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Showing posts from January, 2008

A Pilgrimage Special: Vulture Peak

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At Rajgir, we visited Gridhkuta Peak or more popularly known as Vulture peak, a placed said to be loved dearly by Lord Buddha. Many important incidents happened around here. Prior to his enlightenment, Lord Buddha had stayed in a cave here on his first alms begging mission and after enlightenment had again returned to deliver sermons and convert the powerful Magadhan King Bimbisara . Devadatta also let loose an intoxicated elephant to kill the Buddha here and threw a rock which hit Buddha's foot. The first Buddhist council was held here in Saptaparni cave and it was during this time that the teachings of Lord Buddha was penned down. The original road to Gridhkuta Peak was built by King Bimbisara to facilitate pilgrim's visit. Today, the hill hums with pilgrims and tourists and beggars too. Pilgrims and tourists alike can take a 2200 feet aerial ropeway to the hill top to see the 160 feet high Vishwa Shanti Stupa that was built behind the Gridhakuta. For us, we took a walk …

A Pilgrimage Special: A Tragic Tale

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Rajgir used to be called Rajagaha and had been the capital of the kingdom of Magadha for centuries. Here, a tragic story abounds. It was here that King Bimbisara, a lay follower of Buddha offered the Bamboo Garden (Veluvana) to the Buddha and it is here too where King Bimbisara was usurped by his parricidal son, Ajatasattu. At the instigation of Devadatta, Ajatasattu had imprisoned his father with the intention of starving him to death. Initially, the king was saved from death because the Queen would feed him with honey which she smuggled into the jail and this she did by smearing her body with honey! When Ajatasattu had a son of his own, he was filled with so much love for the baby that he asked the Queen if his own father had loved him as much. To this the Queen had answered, When you are a baby and could not sleep, your father had took you in his arms and had sucked your thumb to soothe you to sleep. Who could have loved you more? Hearing this, Ajatasattu suddenly realised wha…

A Chinese New Year Song

A Pilgrimage Special: An Ancient University

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In Bada Gaon, somewhere southeast of Patna, lies the ruin of world famous Nalanda University. It was the first residential International University in the world and had been recorded as the world's earliest university. At its peak, it housed about 2000 teachers and 10,000 students who came from all over the world including Tibet, Korea and China who came to study scriptures of Buddhism from both Mahayana and Hinayana Schools, Vedas, Hetu Vidya(Logic), Shabda Vidya(Grammar), Chikitsa vidya(medicine) etc. Memories of Lord Buddha lingered here and he was said to have visited here several time. Two chief disciples of Lord Buddha, Sariputta and Moggallana hailed from the vicinity and today, the stupa built in honour of the Sariputta by King Asoka still stands proudly. According to our guide, this stupa has not been fully excavated and there should be more interesting things beneath the stupa. Many interesting things however, had been destroyed eons ago. When Hsuan Sang the Chinese p…

A Pilgrimage Special- Patna

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When our guide told us that Patna was the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, I was surprised. In Syria, I was told it was Damascus but now checking through the Internet, both are said to be among the oldest which is really more like it. Anyway, in ancient time, this is the capital of King Asoka and is known as Pataliputra. It shouldn't be important in our trip even if Gautama Buddha himself had passed through it which he really did several time and in the last year of his life when it was known as Pataligama. Yes, Patna would not be important to us if not for the nearby Buddhist pilgrim centres of Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya. Patna is the ideal gateway to all these places and we entered it just after nightfall, crossingthe 5850 m bridge , Mahatma Gandhi Setu over the river Ganga ...
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Our Hotel in Patna, Hotel Chanakya...


Outside our hotel, a statue stands...

and a trishaw rider waits for clients...

A Pilgrimage Special: The Relic Stupa of the Licchavis

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Before Patna too, we did visit the Relic stupa of the Licchavis at Basrah. The original mud stupa of the Licchavis is still there surrounded by burnt bricks of a later period.The stupa is not as impressive as so many of the stupa that we had visited earlier. Most of the ones we visited were massive in structure and had been built and improved on by various people over different period of time. Now, after talking about stupa for so long, what exactly is a stupa?A stupa is actually a type of Buddhist mound-like structure found across India and other parts of Asia, and supposedly increasingly in the Western World. In South East Asia, it is known as chedi, in Sri Lanka, dagoba or as tope. The stupa was originally only a simple mound of mud or clay to cover supposed relics of the Buddha. After the passing away of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes divided and buried under eight stupas with two further stupas encasing the urn and the embers. It was here at the Relic stupa…

A Pilgrimage Special: An Ancient Republic

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While traveling to Patna, the capital of Bihar and just before reaching it, we had stopped at Vaishalli which itself, used to be the capital of the Lichchhavis who were supposed to be credited with the world's first republic. Vaishali had been visited by Lord Buddha a number of times and besides delivering several sermons, it was near here that he admitted women to the Holy Order. It was here too that legend had it that several monkeys dug up a tank for Lord Buddha's comfortable stay besides, offering him a bowl of honey. Places of interests which we visited included the Asoka Stupa, a dome-shaped mound of 4.6m high and diameter 20 m which has been seen by Hsuan Tsang himself! One of the Asokan Pillars which managed to withstand the Muslims onslaught stood nearby, just as the Markata-hrada, the tank or pond called Rama-kunda supposedly dug up by the colony of monkeys mentioned earlier.
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A Pilgrimage Special - Traveling The Buddhist Circuit

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There are four holy places of pilgrimage namely Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kusinagar. These places are rather far apart from each other and each journey often entails a journey of over a hundred or two hundred kilometers, and takes at least more than five hours of traveling. Our journeys passing through hamlets and paddy fields were rather interesting and on one of these journeys from Lumbini to Kushinagar, we had stopped at a school uninvited to do dana and in others from Kushinagar to Patna for instance, we had to bring along packed lunch and eat in the bus or in the case of the journey from Varanasi to Agra, in the train. The packed lunch of fried rice, eggs, fruits which we got while traveling to Patna was rather big and some of the pilgrims kindly gave them away to little Indian boys who swarmed them on our stop for the toilet, only to discover later, that the rice were discarded. The boys took the eggs and fruits though and we concluded that rice was not their type of food a…