple.
The Banyan Tree is known as the Mahabodhi Tree. The place where Buddha got his enlightenment is known as Buddh-Gaya. After gaining enlightenment, the Buddha preached his first Sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath. This event is known as the Dharma Chakra Pravartan or the Turning of the Wheel of Sacred Law in Buddhism. In this Sermon, five holy men became Buddha’s disciples. This small beginning formed the nucleus of the great Buddhist Sangha or order.
The Buddha preached his religion till his death at Khushinagar in Nepal in 483 B.C. at the age of 80 years. His remains were buried at eight different places where his followers raised huge mounds called Stupas. These Stupas are held sacred to the Buddhists.