Buddhism, one of the major religions of the world, finds its roots in Northeastern India and spread across Nepal. Being one of the oldest religions around the globe, Buddhism flourished in India since 3rd century BC. Buddha, in search of enlightenment, left his palace at the age of 29 and wandered through the modern day states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India and few places of Nepal.
The 10-days Buddhist tour of India and Nepal begins with Delhi and proceeds to Varanasi to visit Sarnath, Lumbiniand Kushinagar. The next few spots are all located in Bihar – Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya which had witnessed various stages of Buddha’s life, his learning, miracles and teachings. Return with a congenial tour memory of all the major sites of Buddhism interest.
Arrive at Delhi and our representative would take you to your hotel. Delhi was the capital of Indraprastha and capital of the Pandavas during the Mahabharata. Been inhabited from the 6th century BC, Delhi has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. It is also known as the “city of cities”. While Old Delhi is a maze of small lanes lined and old buildings, New Delhi (the capital of India) is a modern city with large roads and high rises.
Delhi’s cultural background is varied as it has been influenced by different rulers at different period of time. And the monuments and constructions exhibit the variation in their art and built. The Mughal rulers influenced the food habits a lot and Delhi is the paradise for Mughlai cuisine which originated here. Delhi residents celebrate all festivals due to the proximity of different states.
Spend overnight in Delhi hotel.
Start your morning with a trip to Old Delhi which was built in 1639 AD by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Take a visit to Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi and the museum built to commemorate him. Up next on the way is the Red Fort which used to be the residence of the Mughal emperors till 1856. The fort is declared as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Drive past to the busiest street of Delhi – Chandni Chowk which is a shopper’s paradise, you can pick some souvenirs or go for some random shopping of mouth-watering food, clothes, jewels, household, etc.
Qutub Minar is the next spot in the afternoon which is India’s largest minaret and is declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Qutub Minar was built in 1192 bu Turk ruler Qutub-Ud-Din Aibak. Up next is another UNESCO World Heritage Site – Humayun’s tomb which is followed by a visit to the India Gate, built in memory of the Unknown Soldier. Move next to the Parliament House, President’s House and other Government Secretarial Buildings, and then to Lakshmi narayan Temple, a temple dedicated to Lakshmi and Lord Narayana.
Overnight stay in Delhi.
Board your flight to Varanasi this morning. On arrival to Varanasi, move to your hotel for refreshment. The city of Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 5000 years. Varanasi is famous for its spiritual and cultural history and Hindus believe that death and cremation in Varanasi leads to salvation. Also known as the cultural capital of North India, Varanasi has its own charm in the temples, river banks, small lanes, food, culture and the ancient look of the entire ambience. You may take a visit to the buried city of Sarnath which is few kms away from Varanasi. Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon.
Come back to Varanasi in the evening and overnight in Varanasi.
Start your day with a boat ride in the two holy banks of the River Ganges – ghats Manikarnika and Harish chandra where thousands of devotees flock for taking holy dips and also for cremation purposes. Hindus believe that those who breathe their last in Varanasi and are cremated in these banks get released from the birth cycle.
Same day, take a visit to Sarnath deer park where Buddha taught the Dharma first time leading to the Buddhist Sangha come into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. The other places to visit are Singhpur village – one km away from the site – which was the birthplace of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism and holds holy significance for being one of the four pilgrimages which every Buddhist must visit. The site is also famous as Buddha’s Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – where he preached first after attaining enlightenment. The four noble truths and the teachings associated with it were all taught here.
Thereafter, visit the ruins, the stupa, the Buddhist temple and the museum (closed on Fridays). Travel by road to Sravasti and stay overnight.
This day is for visiting Sravasti. Located on the banks of the river Rapti, Sravasti remained one of the largest cities during Buddha’s lifetime. It is said that Buddha was in Sravasti for 25 years of which 19 years were spent in Jetavana monastery and 6 years in the Pubbarama monastery.
There are remains of Angulimala’s stupa, Anathapindika's stupa, and an old Jain temple inside the city walls of ancient Savatthi. Another place to visit is the Jetavana monastery where tourists visit for meditation and chanting at the Gandhakuti (Buddha’s hut) and the Anandabodhi tree.
You will be driven to Lumbini for overnight stay.
Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered among the holiest places for the Buddhists. This is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Lumbini has two zones – the eastern zone with the Theravadin monasteries and the western zone with Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. The places to visit in Lumbini is the ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi Tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashoka pillar and the Mayadevi temple where Buddha was born. Since Buddha is also considered as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu by the Hindus, Mayadevi is also worshipped as Rupadevi, the mother goddess of Lumbini.
Once Lumbini is covered, travel by road to Kushinagar – which is one of the four most important pilgrimage sites for the Buddhists. Places to explore are a large number of ruined stupas and Viharas that date back to 3rd century BC-5th century BC.
Several constructions here are contributed by emperor Ashoka – the remains of the Par Nirvana Stupa and Par Nirvana Temple are must visit. When rediscovered, these sites were covered in a 40 foot high mound of bricks surrounded by a dense thorny forest. Spend overnight in Kushinagar.
The next day is a drive to Patna. Visit Vaishali on the way. Vaishali derives its name from King Vishal and was the capital city of Lichchavi. The 24th Jain TirthankaraBhagwanMahavir was born here in 599 BC and it was here where Gautam Buddha preached his last sermon before his death in 483 BC. Must watch is the best-preserved Ashoka Pillar topped by a single Asiatic lion.
One of the eight portions of Buddha’s relics are reverentially encased at the VaishaliStupa, which was received after the Mahaparinirvana. BhikshuSangha was organized here by Buddha and was later handed over to his maternal aunt MahaPrajavatiGautami for further caretaking.
Drive straight to Patna from Vaishali for stay overnight.
Drive to Bodhgaya and visit Rajgir and Nalanda on the way. Rajgir (named Rajgrih earlier, meaning the House of the King) was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha and dates back to more than 1000 BC. Rajgir is where Buddha held the “Atanatiya” conference at the Gridhra-kuta. It is also where Lord Mahavir spent fourteen years of his life at Rajgir (and Nalanda). The place is hence, holy for both the Buddists and the Jains.
Rajgir is also sacred for the Hindus for its Brahmakund – hot water springs. The places of interest are the Bimbisar's Jail, the Ajatshatru's Fort, the Jarasandh'sAkhara and Rajgir Heritage Museum.
Up next is Nalanda – an ancient centre for studies from 5th century AD till the late 12th century AD and was the academic hub for scholars, students and teachers from all over India and other countries. Nalanda University was the world’s first residential universities accommodating over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. HuenTsiang, the famous Chinese traveler has left his glowing account of the activities here.
There are several monasteries and temples and museum to keep antiquities recovered from the site. Drive to Bodhgaya for overnight.
This day is for city trip to Bodhgaya which is famous for Mahabodhi Temple. It is where Buddha attained enlightenment on a full moon under the Bodhi Tree. Mahabodhi Temple was built after 250 years of the enlightenment of Buddha by emperor Ashoka when he visited Bodhgaya. Different people from countries like China, Japan, Srilanka, Thailand etc have constructed many Buddhist monasteries and temples here in Bodhgaya from time to time. Uruvela, Sambodhi, Vajrasana and Mahabodhi are few of the old names of Bodhgaya.
Spend rest of the day at your leisure or in religious activities. Overnight stay in Bodhgaya.
Drive to Patna by road to board a flight to Delhi from Patna airport. Arrive Delhi where you would catch your connecting or return flight.
Here comes to an end of your India-Nepal Buddhist vacation.