Buddhism, for me, is the religion that teaches how to practice peace. Nothing gives solace in this miserable world more than the meditating face of Buddha. Indians are fortunate to have a significant Buddhist heritage. It was in India that Lord Buddha attained Nirvana and gave his preachings. Buddha set in motion the Wheel of Dharma and gave his first sermon to his five companions, the sangha. He travelled across the country to take Buddhism religion to the people and later died in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
Like all of us, I also studied about Lord Buddha and his heritage in school. My grandfather also nurtured my inclination towards Buddhism and taught me to chant बुद्धं शरणं गच्छामि। धर्मं शरणं गच्छामि। संघं शरणं गच्छामि। (I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dhamma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge) Today though Buddha head has become the face of cosmopolitan religion which people buy in various forms such as idols, key chains, paintings, fountains and decorate at home, there is still more to Buddha and Buddhism for us to imbibe in our lives.
I realised the love of Lord Buddha when I travelled to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh about ten years back. I realised and experienced the peace diffused in the silence of the monasteries, nestled over the hills. In March this year, I again got the chance to experience the holy love, right at the place where Lord Buddha attained nirvana – Bodhgaya.
Bodhgaya is a must visit for you if you, irrespective of the religion you follow, believe in peace and that the world deserves some better destiny–free of violence and hatred.
It is not difficult to reach Bodhgaya as it is well-connected to major Indian cities. The nearest railway station is Gaya Junction, which is about 13 km away from Bodh Gaya. The town is then easily accessible by a local taxi. Bodhgaya is well connected to Gaya (17km), Nalanda (101 km), Rajgir (78 km), Patna (115km), Varanasi (252 km). Bodhgaya is easily accessible from Patna by road. It even has a small airport in Gaya, which is about 7 km away from the town.
We hired a taxi for our trip and left at 7 AM from Patna. The capital city had already got the morning rush and it took us about an hour to touch the main road.
Don’t expect any highway connectivity, as we see between Delhi and Agra or Mumbai and Pune as there is no high-speed highway. You would travel through NH 83 and NH 110, but it is a single road majorly, which is quite narrow. Passing through busy villages and stopping for the movement of trucks took most of our time. After about a four hours’ drive, we were in Bodhgaya.
As we reached Bodhgaya, the feeling of being at a pious and religious place started setting in. It felt as if the time has stopped and there is no hindrance between the petty disciple and the mighty Lord.
Our first stop was Mahabodhi temple. Even in the month of March, the scorching heat of Sun had made the walkway of the temple so hot that it was difficult to walk barefoot. But the devotees certainly didn’t care. Some visitors carried their children who were not able to walk.
The entrance of the temple is very impressive. As you come through the walkway and turn right, there stands the temple in its full glory. Standing at the entry of a staircase at a certain height, facing the temple, one can see the statue of Lord Buddha. The architecture of the temple is fascinating and it gives the feel of belonging to some other era.
The height of Mahabodhi temple is 170 ft and is adorned by Chatras, the symbol of sovereignty of religion. The base of the temple is about is 48 square feet, which goes narrow as it rises in the form of a slender pyramid. The temple has four elegant towers on each corner that rise graciously, giving the temple a benignant poise.
We walked inside the temple. In the main sanctum, there is a mighty statue of Lord Buddha in black stone, who is sitting in meditative state in lotus position with eyes half closed in touching the ground by his right hand. This is the posture sitting in which Buddha accomplished supreme enlightenment.
Votive stupas of all sizes, dating back to 2500 years, fill the entire courtyard of the temple in extreme elegance. The ancient railings surrounding the temple belong to the first century BC and are seen among the significant monuments of the century.
The temple, it seems, is standing like a grand symbol of Buddhism, unfurled by time to foretell the world the teachings of the Buddha to solve the miseries of human life, to teach them how to rise beyond the worldly problems and not let them affect you.
After coming out of the temple, we took a parikrama (round) of the temple and there at the back of the temple stands the mighty Mahabodhi tree. Sitting under the tree feels as if there has been nothing in the past or will be beyond this moment in life. What is there is just this – this very moment. We sat there for some time. I still wanted to sit some more, for which I thought that if life will give me another chance, I will definitely come again and sit here some more.
I picked some leaves of the tree, which were falling down and getting scattered by the wind. We had to compete with some of the monks for that, though.
Mobile phones are not allowed inside the temple premises, so you cannot capture a photograph. But, you can definitely capture some images and memories of the Lord in your heart to carry them back home with you.
Other treasures of Bodhgaya are Lotus Tank, Buddha Kund, 80 ft Statue of the Buddha. We also visited Chinese Temple ad Monastery, Burmese Temple, Buddhist Monastery of Bhutan, International Buddhist House and Japanese Temple, Thai Temple & Monastery, Tibetan Monastery. Each monastery depicts their own way of worshipping the Lord.
It was evening and time for us to embark our journey back to Patna. We faced the usual traffic on the highway and in the city and reached home for dinner by 9 PM.
Note: The short trip to Bodhgaya is a weekend trip from Patna and Kolkata. One should visit Bodhgaya in winters. From October to March is the best time to visit.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.