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Travelogue: A day’s tour to the land of Buddha, Bodhgaya

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.

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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.

Mahabodhi Temple

Maha Bodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.

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.

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The most Harmonious Dharamshala Mcleodganj with Shimla – World’s best Buddhism Spiritual Tour

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.

Mahabodhi Tree

Bodhi Tree, The Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya is directly connected to the life of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who attained enlightenment or perfect insight when he was meditating under it.

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.

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Opposition to corner Modi govt in Parliament over Nirav Modi-Mehul Choksi scandal

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Modi government is in chaos as the defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union minister for law and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad were seen defending the government over Nirav Modi-Mehul Choksi scandal and when the Opposition questions on Rafale deal,Smiriti Irani,the Union Cabinet Minister of Textiles and Information and Broadcasting responds by clarifying that all aspects including approval of CCS were followed in accordance with
the Defence Precurement Procedure.

Constitutionally Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are answerable to the people of India on both the financial frauds and the Rafale deal. The Opposition has planned to corner the government over the Nirav Modi controversy involving Punjab National Bank when the Parliament’s budget session resumes on March 5.

In four years of NDA’s tenure, Narendra Modi’s single point agenda has been to target previous UPA regime for all the failures of his government and to tarnish the image of Gandhi family.

There is a growing perception that Modi government connived with high-profile businessmen to flee the country with taxpayers’ money .People are feeling cheated as new scams continue (o unfold, undermining the public’s trust in the banking, regulatory and law enforcement system.

Thus PM Modi has failed to deliver on the promises he made in 2014 to curb corruption and to eliminate the
menace of fake currency notes and terrorism by the faulty decision of Demonetisation.

CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat attacked the prime minister saying the claims of Modi government of a corruption-free regime is now in “tatters” with the Nirav Modi scandal coming soon after the “murky” Rafale fighter jet deal.
“crony capitalism is flourishing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi Government and Crony capitalism and the nexus with corrupt politicians is at the root of the non-performing assets and the banking crisis in the country,” Karat has said.
PM is  not bothered over the increasing number of scams unearthed during his tenure of just four years,rather he
ignored to address the financial frauds or real issues concerning Aam AAdmi’s problems during Mann Ki Baat and avoids to reply to the Opposition’s legitimate questions in Parliament.

Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinh said Modi government cannot escape the responsibility that this scam
had started earlier but why was it allowed to continue.” Further stated that “truth had become a casualty’ in the political fight between the Congress and the BJP over the fraud.

Jaitley issued an absurd statement Stating that it is in the larger interest of India’s national security to keep the price details of defence deals i.e. Rafale deal a secret.

Modi government scrapped the 2005 deal signed during the UPA regime for purchase of 126 jets at a rate of Rs 526 crore each and inked a fresh pact in 2015 to purchase 36 jets at a much higher rate of Rs 15,070 crore each.
If government can disclose the range and minute details of missiles and other weapons then what is the need to keep secret the details of Rafale deal.In this era of globalisation , every power knows the military strength of each and every country.

The government is full of arrogance and is now preparing to reply to the Opposition by listing the measures such as
Changes to Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code taken to prove the government’s political will to punish bank loans defaulters and expedite debt resolution.

BJP spokespersons are seen trying to “establish” that the PNB scam took place not because of the NDA but the UPA regime but now there exists an element of trust deficit as how all high -profile businessmen known to the BJP leaders managed to flee the country.

It appears that main aim of Modi government is to entrap the public in taxes (GST and other taxes)and target its opponents with CBI and other agencies while allowing fraudsters to flee the country with taxpayers’ money ,but this policy doesn’t augur well for democracy in the country.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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World gearing up for a third world war : UK warns of Russian threat

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There is a growing unease in United States and Britain about Russia  progressing in achieving “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics along the lines of the European Union under Vladimir Putin. Britain has warned that Russia is the biggest threat to UK’s security since the end of the Cold War. Drawing similarities with the 1914 First World war, UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson has equated Moscow to North Korea after Russia has threatened to unleash nuclear war.

Due to the Russians’ presence in the Mediterranean region and the Kremlin’s “increased assertiveness,” it is time Britain gets stronger, he said. This comes just a week after Britain ordered ships to pass the disputed South China Sea, much closer to the Chinese coast than the white cliffs of Dover.

General Nicholas Carter has also warned that Britain will be unable to preempt or respond to Russian aggression unless its military capabilities are overhauled to match Moscow’s military capabilities. Since 2000, Putin has been Russia’s most powerful man after the resignation of Boris Yeltsin, holding positions of both prime minister and president and had been consistently working to achieve superpower status for Moscow and global hegemony equivalent to US.

The West became cautious of Puin moves after the Russian seizure of Crimea in March 2014, followed by its annexation. UK former defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon issued calls for increased defence spending, citing growing threats from Russia and cyber-attacks.

