Even after staying for a continuous 18 years in Bihar, I had never been to Bodhgaya till my only maiden visit recently. I had not undervalued the importance of this place, but at the same time I was not curious enough to visit this place. Thanks to my wife, who forced me to travel to Bodhgaya and made me realise the importance of this place in the world history.
Bodhgaya is the place from where Buddha attained his enlightenment. Of, all the four pilgrimage places for Buddhists in world, i.e. Bodhgaya, Kushinagar, Lumbini and Sarnath; the most sacred and important is Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is located in Bihar state of India, near the banks of the river Neranjana.
We traveled on 14th Aug 2013 from Patna, the state capital of Bihar by road. The driver was unknown about the route, so we took help of Google navigation. We took the route Patna-Bakthiyarpur road and then NH83 which passes through Jahanabad town.
The whole journey of 115 Km took us around 4.5 hours with a refreshment stop of 20 minutes at Jahanabad. Please note that one has to be extra careful while stopping at Jahanabad as this town is infected with naxal terrorism.
Our first stop at Bodhgaya was Mahabodhi temple. This temple was built by the King Ashoka who was the ruler of Magadh in around 400 B.C. The temple is the place where Gautam Siddharth at the age of 29 had achieved enlightenment in around 588 B.C after meditating for 6 years in Bodhgaya.
The tree, known as Bodhitree is the sampling of Maha Bodhi tree from Srilanka which is considered a sampling of the original Peepal tree under which Gautam Buddha had meditated and attained enlightenment. The place was extremely serene even though there were lots of devotees in the temple. There were monks; old, young and children who were chanting or meditating under the trees in the garden. I guess, this tranquility of monastery has got such soothing effect on the devotees that they always want to come back again and again.
I was lucky to meet an old monk from Thailand who tied a yellow sacred thread on my wrist. He asked me to chant Su-Kha-Ti. I don't even know that whether I heard the chant properly, but the gesture and motive of the monk was kind for sure. The chord of humanity is much more important than the lines of any chant in this world.
Bodhgaya is at least 15 Km from the town Gaya, which is a very crowded and congested place. Bodhgaya is full of monasteries and temples built by 10 different countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Srilanka and few more. The temples built by China, Japan and Thailand seemed to have the most beautiful architecture among all of them.
There is also a giant Buddha statute of height of 80 ft built by Japan which makes you think about the greatness of Lord Buddha.
The tourist seasons starts from October as the winter arrives in India. During those months the town is buzzing with tourists from all over the world and one gets to taste authentic delicacies of different countries.
The place has left a lasting impression on me and my wife and has forced me to study more about Lord Buddha and his teachings. Buddhism is one of the oldest religion that had originated around 400-500 B.C. This was probably before even the Hindu mythology Ramayana and Mahabharata happened.
There are lots of unanswered questions in front of me.
Bihar is the origin of Buddhism but why there is such less following of Buddhism in Bihar state in India?
Why people worship and follow Buddha so much even though he had left his family and domestic life to wander in search of enlightenment?
Buddhism promotes a lot about peaceful and simple living to its followers yet we see some of the Buddhist nations have been actively engaged in wars with other countries. I understand that no religion promotes war but still this is an unanswered question about Buddhism.
The visit to Bodhgaya has made me wanting to read a lot about Buddha and Buddhism. Hope, I am able to take out time soon to pursue my knowledge about Buddhism and can get some enlightenment about life.