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The short Buddhist Circuit

7 Days 8 NightsTrip Code NSTR282

Lumbini, Sravasti, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Nalanda and fly out from Bodhgaya.

Itinerary

Day 01: Kathmandu

 

Arrival in Kathmandu, Transfer to hotel.

 

Visit Patan. Patan is one of the major cities of Nepal, best known for its rich cultural heritage and its tradition of arts and crafts. Also known as the city of festivals and feasts, it has a history of fine ancient art and is indeed renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship.

 

Patan Durbar Square: The Square is a fine cluster of ancient pagoda temples and stone statues which testify the artistic skills of Patan’s artists. The former Royal Palace complex is the center of Patan’s religious and social life which houses a museum with a wide, interesting array of bronze statues.

 

A remarkable monument here is a 16th century temple, Krishna Mandir, built entirely of stone and dedicated to the Hindu Lord Krishna. Important scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics have been carved in bas-relief. The minute details of this work show the high level that the art of stone carving attained in the sixteenth century.

 

Further east from the southern end of Durbar Square, is the Mahaboudha Temple, one of the most well known Buddhist sites of Patan. The temple, made of clay bricks with thousands of images of Lord Buddha engraved, is an excellent example of terra cotta art form. The terra-cotta structure is one of the fourteen-century Nepalese architectural masterpieces. Like the Krishna Mandir, it reveals an artistic tradition which evolved outside of Nepal and shows how native Nepalese craftsmen have been able to do justice to an unfamiliar art form. This temple is sometimes referred to as the temple of a million Buddhas because every single brick bears a small image of Buddha.

 

Kwa Bahal also known as the "Golden Temple" is situated at Patan. This Buddhist monastery showcases exceptional fine woodcarvings and repousse work.

 

Another attraction is the Tibetan Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Patan. The camp was established in 1960 under the initiative of the International Red Cross and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), in cooperation with the Government of Nepal. Its main objective is to help Tibetan refugees do something productive to support themselves. The small Tibetan population living here has set up a number of shrines and stupas as well as several souvenir shops offering authentic Tibetan handicrafts such as prayer wheels of wood, ivory, silver or bronze, long temple horns made of beaten copper, belt buckles, wooden bowls and jewelry. One can also get to see the Tibetans weaving carpets by hand.

 

Day 02: Kathmandu

 

Morning visit to Swoyambunath.

 

The Swayambunath Stupa is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu Valley. Historical records found on a stone inscription give evidence that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century A.D. i.e. before the coming of Buddhism in the valley. Among other legends, the 15th century Swayambhu Purana, tells of a miraculous lotus, planted by a past Buddha, which blossomed from the lake that once covered Kathmandu valley. The lotus mysteriously radiated a brilliant light and was named Swayambhu, meaning 'Self-Created or Self-Existent'. Saints, sages and divinities traveled to the lake to venerate this miraculous light for its power in granting enlightenment. During this time, the Bodhisatva Manjushri was meditating at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai Shan and had a vision of the dazzling Swayambhu light. Manjushri flew across the mountains of China and Tibet upon his blue lion to worship the lotus. Deeply impressed by the power of the radiant light, Manjushri felt that if the water were drained out of the lake, Swayambhu would become more easily accessible to human pilgrims. With a great sword Manjushri cut a gorge in the mountains surrounding the lake. The water, draining away, left the valley of present day Kathmandu.

 

The area surrounding the stupa is filled with chaityas, temples, painted images of deities and numerous other religious objects. The presence of the Hindu Harati Devi temple signifies the intermingling of the pantheons of Hinduism and Buddhism in the development of the religious trends of Nepal.. Swayambhunath stupa is also called the `Monkey Temple' because of the hundreds of monkeys who scamper about the temple.

 

After Swayambunath, visit Boudhanath Stupa which is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.

 

In 1979, Boudha became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed that this stupa contains the relics of Buddha Kashyapa. Amost 176 miniature stupas and paintings of Tibetan Buddhist pantheons cover the walls that surround the Stupa. It is an important pilgrimage site for Tibetans and is mentioned in the Tibetan Classical texts, Biography of Yeshe Tshogyal (A.D. 8 – 9) and Padma Ka’thang (A.D. 14). The Tibetan government had jurisdiction over the Stupa from the 17th - 19th century.

