BUDDHIST SO-JOURN

TOUR CODE: NGS SH 01 – BUDDHIST SO-JOURN Best Buddh Circuit Tour

                                     Duration:  14 Nights/15 Days

Day 1 : Arrival Delhi :

Welcome to Delhi Airport. On arrival transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 2: Delhi –Varanasi | Domestic Flight

After breakfast, transfer to Delhi domestic airport to take the flight to Varanasi. On arrival at Varanasi, transfer to your hotel. In the Rigveda, the city of Varanasi is called Kasi or Kashi, “The Luminous one.”

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Varanasi is the cradle of human civilisation where shoots of education, literature and culture were born. You can have a panoramic view of Hindu rituals here as it preserves its sacred character from age old times. The famous Indian poets and religious reformers like Kabir and Tulsi Das spent a large part of their lives here. The city of Varanasi is especially famous for its “ghats”, banks covered with stone steps that allow Hindu devotees to go down to the river to offer pujas and ablutions. Bathing in the Ganges is a very important ritual for Hindus, more particularly for specific castes on specific ghats. The most well-known Ghat is Manikarnika, where non-stop cremations happen. The most important temple of the city is the “Kashi Vishvanatha”or the “Golden Temple”.Non-Hindus are forbidden to enter this temple. The renowned Banaras Hindu University, founded by Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1916 attracts students from all over India. The city is also famous for its embroidered silk saris with zardosi and brocade work, for glass beads, woodwork and most of all banarasi sweets and the famous banarasi“paan” (betel)!

Early morning, boat ride on the river Ganges, to view the activities revolving around the holy river. Life on the banks of the Ganga begins before dawn when thousands of pilgrims, men, women and children, come down to the river and wait for the rising sun. As the sun rises, the river lifts its misty curtain gradually, to reveal the magnificent buildings creating a solemn atmosphere unmatched by any other city in the world.  Soon after the sunrise, the city’s great amphitheatre bursts into activity. In the charged holistic atmosphere of the morning, venerable Brahmins (known as Pandas) recite passages from sacred texts; priests dispense holy ashes to pilgrims to mark their foreheads in veneration of the gods. The city comes alive with boatmen, shrill-voiced Flower sellers, sweetmeat and other knick-knack vendors, sacred bulls and cows roaming around.  Witness all these activities during the boat ride and Return to hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast, start the city tour covering Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple which is located on the Assi ghat and was established by Saint Tulsiram in the 1500s.The present temple structure was constructed by the freedom fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in 1900s. It is devoted to Lord Rama and Hanuman. Next, visit Golden Temple (Kashi Vishwanath). The Golden Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and built by Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1780. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore provided 800 kg of gold plating on the tower. The temple situated on the western Bank of the holy river Ganga, the holiest of Shiva temples, followed by visit to Kal Bhairav Temple which is one of the ancient temples of Lord Shiva that can be found in Varanasi. This temple has a strong link with the history and culture of the city. Kal Bhairav Temple is the fiercest form of Lord Shiva. The deity is portrayed as a man wearing garlands made with human skull. It is said that the death itself is afraid of this form of Lord Shiva. Mrityunjay Mahadev Mandir – This temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva and situated on the way from Daranagar to Kalbhairav temple. There is an ancient well which has much religious importance and it is believed that its water is cure to several diseases. The temple opens early in the morning at 4.00 am and closes late night at 12.00 pm. Arti timings are at 5.30 am, 6.30 pm and 11.30 pm. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

After Lunch break visit BHU and Durga temple, which is also known as Monkey temple (because of the presence of huge number of monkeys), situated in the Durga Kund, Varanasi. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Durga. It was built in the 18th century. Durga temple was constructed by a Bengali Maharani in the north Indian Style with multi tiered shikhara. An attractive pond known as the Durga Kund is made on the right side of the temple which really increases the beauty of the temple. The pond has stone stairs on all sides and watch pillars at each corner of the pond.

In the evening, experience the Hindu ritual “Aarti”. Aarti refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity, combined with the offering of the lamps. Hindus in India worship the river Ganges as goddess. Every evening in Varanasi, aarti is performed at the Dashashwamedh ghat. We can reach the ghat thru intricate labyrinths and watch it by the Ghat or from the waterfront sitting in a boat. The atmosphere is majestic, resonant with the sound of bells, drums, cymbals etc. It is beautiful to watch the precise choreography involving rituals performed by several priests. Return to hotel and overnight in Varanasi.

