Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A trip to the Land of Enlightenment - Nalanda and Rajgir, Bihar  - Part II

Day II - 28th March, 2014

Around 6.30 am I left for Nalanda. Nalanda, founded in the 5th century AD is famous as the ancient seat of learning. The ruins of the world's most ancient university lies here which is 62 km from Bodh Gaya and 90 km from south of Patna.  Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hieum Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellent of education system and purity of monastic life practived here.  He also gave a vivid account of both the ambiance and architecture of this unique university of ancient times.  In this first residential international university of the world, 2000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here.  The Gupta kings patronized these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who build temples, monasteries and viharas here.  Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here.  An International Center for Buddhist studies was established here in 1951. 

Photographs of Naland University Ruins Archaeological Complex:

After visiting Nalanda, I went to visit Rajgir.Rajgir is just 15 km from Nalanda is located 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 beautiy of the place. Rajgir was the capital of the Magadh Mahajanpad when Patliputra was not formed. Rajgir means the home of Royality. This place has been associated with Lord Buddha and Buddhism. uddha not only spent many years in Rajgir but also delivered sermons here and proselytized emperor Bimbisar at the Griddhakoota hill. 

I visited the following places :

Jarashand ka Akhara: This is the Ranbhumi where Bhima and Jarasandh fought one of the Maharabarat battles.


Chinese Temple: Also visited one Chinese temple in Rajgir:

Sonbhandar Caves: Two rather strange cave chambers were hollowed out of a single massive rock. One of the chambers I believe to have been the guard room, the rear wall has two straight vertical lines and one horizontal line cut into the rock; the doorwa is supposed to lead to king Bimbisara treasury. Inscriptions in the sankhlipi or shell script, etched into wall and so far undeciphered, are believed to give the clue to open the doorway. The treasure, according to folklore, is still intact.  The second chambers bears a few traces of seated nd standing etched into the outer wall.

Shanti Stupa: The Vishwa Shanti Stup is located on a 400 meter high hill.  the stupa is buiot in marble and on the four corners of the stupa are four glimmering statues of Buddha. To reach the top of thishill one has to come through the "Ropeways". This place is also called the Griddhkoot.

Day III - 29th March 2014: Basically nothing much.  I visited the Mahabodhi temple and did meditation for quite sometime sitting under the Bodhi Tree.  Also visited several shops in and around the temple.

Day IV - 30th March, 2014: Morning at 5.45 I left for Chennai and reached Chennai on 31st March evening.  While in the train, I took some photos :

Krishna River at V'wada:

A trip to the Land of Enlightenment - Bodh Gaya, Bihar  - Part I

On 25th March I boarded the Chennai-Gaya super fast Express from Egmore station.  The train left chennai station around 7,30 am and finally reached Gaya on 27th March at 1.30 am instead of 26th March at 9.40 pm.  Bodh Gaya is around 17 km from Gaya.  I managed to reach Welcome Hotel at Bodh Gaya where I had booked my accommodation around 5 am as I did not take the chance of leaving the Gaya station at 1.30 am. Before I take you through  my experience let me tell you  little about Bodh Gaya. Bodh Gaya is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center in the world.  It was here under a banyan tree, the Bodhi Tree, Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the Enlightened one.

Day I - 27th March 2014

Mahabodhi Temple: Around 7.30 am after my bath and other routine activities I visited the Mahabodhi temple which is less than 1/2 km from my hotel.  This temple stands in the east to the Bodhi tree.  Its architectural effect is superb.  Its basement is 48 sq.ft. feet and it rises in the form of a slender pyramid till it reaches its neck, which is cylindrical in shape. The total height of the tmple is 170 ft. and on the top of the temple are chatras which symbolize sovereignty of religion.  Four towers on its corners rise gracefully giving the holy structure a poise balance. This sacred edifice is like a grand banner unfurled by time to proclaim to the world the pious efforts of the Buddha to solve the knots of human miseries, to ascend above worldly problems and to attain transcendental peace through wisdom, good conduct and disciplined life.

Inside the temple, in the main sanctum, there is a colossal image of the Buddha in sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand.  In this posture the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment. The statue is of black stone but it has been guilder by the devotees. The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with large number of votive stupas. These stupas are of all sizes built during the past 2500 years ago. Most of them are extremely elegant in structural beauty. The ancient railings which surround the temple, are of the first century BC and are among the very interesting monuments of the century.

Bodhi Tree: the present Bodhi tree is probably the fifth succession of the original tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Vajrasana, the seat of stability, is a stone platform on which the Buddha is supposed to have sat in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi Tree.

Chankramana: this marks the sacred spot of the Buddha's meditative perambulations during the third week after pious enlightenment.  It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.

After doing meditation under the Bodhi tree, I went back to my hotel with an intention to visit other Buddha temples in and around Bodh Gaya. Photos of such temples including 80 feet Statue of the Buddha, Chinese temple/Monastery, Burmese temple, Buddhist Monastery of Bhutan, Japanese temple, Thai Temple/Monastery, tibetan Monastery, etc.