Fallon admitted that Britain has all the evidence of Putin’s intent to subvert western democracies, from the Netherlands to Montenegro, from Germany to even the United States.” “Through cyber, our enemies can target us anywhere on the planet: not only stealing our information, but exploiting us, coercing us, disrupting our energy supplies, our armaments, even our governments. Almost anybody can become a cyber-warrior: a laptop and some smart software can inflict enormous financial and physical damage on individuals and entire countries.”

To establish foothold in Middle East, Russia has significantly increased its military operations to Syria. Taking forward the geopolitical and ideological idea, Putin called for the Eurasian Movement of the Russian Federation, and said that there is a unique “Eurasian” civilization in Russia and its neighbors, distinct from both East and the West.

To pursue his goal, Putin clinched free trade pacts with countries to form Eurasian Union. The Russian leader is aggressively trying to achieve Eurasian integration process due to many common factors binding Russia and the European countries together : common history, geographical proximity, massive amounts of trade, etc. But confrontation is most likely between Russia and Europe.

The tensions between Russia and the West escalated after Russia air force purchased 10 of the strategic TU-160M nuclear bombers, code named Blackjacks by NATO. The TU-160M worth 15 billion rubles ($269 million) is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 7,500 miles non-stop without refuelling. US, UK and Europe are worried over Putin standing for re-election on March 18 – a poll showing he is likely to win.

Russia has deployed over 330,000 soldiers on its western border while NATO has stationed biggest military build-up on Moscow’s borders since the cold war. Moreover, Russia carried out simulated attack exercises across northern Europe, from Kaliningrad to Lithuania, as part of a new tactic in exploiting the gray areas between peace and war.

Talking about the military hardware, Britain fighter jets are stationed in Romania, US tanks, troops, artillery has been deployed in Poland to counter the Russian warships armed with cruise missiles in Baltic Sea.

An armada of Russian ships from the Baltic Fleet have been dispatched from Baltiysk naval base, in Kaliningrad Oblast, for large scale military exercises. Sweden, whose eastern coast borders the Baltic Sea, is issuing the advise for the first time since 1961 – the height of the Cold War.

U.S. National Security Strategy released by Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster states Russia and China are “revisionist” powers, genuine geopolitical rivals to the United States that “challenge American power, influence and interests,” while “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

Russia military has been deeply engaged in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since April 2014, where fighting has claimed 10,000 lives. The United States, European Union and other Western countries are continuing to put political and economic pressure on the Kremlin. Putin’s Russia is active today. “Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine—he is either trying to get those countries back into his realm .

Washington approved for the first time lethal weapons sales to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed militias and the announcement of a new U.S. sanctions list that targets Russians such as the Kremlin-appointed strongman in Chechnya.

Russia denounced the American strategy document as an “imperialist” relic of a delusional superpower that persisted in acting unilaterally on the world stage.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Royal Orchid announces the opening of group’s newest hotel in Nashik

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 Royal Orchid Hotels, the fastest growing hospitality chain in India today announced the opening of its new hotel in Nashik named ‘Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village’. Nashik popularly known as the wine capital of the country has gained immense popularity among the tourist in India.

Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village, with 32 rooms offers boutique accommodation with varied dining and banquet facilities. The glorious property will give travelers a mesmerizing experience and contemporary luxury.

On-site amenities at the hotel include a completely refreshed restaurant, a winery, a state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool, as well as a business centre, and spa services. The hotel has a wide range of facilities that let the guests choose from various room categories designed in keeping the touch of the city with elegance and relaxing atmosphere.

Located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra, Nashik is developing as a lively city with a blend of the ancient and modern touches attracting tourists from across the country. The city has numerous forts, temples, historic sites as well as a home to industries. The city offers green pastures, mountains and tours of the wine yard.

The most important attraction of the city includes Vineyards and Hindu temples situated in and around Nashik. May it be an important corporate event or a business meet or a simple getaway to explore nature and feel the essence of spirituality, Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village allows enormous options to its guests. The guests can experience the beauty and culture of Nasik just by availing one of the several facilities that the hotel provides to its patrons.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels said, “The hotel is the perfect complement to our recently refreshed Regenta portfolio of hotels across India. We are taking continuous steps towards expanding our presence all over India. The new hotel in Nasik is one such move towards achieving our aim. The government push toward tourism sector is giving us the much needed enthusiasm to go aggressive in adding new properties to our bouquet. Going forward we will continue to add more properties to both-explored and unexplored tourist destinations”

By now we have added eight properties – Mysore, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Kanpur, Dwarka, Indore, Pushkar and now Nasik in the current fiscal year taking the number to 49 hotels. We will continue our efforts in expanding our presence all over India”.

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