Day 3 : Varanasi-Sarnath-Varanasi| 25 Kms/ 2 Hrs

After breakfast, visit Sarnath approximately 10km (6.2ml) from Varanasi City. Lord Buddha chose Sarnath to deliver his first sermon, in a Deer Park, after his enlightenment. Hence it was here he established his sangha or first disciples to promote his new doctrine. It makes Sarnath one of the most venerated Buddhist places. Besides Buddhism, Sarnath is also connected with Jainism.  Shreyansanath, the Eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism was born in Singhpur, a village approximately one kilometre away from the site. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Sarnath is one of the 4 most sacred places for Buddhists where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon to his five disciples after enlightenment in Bodhgaya.It is here that the first Sangha was created.The other three important sites being Lumbini, the site of birth; Bodhgaya, the site of enlightenment; and Kushinagar, the site of Nirvana of Lord Buddha.

The main attractions in Sarnath are the Deer Park, the Chaukhandi Stupa, the place where Lord Buddha first met his 5 disciples, Dhammek Stupa (Dhamekha Stupa), the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. Mulagandhakuti Vihara, the place where Lord Buddha had spent his first rainy season. You can see the Ashoka Pillar (Ashokan Lion Pillar), which was found amidst the ruins, and is re-structured from the remnants of the real Ashoka Pillar. It is kept in the Archeological museum which also treasures the most beautiful statues of Buddha.

Day 4: Varanasi-Bodhgaya | 260 Kms/ 6 Hrs

After breakfast we leave for Bodhgaya. Arrive and check into hotel.  Bodhgaya is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres in the state of Bihar. It was here that Gautama attained enlightenment and became Buddha under the “Bodhi” tree. Bodh Gaya is the most holy place for Buddhists. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela.

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King Ashoka was the first to build The Mahabodhi temple here, but was destroyed later by the Turk invaders. The present pyramidal temple was built during the Gupta Period.

Visit The temple complex that contains the Mahabodhi Temple with the Vajrasana Throne also known as the “Diamond Throne“- donated by Emperor Ashoka; the holy Bodhi tree;the Lotus Pond  which contains a  beautiful statue of meditating Lord Buddha sitting on a snake coil protected by its hood,is associated with the myth that during his 5th week of meditation, a huge storm broke out, hence to protect the Lord from it the snake king Muchalinda protected him by his hood.Another attraction is Animesh Lochan Chaitya– where Lord Buddha spent 7 days after his enligtenment looking at the Bodhi tree. Bodhgaya also has a number of monasteries, established by Buddhists of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, etc.  Also visit Sujatakuti and, if weather permits, the Pragbodhi cave (also known as Mahakala cave) where the Buddha practiced extreme austerities. Overnight at hotel.

Day 5: Bodhgaya-Rajgir | 75 Kms/ 2 Hrs

After breakfast, proceed to Rajgir. Rajgir is a place of great significance for Buddhists as well as Jains. Lord Buddha spent several months meditating and preaching at the Gridhra-kuta and it is also the site where Lord Buddha expounded the precepts of his Lotus Sutra and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. It is the place where he mastered a threatening elephant sent with an intention to kill the Lord. It is also said, it was the Lord’s monsoon retreat for 12 years. He also delivered some of his famous sermons and initiated king Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to Buddhism. On Vaibhar hills is the Saptparni cave where the First Buddhist Council was held, which compiled the teachings of Lord Buddha in its authentic form, after his death. Sightseeing at Rajgir covers the Shanti Stupa, Hot Springs, Gridhakuta Hill, Bimbisara Jail and other Jain and Buddhist monuments. Overnight in Rajgir.

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Day 6: Rajgir-Nalanda-Patna | 110 Kms/ 3 Hrs

After breakfast, proceed to Nalanda (20 km); a great centre of learning in ancient time. Though Emperor Ashoka built a temple here dedicated to Shariputra, chief disciple of Lord Buddha, it was Kumaragupta of Gupta dynasty who founded the Nalanda Mahavihara (University), after which it came to be known as centre for learning. After the Gupta period, the Kushanas, the Palas patronised this university. King Harsha, the emperor of Kanujj was the last patron. This oldest residential university was known among scholars and students who traveled from different parts of Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Korea and Central Asia. It is said that the university hosted about 1,500 teachers and scholars, and about 10,000 students, in its peak years. The Institute engaged in imparting education and knowledge about philosophy, politics, law, science, and arts. Famous Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang was also a student at this reputed university. Hence it was one of the greatest monastic university of the ancient world, dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE, engaged in the organized transmission of Knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The fame of the university declined after the rule of the Pala Dynasty and was ruined by the Turk and Mughal invaders. Visit the ruins of the Nalanda University Archaeological Complex and the Nalanda Archaeological Museum.  Continue to Patna and check-in at the hotel. Overnight in Patna.

