1. Gayā.-A pond in which people bathed, that their sins might be washed away (J.v.388f). Buddhaghosa says (MA.i.145) it was a circular pond in which was a bathing ghat (mandavāpisanthānam tittham). But see below, Gayā (2).
2. Gayā.-A town in India. It lay on the road between the Bodhi-tree and Benares, and was three gāvutas from the Bodhi-tree and fifteen yojanas from Benares. (MA.i.387f; Fa Hien says the distance from the Bodhi-tree to Gayā, was twenty li, or about 3 1/3 miles). It was between the Bodhimanda and Gayā that the Buddha, on his way to Isipatana, met Upaka (Vin.i.8).
The Buddha stayed at Gayā on several occasions: once at Gayāsīsa (Vin.i.34; S.iv.19; A.iv.302), and also near the Tankitamañca (Sn. p.47; S.i.207, etc.), the residence of Suciloma.
Buddhaghosa says that Gayā was the name given both to the village and a bathing ghat near to it (also called Gayāpokkharanī). Dhamma-pāla (UdA.74, 75; cp. SNA.i.301), on the other hand, speaks of a Gayānadī and a Gayāpokkharanī as being two distinct bathing ghats, both commonly called Gayātittha, and both considered to possess the power of washing away sins. People went there, offered sacrifices to the gods, recited the Vedas, and immersed themselves in the water.
Elsewhere (ThagA.i.388f, 418; Thag.v.287) it is stated that every year, in the earlier half of the month of Phagguna (March), people held a bathing festival at the bathing ghat at Gayā, the festival being called Gayāphaggunī. It was at one of these festivals that Senaka Thera was converted by the Buddha. This explanation of Gayāphaggu is, perhaps, not quite correct, for, according to some, the river (Nerañjarā) which ran by Gayā was itself called Phaggu (Skt. Phaggu). E.g., Cunningham: AGI.524; Böthlinck and Roth's Dict. s.v. Phalgu; Neumann (Majh. N. Trans.i.271) says that the village of Gayā itself was called Phaggu.
The town of Gayā is often called Brahmagayā to distinguish it from Buddhagayā (q.v.).