1. Gayá.-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 (mandavápisanthánam tittham). But see below, Gayá (2).
2. Gayá.-A town in India. It lay on the road between the Bodhi-tree and Benares, and was three gávutas from the Bodhi-tree and fifteen yojanas from Benares. (MA.i.387f; Fa Hien says the distance from the Bodhi-tree to Gayá, was twenty li, or about 3 1/3 miles). It was between the Bodhimanda and Gayá that the Buddha, on his way to Isipatana, met Upaka (Vin.i.8).
The Buddha stayed at Gayá on several occasions: once at Gayásísa (Vin.i.34; S.iv.19; A.iv.302), and also near the Tankitamańca (Sn. p.47; S.i.207, etc.), the residence of Suciloma.
Buddhaghosa says that Gayá was the name given both to the village and a bathing ghat near to it (also called Gayápokkharaní). Dhamma-pála (UdA.74, 75; cp. SNA.i.301), on the other hand, speaks of a Gayánadí and a Gayápokkharaní as being two distinct bathing ghats, both commonly called Gayátittha, 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 Gayá, the festival being called Gayáphagguní. It was at one of these festivals that Senaka Thera was converted by the Buddha. This explanation of Gayáphaggu is, perhaps, not quite correct, for, according to some, the river (Nerańjará) which ran by Gayá 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 Gayá itself was called Phaggu.
The town of Gayá is often called Brahmagayá to distinguish it from Buddhagayá (q.v.).