 

The whole area is rich in Tibetan culture and displays some of the finest forms of Tibetan art that can be seen in the Kathmandu Valley. Colorful thangkas, Tibetan jewelry, hand-woven carpets, masks, and khukuri knives are sold in stalls.

 

Afternoon, light lunch followed by flight to Bhairahawa, continue to Lumbini. On arrival, sightseeing tour of the sacred garden. Overnight stay at the hotel.

Lumbini:

Lumbini is one of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites based on major events in the life of Gautama Buddha. Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The sacred place, marked by a stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka of India in 249 BC, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The site was rediscovered in 1895, when a German archaeologist came upon Ashoka's Pillar, identified by its inscription. Recent excavations have turned up a stone bearing a "foot imprint", indicating the exact place of Lord buddha’s birth. This is where the Maya Devi Temple stands today. The Puskarni pond, where Queen Mayadevi, the Buddha's mother, had taken a bath before giving birth to him lies to the south of the Ashoka pillar.

 

Chinese pilgrims, Tsen Tsai (4th century A.D.), Fa-Hein ( 5th century A. D.) and Hieun-Tsang (7th century A.D.) accounted their travel to Lumbini, having seen the Holy Tree, the pond, stupas and shrines.

 

Today the holy site is being developed with international support as the ultimate Buddhist pilgrimage and a symbol of world peace.

 

Overnight stay at the Hotel.

 

Day 03: Drive to Sravasti (approx 255 km). Overnight stay at the hotel.

 

Morning drive to Sravasti along the terai and low belts of the Himalayas. Sravasti is part of the Buddhist circuit that encompasses the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Nepal.

 

During the time of Sakyamuni, a rich and pious merchant named Sudatta lived in Sravasti. While on a visit to Rajgir, he heard Lord Buddha's sermon and decided to become the Lord's disciple. He was confused and asked the Lord whether he could become a follower without forsaking worldly life. To his query, the Buddha replied that it was enough that he followed his vocation in a righteous manner.

 

Sudatta invited the Buddha to Sravasti and began to look for a suitable place to build a vihara. A beautiful park at the southern edge of Sravasti attracted his attention. The park belonged to Jeta, son of King Prasenjit of Sravasti. The park came to be known as Jetavana Vihara in recognition of Prince Jeta's donation to the sangh.

 

Buddha spent 25 years living in the monastery of Jetavana. It is said that it was in Sravasti that the Buddha transformed Angulimal, a dacoit into a Buddhist monk. It is here that the Buddha is said to have performed great miracles. One story tells of how on throwing down the seed of a mango, a great mango tree arose instantly. Another story relates of how the Buddha stood in air with the lower part of his body engulfed in flames.

 

King Ashoka erected two pillars 21 meters high on either side of the eastern gateway of the Jetavana monastery. Sravasti was a flourishing center of learning during the Gupta period. When the famed Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang visited this site, he found several damaged stupas and ruins of monasteries and a palace.

 

Day 04: Sravasti – Kushinagar (approx. 300 km). Overnight stay at the hotel.

 

Drive to Kushinagar, lunch at hotel.

 

Kushinagar is situated at a distance of 53 km west of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh, in the northern part of India.

 

Kushinagar was an important center under the Mauryan King, Ashoka. It is another principal centre of Buddhism and is the place where Lord Buddha passed away near the Hiranyavati River and was cremated at the Ramabhar stupa. Ramabhare Stupa is the most important landmark here as it is said to have been built on the same spot where Lord Buddha was cremated in 543 B.C.

 

Another significant temple at Kushinagar is the Mahaparinirvana Temple and has the 20 feet long gigantic deity of Lord Buddha which was excavated in 1876. According to the inscription on the body of the statue , it was made during the 5th century AD. This is a sacred place for the Buddhist devotees since it has the Stupas where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana, a state of permanent bliss.

 

Day 05: Sarnath – Varanasi (approx. 265 kms). Overnight at the hotel.

 

Morning drive to Sarnath through villages, passing rice fields and rivers.

 

Sarnath is located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India.

 

After attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, the Buddha went to Sarnath and it was here that he preached his first discourse in the deer park. Lord Buddha encountered the five men who had been his companions of earlier austerities and taught them what he had learned. This event is referred to as "the turning of the wheel of the Dharma" (Maha-Dharmachakra Pravartan). and also marks the founding of the Sangha, or the community of monks.

 

The Buddha's central teaching after his enlightenment centered around the Four Noble Truths (concerning the meaning of life) and the Noble Eightfold Path (concerning the right way to live).

