In the footsteps of the Buddha.
Two thousand five hundred years ago, a gentle sage taught the world the path to enlightenment. Sakyamuni, Gautama Buddha, travelled this land preaching his message of compassion, simplicity and renunciation. This circuit is a pilgrim's passage through the places immortalised by the Enlightened One.
The highlight of your journey will be the Holy Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya under which he gained enlightenment. Visit Sarnath where he gave his first sermon and Ku'shinagar where he attained Parinirvana. And among the ruins of Nalanda you can still hear a distant echo of the chants of scholars of ancient times. Your journey promises joy, serenity and a deeper understanding of one of the greatest thinkers of India.
After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha came to Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon. In the sylvan surroundings of a deer park, he initiated his first five disciples into the Buddhist monkhood. Here began one of the greatest religions of the world. Emperor Ashoka erected a magnificent stupa here. Forgotten for centuries, Sarnath was excavated by British archaeologists in 1836.
Sarnath is 9:6 km by road from Varanasi and is linked by a regular bus service. Nearest airport, Varanasi (32 km), is connected with daily flights from Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Calcutta and Kathmandu. Cars available on hire from ITDC Transport Unit, Varanasi.
What to see :
- DHAMEKH STUPA: Believed to date from 500 AD. the biggest stupa marks the spot where the Buddha proclaimed his faith.
- ASHOKA PILLAR: It records the visit of Emperor Ashoka to Sarnath in the 3rd century.
- BC CHOUKHANDI STUPA: Raised bv Emperor Akbar in 1555 AD at the spot where the Buddha met his five disciples.
- MULAGANDHA KUTI VIHAR: Built by the Mahabodhi Society. It contains a life-size golden image of the Buddha and colourful murals and frescoes painted by a Japanese artist.
Here the Buddha breathed his last and attained Mahaparinirvana. At Kushinagar, while entombing the relics of the Buddha, the architectural form of the stupa was created. Later, generations of devotees built stupas, chaityas and viharas here.
Kushinagar is connected by road to Gorakhpur, 55 km away. Gorakhpur is linked by air to Delhi, Calcutta, Lucknow and Varanasi.
What to see :
- NIRVANA TEMPLE: Enshrines a giant 15th century statue of the Buddha in a reclining position. RAMBHAR STUPA: Is popularly believed to be the spot where the Buddha was cremated by the Mallas.
- MATHA KAUR SHRINE: It has a 10th century blue schist image of the Buddha.
Under the giant Bodhi tree here, the Buddha gained enlightenment. After spending seven weeks pondering over his awakening,he stepped out to spread his message to the world. The Niranjana river where he bathed after enlightenment still flows close by. Bodhgaya has a magnificent complex of monasteries in various Buddhist architectural styles,
Bodhgaya is 16 km from Gaya. Gaya is well connected by rail to Calcutta (458 km), Varanasi (220 km) and Puri (589 km). Road links from Varanasi and Patna. Nearest airport is Patna.
What to see :
- BODHI TREE: The holy tree forms a canopy over the seven sacred shrines.
- MAHABODHI TEMPLE: With a soaring spire, the walls are carved with the various aspects of Buddhism. The sanctum sanctorum has a colossal golden Buddha. The templeis said to stand at the site of the original3rd century BC temple built by Emperor Ashoka.
- TIBETAN MONASTERY: The monastery is known for its massive 'dharmachakra' or 'wheel of law.'
- MAGADH UNIVERSITY: An international university and a centre for studies in history, culture and philosophy.
Nalanda is believed to be the oldest university in the world. Founded in the 5th century BC, it became a renowned centre of Buddhist and Jain learning. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveller, spent several years here in the 7th century AD.
Road links to Patna (103 km), Rajgir and Bodhgaya (89 km) Nearest railhead is Gaya. Nearest airport is Patna.
What to see
- NALANDA ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM: Magnificent collection of Pala and Mauryan statues, bronzes and manuscripts.
- NALANDA MAHAVIHAR: An institute for the study of Pali literature. It houses rare Buddhist manuscripts.
- The Grear STUPA : The Remains of the stupa include steps, terraces and other votive stupas.
The ancient capital of Magadha kings. The Buddha often visited Rajagriha to retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery, preaching and meditating on the Gridhakuta Hill. The disciples of the Buddha built many structures here. Rajgir is also sacred to Jains as Lord Mahavira studied and meditated here. The first Buddhist Council was held here after the Buddha's nirvana.
what to see :
- GRIDHAKUTA: On the summit of the hill stands the temple, the Vishwa Shanti Stupa. AJATASHATRU'S FORT: Ruins of a fort built by Ajatashatru in the 6th century BC.
In the ancient land of Mithila, Vaishali is steeped in legend. It was the capital of the Lichchavis, one of the earliest republics of the world. Here the Buddha preached his last sermon and announced his impending parinirvana. A century later, Vaishali was the venue of the second Buddhist Council, Emperor Ashoka erected one of his famous pillars here to mark the spot of the last prayer meeting.
Road links to Patna (55 km). Nearest railheads, Hajipur (35km), Muzaffarpur (36 km). Nearest airport is Patna. Regular bus services connect Vaishali to Patna.
What to see :
- BUDDHA STUPA 1: Sacred ashes were found enshrined in a casket.
- BUDDHA STUPA 2: Unearthed in 1958, also contains sacred ashes.
- CORONATION TANK: A huge reservoir where the Lichchavi kings were annointed before being crowned.
- BAWAN POKHAR TEMPLE: Built in the Pala period, enshrines several Hindu deities.
- CHAUMUKHIMAHADEVA: Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the black stone lingam is carved with four faces.
The complex at Sanchi has some of the oldest and finest examples of Buddhist architecture. The famous Great Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Here chaityas, temples, pillars and monasteries have sculptures on the tales of the Jatakas and episodes of the Buddha's life.
Road links to Bhopal. On the Delhi-Bombay railway line, the nearest railhead is Vidisha (10 km). Nearest airport is Bhopal (72 km). Taxis available from Bhopal.
What to see :
- THE GREAT STUPA: The oldest stone structure in India, the stupa has magnificently carved gateways or toranas. Amongst the finest examples of Buddhist art. The four gateways are each worth studying.
- ASHOKA PILLAR: Lies near the southern gateway. One of the finest examples of Ashokan pillars.
- GUPTA TEMPLE: This 5th century AD temple, is one of the earliest known examples of temple architecture in India.
Both these Buddhist sites are in the state of Andhra Pradesh. At Amravati, the remains of the Buddhist influence in the Satavahana period include majestic carvings, chaityas, viharas, murals and panels. At Nagarjunakonda, the excavated ruins of a Buddhist settlement date back to the second and third century BC.
The nearest airport is Vijayawada (82 km). The nearest railheads are Guntur (32 km) and Vijayawada. Taxis and buses are available from the railheads.