Gaya is the district of Bihar with its administrative headquarters located at Gaya city. There is a mythological story associated with the name of the district as well as the city. As per the Vayu Purana both the district and city got its name from the mythological demon name Gayasur. The term Gayasur has two parts-gaya means the name of the holy demon and asur, a Sanskrit word means demon. After he performed a long rigid penance, he secured blessings from Vishnu and his body became pious. Natives believe that the body of Gayasura was transformed into the series of rocky hills which make up the landscape of the district. The name of Gaya is also mentioned in the great epic Ramayana. According to Ramayana, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana visited the place for performing the last rituals of their father Dasharath. During different periods of time the district was ruled by many different dynasties namely Sisunaga dynasty, Nanda dynasty, Mauryan dynasty, Gupta dynasty and Pala dynasty. After India got its independence, Gaya became the part of Behar and Ramgarh district till 1864. Gaya as a separate district came into existence on 3rd October, 1865. Later, in May 1981, again the Bihar State Government formed Magadh Division with the four districts include Gaya, Nawada, Aurangabad and Jehanabad. On the other hand when Gaya was given the status of an independent district on 3rd October, 1865, these all four districts were its sub-divisions. Till date Gaya has witnessed three districts partitioned off from its territory: Aurangabad and Nawada in 1976, and Jehanabad in 1988. At present it is a part of the Red Corridor.
Lal Narayan Sinha, a distinguished lawyer and the Attorney General of India during the time of Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister was born at Musi village in the district. He was also the Solicitor General of India (17th July, 1972 to 5th April, 1977).
Geographically, the district lies at 24°78'N latitude, 84°98'E longitude and 111 m Altitude. In the year 2021, there was a total 12.11% forest area of total geographical area. The district encompasses an area of 4,976 sq. kms. and it is bounded by Nalanda district on the north east, Jehanabad district on the north west, Jharkhand state on the south, Nawada district on the east and Aurangabad district on the west. During the summer it is extremely hot whereas in the winter it is extremely cold. Most of its rainfall occurs in the monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 1472.3 mm in the year of 2021-22.
Administration wise, the district is divided into 4 sub-divisions Gaya Sadar, Neemchak Bathani, Sherghati and Tekari. There are 1 Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly constituencies in the district. Moreover, the district comprises 6 towns and 2,886 villages. The administrative language in the district is Hindi.
According to 2011 census the district has a population of 43,91,418 out of which 22,66,566 are males and 21,24,852 are females. The district has a sex ratio of 937 females for every 1000 males. During the year 2001-2011 the population growth rate in the district was 26.43% out of which 26.47% were males and 26.38% were females. As per 2011 census the major religions in the district are Hindu and Muslim with 88.27% and 11.12% of the total population. The population density in the district is 1,329 persons per sq. kms. According to 2011 census the principal language in the district is Hindi with 92.80%. In the year 2020 the number of live births in the district was 1,16,742 out of which 60,182 were males and 56,541 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 16,894 out of which 10,415 were males and 6,478 were females.
The economy of the district is based on agriculture. The chief agricultural crops in the district are paddy, wheat, potato, lentils, etc. There are some household industries in the district like agarbattis, tilkut and lai, stone crafting, power looms and hand looms. A huge chunk of revenue comes from these household industries. Gaya is also a prominent centre for religious tourism which contributes in its economy to a great extent. In the year 2006 the Ministry of Panchayati Raj declared Gaya as one of the country's 250 most backward districts because of this very reason it is currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF). In the year 2011-12 the gross domestic product in the district was Rs. 8,12,420 lakh at current price and Rs. 4,95,613 lakh at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. In the year 2011-12 the net domestic product in the district was Rs. 7,31,975 lakh at current price and Rs. 4,40,325 lakh at constant prices in the year 2004-2005.
Gaya provides a platform for higher education. Gaya is fortunate enough to have one of the two central universities of Bihar. The district also has numbers of schools which impart better education as compared to other cities of Bihar. Some reputed schools in the district include Mahavir School, Town School, T Model School, Gaya High School, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Nazareth Academy, Gyan Bharti, Creane Memorial School, etc. As per 2011 census the literacy rate in the district is 63.67% out of which 73.31% are males and 53.34% are females. The number of literates in the district is 22,97,613 out of which 13,68,803 are males and 9,28,810 are females.
Hari Manjhi, an illustrious Indian politician and the present Member of Parliament from Gaya constituency was born on 28th January, 1963 in Gaya. He was also a member of the 15th Lok Sabha. He is a member of Bharatiya Janata Party.
The ancient temples and marvellous monasteries in the district allure numerous travellers across the world. Mahabodhi Temple depicts the ancient architectural brilliance. Though it was constructed in the 7th century but the temple was renovated in 1880. The main deity of the temple is Lord Buddha. People belong to all religion comes to this temple to offer their prayers. There is a belief among the natives of the district that Vishnupad temple, situated on the banks of Falgu River is built on the foot prints of Lord Vishnu and that's why the temple got its name Vishnupad. Dungeshwari cave temple, Barabar caves, Chinese temple and its monastery, Thai temple and its monastery, Royal Bhutan monastery and Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum are some other significant centres of attraction in the district.