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 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)
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)
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)
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 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.