21 June 2009

A trip to the place of divine Enlightenment: Bodh Gaya

It's been almost a month since the last update - my longest break in blogging till date! I was on a trip to Nepal and India for well over six weeks where I unfortunately picked up illness (fever and cold) and was sick for several days. Probably, it was the result of the hectic traveling, pollution and extremely hot weather condition with occasional load shedding hours. I never really got rid of the illness completely and still have some residual coughing. Though, I have been quite passionate with blogging, I just couldn't make it. I just haven't had the energy lately. As I am back to Japan now, I will try to share with you some of my experiences from the trip in my upcoming posts.
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Last week, I was in the Patna city of India with my family. We were planning for a trip to Darjeeling but due to the unavailability of group reservation in any of the good trains, we had to rethink our plan. We were told that trains heading to the hill stations in India are generally over crowded in the month of May & June due to the school holidays. We gave up the idea of visiting Darjeeling and decided to visit Bodh Gaya instead. Bodh Gaya is famous for being the place of Gautama Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment. With the mercury shooting up beyond 45 degree Celsius, one can question our idea of traveling Bodh Gaya with the summer at its peak. But, as I was almost stuck at home for several days due to illness and had only one week left before returning back to Japan, I was desperate to make the trip.

13th June 2009: It was almost 7 PM when we proceeded for the trip to Bodh Gaya. We hired a vehicle for two days. Besides, we took one another car from one of my relatives. We had planned to stay at a place called Rajgir, around 100km from the city of Patna. We stayed at the government guest house at Rajgir which was indeed a nice and comfortable place with reasonably good facilities.

Rajgir is located in the complex of temples and monasteries. It is one of the most important tourist places in India. Being located in a valley, Rajgir is a very scenic place. The small hill grit town is covered with lush green forest which add to the beauty of the place. This place has been associated with Lord Buddha and Buddhism. Buddha not only spent many years in Rajgir but also delivered sermons here and proselytized emperor Bimbisar at the Griddhakoota hill. The Jivekarmavan monastery was the favorite residence for Buddha. Even Bimbisar gave Venuvan Vihar to Buddha for his residence. It is said that it was at Rajgir that physician treated Buddha, Jivak after he was injured by his cousin Devdatta.The teachings of Buddha was penned down at Rajgir and it was also the venue for the first Buddhist Council. (source)

(The government guesthouse at Rajgir)

Next morning, we started our trip quite early. Our first destination was the Mangalagauri temple in Gaya which is about 75 km far from Rajgir.

The Mangalagauri temple in Gaya has been mentioned in Padma Purana, Vayu Purana and Agni Purana and in other scriptures and tantric works. The present temple dates back to 1459 AD. The shrine is dedicated to Shakti or the mother Goddess in the predominantly Vaishnavite pilgrimage center of Gaya. Mangalagauri is worshiped as the Goddess of benevolence. This temple constitutes an Upa-Shakti Pitha - where it is believed that a part of the body of Shakti fell - according to mythology. Here Shakti is worshiped in the form of a breast symbol, a symbol of nourishment. (source)

After spending some time there at the Mangalagauri temple in Gaya, we proceeded towards Bodh Gaya. We had the breakfast at a hotel in Bodh Gaya. Soon, we were exploring the land of divine enlightenment. We went to the Mahabodhi temple. The Mahabodhi temple is the crest jewel of Bodh Gaya where rituals are going on constantly. I captured the stunning views of Bodh Gaya through my camera and I am pleased to share few of the snaps here.

(The Bodhi-tree)

The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine was later erected on the spot where he stood. (source: wikipedia)

(The Mahabodhi Temple)

(Image of Lord Buddha inside the Mahabodhi temple)

(Buddha everywhere: The Mahabodhi temple complex)

In the south-east corner of the Mahabodhi temple, there is a large pond, called Mucalinda, supposed to be a lake where Lord Buddha spent his sixth week of meditation after enlightenment.

Sixth week after enlightenment Lord Buddha spent one week under Mucalinda Tree. The Buddha then went and meditated at the foot of a Mucalinda tree. It began to rain heavily and a huge king cobra came out and coiled his body seven times around the Buddha to keep him warm and placed his hood over the Buddhas head to protect him from the rain. After seven days the rain stopped and the snake changed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha. (source)

(Image of Buddha in the middle of the Mucalinda lake)

Throughout Bodha Gaya there are monasteries and temples of every part of Buddhism represented. The monasteries have been built by the people of Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam in a wide area around the temple. The buildings reflect the architectural style of their respective countries.