Day 7: Patna-Vaishali-Kushinagar | 250 Kms/ 7 Hrs)

After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Kushinagar. On the way visit Vaishali, which is of historical importance due to its close association with the life of Buddha?

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After renouncing Kapilavastu, his birth place, Lord Buddha arrived here for the first time. He had his initiation in spiritual training from Alara Kalam and Udraka in Vaishali. He made several visits to Vaishali after his enlightenment. One such crucial visit was when the people of Vaishali were suffering from death and decay due to a severe drought.He was asked to come to people’s rescue. He came accompanied by 500 monks with the help of King Bimbisara. On his arrival, there was thunder and lightening and torrential rain which made all the adverse forces flee from Vaishali. Vaishali is also known for being one of the four spots where Miracle in Buddha’s life happened. When he was meditating in the forest a monkey used to offer him a bowl of honey and an elephant used to feed him with a fruit. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Buddha also gave his last sermon in Vaishali. It was here that Lord spent his last Vasa before his Mahaparinirvana. Three months before, he announced to his disciples about his approaching departure from the world and before leaving for Kusinagar, where he laid his mortal coil, he left his alms-bowl with the people of Vaishali near Kesariya Stupa.  The famous courtesan and dancer Amrapali invited Buddha alongwith his disciples for a meal and donated her mango grove to him before his Parinirvana for the use of the Order. The relics of Buddha were kept in a soapstone casket in the Licchavi Stupa, but now the casket is kept in the museum. It is also in Vaishali that the Bhikkhuni Sangha was ordinated by the Lord, initiating his maternal aunt Gautami, based on the request of his disciple Ananda. It is also the place where the second Buddhist Coucil was held.

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There is also a Vishwa Shanti Stupa or World Peace Pagoda, built by Nipponzan Myhoji and Rajgir Buddha Vihar Society to disseminate love and peace and to create “The pure Land” on the earth, constructed, after the tragedy of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan, at the end of the World War 2.  Along with this visit Ashok Pillar, Ananda Stupa and Ram Kund. Continue to Kushinagar. On arrival check in at the hotel and overnight stay in Kushinagar.Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Day 8: Kushinagar

After breakfast, visit Kushinagar, where the Lord attained salvation or Mahaparinirvana, a state free from the cycles of death and life. The then capital of Malla Dynasty, Kushinagar was chosen by the Lord to spend his last days, where he has paid many visits in the past and many of the Mallas have become his followers. Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana in 487 BC on a bed of leaves under the sal trees just like the way he was born 80 years ago under Sal Trees in Lumbini, Nepal.  After his death, the Buddha’s body was cremated at the shrine of the Mallas, Ramabhar stupa, (which was built to mark Buddha’s cremation site after his Nirvana). His remains were initially divided into eight parts which were subsequently divided into 84000, parts by Emperor Ashoka and placed under various stupas in different parts of the country.

To mark the place of the Parinirvana, Emperor Ashoka built a stupa. Later the Gupta king made a 6m long monolith of the Reclining Buddha that can still be seen. The Reclining Buddha, lying on the right flank, has his head resting on a cushion or leaning on his right elbow, supporting his head with his hand, and feet swollen from the long travel from Vaishali.

Visit also the Matha Kuar stupa, which houses a 3 metre high Buddha statue carved in a single block and dating from the 10th or 11th century.

Day 9: Kushinagar-Lumbini | 180 Kms/ 5 Hrs

After breakfast, proceed to Lumbini in Nepal, en route visit Gorakhnath Temple and then cross the borders of Nepal. After the immigration clearance drive to Lumbini.

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Situated in the southern Nepal, Lumbini is where Mayadevi, Queen of Shakya clan, gave birth to Prince Siddartha, on a full moon night in the month of Apr-May, who then became the Lord Buddha. Lumbini was on the way from Kapilvastu to Devadaha, the parent’s home of Queen Mayadevi. The Queen intended to take a short rest before continuing her trip at Lumbini, but fate had a different intention as the Lord was born midway while the Queen was emerging from the bathing pond.

