Travel in Buddha's Footsteps in Bihar

Bihar is a state in eastern India whose real wealth is independent of the earthly world and find space in spirituality. In fact, its name, Bihar, derived from the Sanskrit vihara, means abode reflecting the fact that it was here that arose the first Buddhist monasteries that pay tribute to one of the most widespread religions and philosophical doctrines in the world.

Ashoka Maurya, after converting to Buddhism, pledged to make it the state religion by sending missionaries to neighboring countries to preach the true Dharma. Thus the great Buddhist monastic centers, began the first pilgrimages, today, allowing us to relive timeless emotions.

The Buddhist circuit starts from Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, a city that preserves intact its old world charm among the Bara Imambara, built in 1784 by Asaf-Ud-Daula; the Chattar Manzil; the clock tower built by Nasir-Ud-Din Haider in 1880, or even the Hussainabad Imambara where Mohammed Ali Shah and his mother rest.

Another stop is the Shravasti district, closely linked to the life of Buddha, but, surely, one of the most vibrant sites is Lumbini, an important religious site that has given birth to Siddhartha Gautama, a mystic philosopher and ascetic monk, who became Gautama Buddha.

An important place of pilgrimage, the city of Lumbini was registered in 1997 in the UNESCO list of World Heritage as a unique and exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition and an extraordinary architecture illustrating significant stages in human history. Many sites not to be missed are the Bodhi Tree, the column of Asoka, the ancient ruins of temples and monasteries, such as the one dedicated to the mother Maya Devi.

Among the routes affected in the course of his life also include Vaishali, where during the rule of Licchavi, Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon in 483 BC and where you can admire the Kutagarasala Vihara, the monastery that he frequented during visits in the city. Also fascinating is Rajgir where he spent thirty years meditating on the hills and walked through bamboo groves and for those who want to fill up on culture, the ruins of Nalanda are the most important ancient Indian Buddhist university founded in the fifth century AD and dedicated to the study of theological, scientific, medical and astronomical disciplines.

The process on the Buddha's footsteps touches another jewel protected by UNESCO, one of the four most important places of Buddhist pilgrimage of Bodhgaya. It was here that the Buddha, around 530 BC, attained enlightenment, and today is home to monuments such as the sacred Mahabodhi Temple, the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment or even a Buddha statue built in the eighties.

India is not complete without being passed to Varanasi, one of the strongest places in the country where Hindus go to purify themselves in the waters of the Ganges and after Sarnath, where actually spread the message on the median life, you reach Kushinagar, where died the great Gautama Buddha.

Mahavira was born in the same period in fifth century BC and lives in the same places of Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, and even their lives greatly resemble each other, between luxury and comfortable life of aristocratic childhood and austerity in the years of maturity and then enlightenment and attained Nirvana, a series of miracles up to the complete liberation from the cycle of rebirths. Despite all these similarities, Buddhism has experienced such a great popularity globally while Jainism and 'remained confined to a few million Indians.

There are some theories supported by history, but probably the true motivation and the fact is that the latter is nothing more than a hard and fundamentalist version of the first, without concessions to luxury and exoticism with no colored temples, no trumpets and flags, no flashy clothes where vegetarianism and nonviolence push up the level considering the precious life of every living being, hence the filters on the taps, the masks over the mouth and brush to clean the path on which you walk, to avoid killing the even a small insect.

The monks of the Digambara sect live totally naked! And then the supreme act of adherence to the teachings when you get to a certain age and are simply left to die of starvation by stopping eating and drinking but the main feature, and perhaps their total and unshakable faith in the rule of Karma, for which everything but everything depends on oneself and of one's actions.

Fortunately, we have 24 teachers of life (the Tirthankara) to inspire us, and the last and most 'important of these, Mahavira was born in what is now the small village of Kundalpur in southern Bihar. Probably he traveled a lot, and also died a few steps from here, in nearby Pawapuri, which today represents one of the most important pilgrimage sites of this religion.

But this and also a land of Muslim saints like Sharfuddin Shaikh, Yahya Maneri in Bihar Sharif and Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in Patna.

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