(The Japanese monastery)

(The Thai monastery)

One more thing that is worth mentioning here is the colossal statue of Buddha built near by the Mahabodhi temple. The statue is of 80 ft high. It features the Lord Buddha in meditation pose seated on a lotus in open air.

(The great Buddha statue)

Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautama Buddha attained unsurpassed, supreme enlightenment. It is a place which should be visited or seen by a person of devotion and which would cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence.

In fact, the place (Bodh Gaya) was just awesome. While roaming around, one can feel an extraordinary sense of peace. The atmosphere is calm and makes you relaxed. After spending few hours, we decided to head back towards Rajgir.

In the evening and on our way back, we visited a beautiful attraction of Rajgir - the Rope-way which takes you uphill to the Shanti Stupa and Monasteries built by the Japanese Devotees on top of the Ratnagiri hills. It was indeed an adventurous ride all the way to the peak of the hill. Rope-way provides mesmerizing view of verdant hills along with the town.

Despite the extremely hot weather, the visit was amazingly satisfying. In the night, we resumed our trip back. The outside atmosphere was still hot but inside the car, we were very comfortable. Surely, there was something more inside than the cooling system of the car!

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Sujan Sharma on June 21, 2009 at 4:11 PM said...

Deependra Ji !!Very wonderful picture as well as description.It seems that you had a very good time there.

Thanks for sharing such a good journey.

सिकारु on June 21, 2009 at 6:34 PM said...

depenra jee welcome back . thank you for sharing the feelings of travel n wonderful photoes . i really enjoyed it .

Dilip Acharya on June 22, 2009 at 2:14 PM said...

I was actually wondering about the reason behind your long gap in blog.

Anyway, you are back and back with yet another cool tour diary from hot place.

I haven't been to that holy place yet, but I,m always dreaming to go there.

Thanks for sharing this and wishing for your good health.

Basanta on June 22, 2009 at 5:52 PM said...

Welcome back Deependrajee! We were missing you!
Sorry to hear about the illness. I hope you have recovered completely now.

Thank you for sharing your travel to such a sacred place with great pictures and narration. I hope I too can make a trip to there one day.

Prajwol on June 22, 2009 at 6:30 PM said...

I hope you are feeling better.

The pictures are good, and the place looks even better. I bet you were hoping the temperature to be little cooler though :)

There seem to be some similarities between the foreign temples and monasteries in Lumbini and Gaya. It seems these Buddhist nations are spending equally for infrastructures in both places.
Some pictures I took in Lumbini

Alok said...

Welcome back my friend! sorry to hear about your illness and hope u have recovered now. I was just missing your refreshing blog posts. once again, u have come up with a wonderful tour diary. I loved the pictures and narration. what an informative post! I have already been to Bodh Gaya before but your post encourages me to make it one more time.

Anonymous said...

I am really glad to see the place of Buddha Gaya It is very wonderful not only provide enlightenment photos but also perfect description. I want to stay and visit there for a while. I have to try it as soon as possible I can.

Anyway, Thank you so much for sharing your tour diary.

Sumiran on June 24, 2009 at 7:36 AM said...

welcome back deependraji,
Hope you are recovered well until now.
It is wonderful tour diary and hoping that i would make my own visit some day.
These picture speak louder than any narration.
Good day!

badri on June 24, 2009 at 10:56 AM said...

very nice pictures..

Anonymous said...

Dilipji, Basantji, Prajwolji, Alok and Netraji,
I am grateful to you all for showing concern to my health. I am feeling better these days. Thanks once again!

@Prajwolji, definitely I was hoping the temperature to be a little cooler that day. Nevertheless, the trip was a memorable one and we really had a good time there.

Also, I am happy to know that you all liked my tour diary.

rakesh on December 29, 2010 at 11:27 AM said...

It was a awesome journey, I know that, but u made it very special by giving such a beautiful description of the Journey.I was with u but I never knew that u were taking such a closer look over the temples and lakes I wish that u will also add the pics of the fishes in the lakes which we fed.U should visit India once again this time we will visit Nalanda, a Buddhist monastery.

Alaska Vacations on January 12, 2011 at 5:11 PM said...

Awesome pics!!!...
You are increasing your fan list.

Thanks for sharing.

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