Do the places mentioned in the suttas still exist?

Almost every sutta begins with a reference to where the Buddha was when he said what he said.

I imagine many of the villages and parks/wooded areas are gone, lost in time.

Of course, the Himalayas and the Ganges still exist.

Are there places beyond big landmarks mentioned in the suttas that still exist. Anathpindika’s monastery? The pavilion with the pointed roof? etc?

Many places actually have been uncovered. You can check out this pilgrimage guide book for example which has all the places listed and what you can visit nowadays: Along the Path - 3rd Edition at (free download for the ebook)

One of the most recognizable places is probably Vulture’s Peak in Rajgir. It probably has changed a little bit, but probably of all places mentioned it still looks more or less the same (even the hot springs are still there!) .


I recall when the 2012 version of SuttaCentral was built we looked at creating a map - possibly overlaid via google maps?

Certainly it could be provided in an standard GIS format if someone is keen.

Places with those names exist in India but they are fictitious. Someone built a modern park with bamboo plants sometime in the last couple of centuries and called it veṇuvana (veḷuvana in Pali). Someone built a brand new deer park in recent times and called it the original isipatana migadaya. The government happily plays along to promote tourism.

None of them are conclusively proved to be old sites, except the places where Ashokan rock edicts stand which cannot be moved as they are inscribed on the mountain-faces so those sites may probably have something to do with early-Buddhism. But the sites of Pataliputra, Girivraja/Rājagṛha identified to be today’s Patna and Rajgir have no Ashokan edicts, and Rajgir was not even called Rajgir a few centuries ago. So there is a lot of motivated modern renamings and even constructions of places going on to make them fit the descriptions in EBTs.

This is not a minor thing. There are quite a few.

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The four pilgrimage place is identifiable, because Asoka built something there.
He lived around 200 years after the Buddha’s passing, so his decision is more reliable than ours.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya has a rich history, and it is always a crowded pilgrimage site. I assume it can’t be moved, especially when there is the original Bodhi tree there.

But yes they built tourist traps everywhere it seems.
When I visited Bodhgaya several years ago, we went to a place where supposedly village girl Sujata offer rice milk porridge to the Bodhisatta, the last food he ate before enlightenment.

Anyone familiar with that story knows that there is no way to pinpoint where that incident happen, 2500 years ago. There is no landmark, and it can happen anywhere in the vicinity of Bodhi tree.

So they built a landmark. A modern one. With colorful painting of Sujata offering food to ascetic Gotama.

That one is dubious, but ok. There is another place just empty with trees and meditation platform(?). And they said “this is the place where Ascetic Gotama practice austerity during the 6 years before enlightenment”.
What? You can’t know that. And he probably wandered around and meditated in lots of places in Gaya forest.

Then I went to Nalanda University ruins, and the tour guide point to a random room, and said “this is where Xuanzang stayed”.

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Been done for a long time!