Enlightened at Buddha’s Land

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When I planned my trip to Patna, all my friends expressed an odd look. When I informed them that I will be going to Bodh Gaya they changed their expression which was so pleasing. That is the effect of the name ‘Bodh Gaya’. The distance between Patna to Bodh Gaya is only 105 Kms but it took us six hours to reach Bodh Gaya. It was a nerve rattling experience due to bad condition of the road.

Bodh Gaya is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites as Buddha’s enlightenment happened here.The main temple complex houses the famous Mahabodhi temple, stupa and a descendant of the original Bodhi (Peepal) Tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment.

When we entered the temple we immediately got enveloped with serene and propitious feeling. We could not believe that we are actually standing on the spot where Buddha got enlightenment. At the temple we could see plenty of international devotees from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Japan

Inside the Mahabodhi temple complex you can also enjoy the Lotus Pond or the meditation garden.

Bodh Gaya has temples or monasteries from many other nations with a Buddhist tradition (Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet), all within easy walking distance from the Mahabodhi temple.

Next we visited the famous Vishnupad Temple. It is believed that Rama and Sita had visited this place. This is believed that the temple was built with the footprints of Lord Vishnu in the centre. This footprint marks the act of Lord Vishnu subduing Gayasur, a demon by placing his foot on his chest. Inside the Vishnupad temple, the 40 cm long footprint of Lord Vishnu is imprinted in solid rock and surrounded by a silver plated basin.

Next day  we planned our trip for local sightseeing. When we were taking break fast at our Holiday Home, happened to meet Venkat and Promod. Venkat’s social nature drew him towards us and we also happy to meet a tamilian in Bihar.  After conversing with both of them we came to know that they are also planning for the local sightseeing. What a coincidence ! Promod asked me why don’t you join with us? We were thrilled to join with them for the local trip as well to Rajgir. But for them, we could not have stayed at Gaya.  I think it was certainly Buddha’s call which happened through Venkat and Promod ! Our journey become so vibrant after they joined with us. 

First we started our visit to a Gurdwara known as Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs.. Besides being the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, Patna was also honored by visits from Guru Nanak as well as Guru Tegh Bahadur. After the visit, we went  straight to the banks of Ganges and excited to see the river with reverence. 

Next we proceeded to Bihar museum. It is a huge museum. It show cases plenty of art facets and historical events of Bihar.  The time line that depicts the period of historic era was not only impressive but also  informative. Patna museum also located adjacent  to Bihar Museum. In which we are able to see the relics of Buddha. 

After the museum visit, we went straight to Golhar a old building where grains stored in olden days. It is believed that the top of the Golghar presents a wonderful panoramic view of the city and the Ganges. But due to renovation work, we were not allowed to go to the top.

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Golghar has never been filled to its maximum capacity and there are no plans to do so. Some have claimed that the reason for this is a flaw whereby the doors are designed to open inwards; thus, if it is filled to its maximum capacity, then the doors will not open.

Next on our way to Rajgir,  we visited the beautiful Pawapuri Jal Mandir .

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The Jal Mandir meaning Water Temple, also known, in Pawapuri, meaning a town without sins,  is a highly revered temple dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jain religion, which marks the place of his cremation. Mahavira attained Nirvana (salvation) in Pawapuri. The temple has been built within a tank filled with red coloured lotus flowers.

Rajgir is  a hilly area and famous for its hot water springs, locally known as Brahmakund, a sacred place for Hindus where water from seven different springs merge and is notable for its healing effects.

Another major attraction is the peace pagoda. Vishwa Shanti Stupa  built in 1969, one of the 80 peace pagodas in the world, to spread the message of peace and non-violence.It is the oldest peace pagoda in India.

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The Chairlift rope-way  is another attraction. It was a thrilling ride with scenic beauty. Initially it was scary for a moment, after that I started enjoying the ride. I never experienced such a exciting rope way ride anywhere.