Today the holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond (Pushkarni), the Ashoka Pillar and the Mayadevi Temple, which is perhaps the place of birth of Siddharth Gautam. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Day 10: Lumbini- Kapilavastu-Lumbini | 120 Kms/ 3 Hrs

After the breakfast, start for day trip to Kapilavastu, the then capital of Shakya state, where  Prince Siddartha lived a life of luxury untill his 29 years of age. It was believed Suddhodhana, father of Siddartha, was informed, based on the prediction of Siddartha’s birth, that the child would become either a great King or an enlightened Buddha. Fearing that his son would become a saint, Suddhodhana, kept the young prince confined in a sanitized environment showering him with pomp and luxury, unaware of the hardships of life. He was also married to Yashodhara at a young age. However, destiny played its role one day when the Prince set out to meet his subjects. He saw the miseries of life: first an old man, then a sick man, a corpse and then an ascetic. This prompted him to leave his luxurious palace to find relief from this suffering like the ascetic who was in search of truth.

Best Buddh Circuit TourVisit, Tilaurakot, where Buddha spent his early life. The site with the remains of old ramparts, buildings and fortifications, especially the Eastern Gate, through which, it is said, Siddhartha Buddha passed to begin his new life.  Kudan, the ancient Nyagrodharama, the site where the Lord after his enlightenment, met his family, a few miles away from the actual Palace. If time permits, you may also visit the birth places of two previous Buddhas, Kanakamuni and Krakuchhanda, and the two stupas where the father and the mother of Buddha were cremated. Drive back to Lumbini. Night at hotel. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Day 11: Lumbini-Shravasti | 160 Kms/ 5 Hrs

After early breakfast in the hotel proceed to Shravasti.  After finishing the formalities of crossing the Nepal border, proceed to Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The then capital of Kosala Kingdom, Shravasti, is the place where Lord Buddha performed his Twin Miracles producing fire and water from his body at the same time, 7 years after his enlightenment. The miracle occurred during a contest with heretics, who wished to perform their own miracles. Apart from this incident, Shravasti is also dear to the Buddhists as the Lord spent 25 monsoon retreats here and hence largest amounts of suttas were taught here. Night at hotel. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Day 12: Shravasti

After breakfast, visit the different sites in Shravasti. Visit the Jetwana garden and monastery donated to Lord Buddha by one of his disciples where he spent many monsoon retreats and gave maximum discoures.Stupa of the place of the miracles. Angulima cave and another place of retreat given by Vishaka. Night at hotel. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

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Day 13: Shravasti-Sankissa | 370 Kms/ 7.5 Hrs

After breakfast, drive to Sankissa. Though a deserted city today, this town was at its peak fame during the Buddha period. It is at Sankissa that Lord Buddha returned to earth, after preaching Dhamma to his deceased mother for 3 months in Tushita or heaven.  It is said that the descent of the Buddha took place on three ladders coming down from Mt Meru to the earth: on the right was a ladder of gold for the celestial beings (devas); on the left a silver ladder for Brahma and his retinue; and in the middle a ladder of jewels for the Buddha. Because of this miraculous event, which was witnessed by a great multitude, Sankasia became an important Buddhist shrine and several stupas and viharas were erected there.

Emperor Asoka built a shrine over the spot where Lord Buddha’s right foot first touched the ground along with three ladders, which had been built of brick and stone, to commemorate the Buddha’s descent, but the ladders were completely destroyed by the passage of time.  There are only ruins today, but a small Ashoka Pillar marks the place. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

Day 14: Sankissa-Agra-Delhi | 380 Kms/ 6.5 Hrs

After the breakfast, proceed to Delhi. En route visit Agra.

Visit the majestic Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. This 17th century mausoleum in white marble was built by Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved queen Mumtaj Mahal. It is an architectural marvel, remarkable for its perfect symmetry of design and construction. Then visit the Agra Fort, a cluster of palaces and mosque built on the bank of the river Yamuna. Continue to Delhi. Night at Delhi.

Day 15: Dep from Delhi

After breakfast, start the city tour or proceed for shopping. After the visit, get dropped at the airport to board your flight. Best Buddh Circuit Tour

 

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