 

Within the deer park complex is the large Dhamekha Stupa, constructed by the Emperor Ashoka in 249 BCE, and several other Buddhist structures that were added between the 3rd century BCE and the 11th century CE. The wheel symbolises samsara (world), the eternal wheel of existence which goes on and on, life after life because of ceaseless cravings and desire.

 

The current name Sarnath, from Saranganath, means "Lord of the Deer" and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe he is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer. At the end of the 12th century, Sarnath was ransacked by Turkish Muslims. The site was subsequently plundered for building materials and remained in ruins until until 1836, when the British began excavations and restoration.

 

Buddhism flourished in Sarnath because of the support of kings and wealthy merchants based in nearby Varanasi. By the 3rd century, Sarnath had become an important center for the arts, which reached its zenith during the Gupta period (4th-6th century AD). When Hsuan Tsang visited from China in the 7th century, he found 30 monasteries and 3000 monks living at Sarnath.

 

After Sarnath, proceed to Varanasi. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre for several thousand years. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning."

 

The highlights of Varanasi are the Vishwanath temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva, the main deity is known by the name Vishwanatha meaning the Ruler of the universe), Benaras Hindu University (spread over 1350 acres (5.5 km²), it was built on land donated by Kashi Naresh, the hereditary ruler of Banaras and is the largest residential university in Asia, with over 24,000 students) and Dasomedha ghat.

 

Day 06: Varanasi – Bodhgaya (approx. 265 kms) 4-5 hours drive.

 

Few places in India are as colorful or spiritual as the bathing ghats lining the Ganges in Varanasi where Hindu pilgrims come to wash away a lifetime of sins in the Ganges or to cremate their loved ones. The river Ganga is considered a river of salvation, an everlasting symbol of hope to past, present and future generations. The accessibility to the practices of an ancient but still living religious tradition is what captivates many visitors, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river is an experience that some may like to try.

 

Leave for Bodhgaya, passing towns and villages enroute. Bodhgaya is located in the Indian state of Bihar and is the place where Lord Buddha gained Enlightenment. This place is also associated with the Mahaboudha Temple complex which in 2002 became a UNESCO world Heritage Site.

 

Bodhgaya is situated on the banks of the river Niranjana, the holy river during the times of Lord Buddha. Across the river is a village known as Sujata Kuti, named after the girl Sujata who offered rice pudding to Siddhartha before Enlightenment.

 

As the story goes, Prince Gautama Siddhartha sat in meditation under a bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa). After three days and three nights of meditation, it is said he gained Enlightenment and insight into the answers he sought. Seven weeks thereafter, he travelled to Sarnath where he began teaching Buddhism. It is believed that 250 years after the Enlightenment, , the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya. He is considered to be the founder of the original Mahabodhi temple.

 

The history of Bodh Gaya has been documented by the personal accounts of Chinese pilgrims like Faxian (5th century) and Xuanzang (7th century). The area was the heart of Buddhist civilization for centuries, until it was conquered by Turkic armies in the 13th century.

 

Day 07: Bodhgaya: Excursion to Rajgir and Nalanda

 

Morning, sightseeing at Rajgir which was the first capital of the Kingdom of Magadha ruled by Bimbisara, who later became a devotee of Lord Buddha. It was here that Buddha spent several months meditating and giving sermons at Gridhrakuta (Hill of the Vultures).

 

The remains of Jibaka, the personal physician of Lord Buddha lies here at Rajgir.

 

Bodhgaya houses various Buddhists monasteries which belong to different sects of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

 

The place is sacred both religions, Buddhism and Jainism and has both places of worship.

 

In the afternoon, visit Nalanda which is an ancient centre of higher learning and also lies in the Indian state of Bihar. It was an acclaimed centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th century CE to 1197 CE. Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, it shot to fame much later, during the 5th-12th centuries.

 

The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

 

Hieun Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, stayed here in the 7th century AD and left a detailed description of the excellence of the education system and purity of monastic life practiced here, giving a vivid account of the ambiance and architecture of this unique university of ancient times. At its hey day, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here.

 

In 1193, Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it.

 

In 2006,countires like Singapore, China, India, Japan and others announced a proposed plan to restore and revive the ancient site as Nalanda International University.

 

Return to Bodhgaya after the visit. Rest of the afternoon free for independent activities. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.

 

Day 08: Depart Bodhgaya for other destinations.

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