We also visited the ruins of Nalanda. It was a University of historic importance.  Amazed to see the architectural masterpiece.. The most popular Mahavihara of the ancient times, a significant Buddhist seat of academic excellence and a modest pilgrim center. Nalanda continues to be popular and attract lot of tourists every year.

Although in ruins, the entire complex presents a pretty picture and is thronged  by tourists day in and day out. It has “viharas” or monasteries to the east and temples to the west. In addition to this, the complex houses a charming little museum, which has a collection of several of original Buddhist stupas, Hindu and Buddhist bronzes, coins, terracotta jars. Apart from Buddhism, it is an important center for Jainism, Hinduism, and Sufism as well. Considering the rich heritage and the historical importance, it is a hot tourist destination.

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After our Nalanda visit, we visited the Black Buddha temple.This temple is a very interesting one. Though it is small in size but it is clean and well maintained. The statue of Lord Buddha is made of black stone unlike anywhere else. Here also lot of international tourists come every day  to pay their obeisance to Lord Buddha.

We left Bihar and reached Delhi with memories of Buddha and new friends.

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A pilgrimage to Shirdi and Nashik

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My  wish to visit to Shirdi was fulfilled on 27th Oct 2018. The train from Delhi reached Manmad station at about 5.30 AM. Reached Shirdi at 7.00 AM. Booked our accommodation at Sai Ashram managed by Sai Trust. The accommodation was neat and clean. Inside the Ashram lot of facilities provided to devotees by Sai Trust like subsidised food, free dharshan tickets and free distribution of prasad almost throughout the day. Separate queues for Senior citizens and for those booked through online.  It is the most organized temple I have ever seen.

Sai Baba of Shirdi,  was an spiritual master who is regarded by his devotees as a saint, a fakir, a satguru and an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is revered by both his Hindu  and  Muslim devotees during, as well as after his lifetime. 

According to accounts from his life, he preached the importance of realization of the self, and criticized love towards perishable things. His teachings concentrate on moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the God and guru. Sai Baba also did hate distinction based on religion or caste.

We also visited Shani Shingnapur. The village is known for its popular temple of Shani, the Hindu god associated with the planet Saturn. Here the deity is installed in in the open with no roof over it.

Shingnapur is also famous for the fact that no house in the village has doors, only door frames. Villagers believe that god Shani punishes anyone attempting theft.

The deity here is “Swayambhu” (self-evolved deity) that is self emerged from earth in form of black, imposing stone. Though no one knows the exact period, it is believed that the  Shanaishwara statue was found by shepherds of the then local hamlet.

After our visit to Shirdi, we visited Nashik, an ancient holy city of Maharashtra situated on the banks of Godavari River.  Nashik is a city of its own distinction as the whole city is surrounded by beautiful mountains. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated here every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad and Maha Kumbh takes place every twelve years at four places in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. According to the Puranas, it is believed that Kumbh derives its name from an immortal pot of nectar, which the devtas (Gods) and demons fought over. The four places where the nectar fell are at the banks of river Godavari in Nashik, river Kshipra in Ujjain, river Ganges in Haridwar and at Triveni Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati River in Allahabad

In Nashik we first visited the Pandavleni Caves which is at the top of a hill. It was amazing to see the beautiful as well as artistic caves at the top of the mountain.

Next we visited Saptashrungi temple situated 60 kilometres.. According to Hindu traditions, the goddess Saptashrungi Nivasini dwells within the seven mountain peaks. (Sapta means seven and shrung means peaks.) There are 510 steps to climb the gad.Devotees visit this place in large numbers every day. The view from this temple is really awesome.

River Godavari flows through Nashik and its Northern part is called as Panchavati. It is said that lord Shri Ram and Sita along with Laxman stayed at Panchavati for some time. Thus Panchavati has gained holy importance. There are five Banyan (Vad) trees and hence the area is called Panchavati.Nearby is Sita Gumpha (cave) where Sita is said to have stayed for some time.The sages used to meditate in close proximity with the lush green nature. Laxmana – brother of Rama – used to stay here and cut the nose of Shurpanakha – sister of Ravana. This place has temples of Laxmana and Hanuman. The most important place in Panchavati is Ramkund. It is so called because Lord Rama is believed to have taken bath there. We also visited the Kala Ram temple.

