Travel in Footsteps of Buddha in Bihar

We travel to Bihar in eastern India. Our train to Bodhgaya is six hours late. To escape from the crowd who are hanging around the station, we flee into the waiting room. On a stone bench at the end of the platform number 6, we set up ourselves at home.

A small boy is coming along the track. His gaze encounters us with two sweaty, nagged pallies in the midst of luggage. He brakes on snail speed, his lower jaw folds down, his eyes open. He sneaks past us. When he can no longer turn his head, he turns around and finally stops in front of us.

A chuckling fellow always lures a whole horde. There are quite a few boys standing there, silent and with open mouths, as they look at us. An ox trots by, stops, looks. But it continues to move. We try to get our viewers bored. I scroll through the guidebook. One looks over my shoulder. I give him a stare and he immediately runs away. Everybody start laughing.

Now the crowd is bolder. We chat with the usual stuff of our country, profession and politics. Everyone would like to see our train ticket and give a helpful tip. The men argue which track is the right thing for us. One is pushy and wants us to take a photo of him. We are fleeing again. This time to a snack stall.

From the windows we can now watch the activity on the station undisturbed. At the edge of the rails water spills from hoses, men stand underneath and shower. They bathe in underpants, they are splashing wet and laughing. Next to it peels one. In another corner a worker hangs up the platform. His colleagues squat in the shade, watching the slaving.

Shortly before our train enters we learn that we can take another one after an hour. We are still warned by the rickshaw drivers at the station in Gaya.

After a quiet train ride in the AC compartment, we ask a fellow traveler to help with the taxi selection. He is a businessman and visited home for the last time two years ago, he tells us.

As the doors open and the man steps out, two children scream with joy are running towards him. They jump at her father, who can hardly stand on his feet. Two young men chat out loud, laugh and make merry with our fellow travelers. Then a woman enters. They both shake hands and bow to each other.

At dusk we reach Bodhgaya. Here under the Bodhi tree, Buddha attained enlightenment. Thus, Bodhgaya is one of the most important pilgrim places for Buddhists. We take a pilgrim's room with beds hard as steel and pull out.

We come to the streets in the waddling bustle. We pull off the shoes and enter the grounds of the temple. The area around Bodhi tree is quiet. On a still warm stone path we go over the green, magical terrain. We hear devotees muttering prayers. Monks with short hair and wrapped in red robes come to meet us.

Butter Lamps, prayer flags and prayer wheels line the way. We find a lake, in the middle of which a stone buddha idol meditates on a lotus leaf. Then we stand before the tree. The trunk is wide and the green branches reach far over the square where the worshiper is sitting. We sit down for a moment and enjoy the rhythmic murmurs of the mantras.

In a Tibetan restaurant we taste Momos, filled with vegetables. Then we drink a Lassi. This is a kind of yogurt milkshake, made with mango, banana, melon. It is a must for every traveler, which is super delicious.

The sun conjures light spots on the gilded stone fence that surrounds the Bodhi tree. Under this tree, around 400 BC, Siddhartha Gautama got enlightenment. The prince of the Shakya kingdom became a Buddha. Already under Ashoka, the first Mahabodhi temple got erected in the 3rd century BC. It has since been rebuilt several times.

The tree itself is no longer the original, but close to it. Still under Ashoka, an offshoot of the original got planted in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. An offshoot of this tree has been growing for about 1000 years in Bodhgaya. A quiet, almost serene atmosphere surrounds the tree and temple.

Over the centuries many small stupas and temples have got built around the Bodhi tree. Under the large trees, monks from Tibet, Sri Lanka and Bhutan group together. The red, orange and yellow-dressed monks sing rituals in groups. They get surrounded by white-clad laity, often from Thailand, and a few Europeans. Between them, some older women come with their classic, striped Tibetan aprons.

Many of Buddha Hoods adorn the flowering chains. Thousands of water cups with flowers are on the walls. A monolith of more than 10 m in length is completely covered with flowers. On the lawns, there are many door-sized wooden boards. People fall down according to the Tibetan tradition and rise again. With some, the performance seems to count more than the gesture.

On both sides of the Bodhi Bay, there are free areas where you can meditate. The faith of man, and even spirituality rather than religiosity, is most noticeable. From time to time, a leaf of the sacred tree falls to the ground. One of the attendants immediately reaches for the treasure.

In our two days in Bodhgaya we spent a lot of time in the temple area. Sitting, walking, pausing, watching, short conversations alternated. The best time was for us between 9am and 11 am. It is not as full as in the early morning, the Bodhi tree is in a wonderful light and it is not so hot. Our recommendation for Bodhgaya. Take your time, as it is a wonderful place where you can be without having to do something.

Bodhgaya Travel Tips

The journey takes about 12 km from Gaya. Otos or taxis take you from 250 rupees to Bodhgaya. In Bodhgaya there are many hotels. So a reservation does not seem necessary.

Bodhgaya itself is a rather ugly place alongside some huge hotels and monasteries. On the last hundred meters in front of the temple, sellers and beggars line the street.

Entrance to the Temple Area is free, only a small fee is payable for photo cameras. Mobile phones are not allowed and security controls are strict.

Among the routes affected in the course of his life also include Vaishali. During the rule of Licchavi, Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon in 483 BC. Here you can admire the Kutagarasala Vihara, the monastery that he frequented.

Rajgir is also fascinating. Buddha spent thirty years meditating on the hills and walked through bamboo groves.

The ruins of Nalanda are the most important ancient Indian Buddhist university. It got founded in the fifth century AD. Nalanda dedicates to the study of theological, scientific, medical and astronomical disciplines.

The visit to eastern India is not complete without visiting Varanasi. It is one of the strongest places in the country where Hindus go to purify themselves in the waters of the Ganges. After Sarnath, here actually spread the message on the median life. You can reach Kushinagar, where the Gautama Buddha died.

Mahavira was born in the same period in fifth century BC and lived in the same places of Prince Siddhartha.

Bihar is also a land of saints like the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in Patna.

1 comment:

Max Coutinho said...

Hi K,

It's a great show, that's for sure.
I wish it all the success in the world. And of course, I hope Jamal wins (he's far more talented than Hakeem).


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