After visiting Panchavati, we proceeded to Triambakeshwar Temple, Nashik. It is a beautiful temple with architectural excellence.   As per the Shiv Purana, once Brahama (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of preservation) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiv pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiv appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshiped till the end of eternity.

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A pilgrimage to Allahabad & Varanasi

A trip to holy city

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On a long week end in 29 Mar 18 scheduled our visit to Allahabad and Varanasi. Our train reached Allahabad early morning. First day we proceeded to Anand Bhavan. Anand Bhavan is a historic house museum focusing on the Nehru Family. It was constructed by Motilal Nehru in 1930s to serve as the residence of Nehru family. Here we saw rare photographs of Nehru’s family and snaps of pre-independence activities.    Jawahar Planetarium is  also located here.

Next day we proceeded to Triveni Sangam to have a holy dip. Here three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati mingles.

A place of religious importance and the site for historic Kumbh Mela  held every 12 years, over the years it has also been the site of immersion of ashes of several national leaders, including Mahatama Gandhi in 1948. After the holy dip at the Sangam, we visited Hanuman temple and very Adi Shankracharya temple.

Hanuman Mandir, Allahabad is a unique temple situated near the Allahabad Fort. Hanuman Temple, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh in India is famous for being the only temple where Lord Hanuman is seen in a recline posture.

Adi Shankracharya temple is the only temple in Allahabad, built by Shri Kanchi Kamkoti Peeth, in south Indian style of architecture. This magnificent temple is four storeys high and is standing on 16 strong pillars attaining a height of 130 feet. The construction of the temple was started in 1970 but could only be completed in 1986 . At every floor of this temple adobe of different Gods and Goddesses have been constructed. Idols of Sankaracharya, Kamakshi Devi (with 51 Shaktipeetha around), Tirupati Balaji (with 108 Vishnu around), Yogshashtra Sahasrayoga Linga (having 108 Shivas around) are installed in the temple. Inside walls of this temple have paintings of pictures of various scenes of Ramayan in decorated manner. Regular puja in the temple is performed by a group of priests from south India

After our trip to Allahabad we proceeded to Varanasi the holy city. We got rejuvenated over the the very sight of ghats (the place where the pilgrims take bath). We engaged a boat to go to Kasi Viswanath temple.  It was a evening time. The sun was about to set. The whole atmosphere was so serene and divine. While on the boat we could see the entire stretch of the beautiful ghats. It was so mesmerising. We reached the temple after crossing so many narrow lanes. After return from the temple we got an opportunity to witness evening arti of Ganga. It is being conducted daily one hour in the evening at 7.30  pm to 8.30 pm.

Kashi Vishvanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishvanatha  meaning Ruler of The Universe. Varanasi city is also called Kashi, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishvanath Temple. Taking a holy dip is an important event as the Hindus believe that if you take a holy dip here you will be free from rebirths. We had a holy dip at Tulsi Ghat as well as Dashashwamedh Ghat

We also visited Banares Hindu University to have a darshan of  Kasi Viswanath Temple inside the campus. The temple is so serene and very peaceful.

Next day we  visited the famous Durga mandir, Kamkya Mandir. Though both are small temples, I surprised over large devotees thronging these temples.

We also visited Sarnath, located just 12 km from the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, is the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma after his enlightenment. Sarnath is one of four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha himself for pilgrimage.After his enlightenment in Bodhgaya, the Buddha went to Sarnath seeking his five former companions. He found them, taught them what he had learned, and they also became enlightened. This event is referred to as “the turning of the wheel of the Dharma”. When we were walking around various Budhha temples here, we felt mental peace. That is the influence of Lord Buddha.

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