On our amazing pilgrimage to the sites in India and Nepal sacred to Lord Buddha, we walk "In the Footsteps of Lord Buddha." Some highlights of our awe-inspiring tour:
The famous historical person known as Buddha was also called the Tathagata, which means "the one who has come thus," and Shakyamuni, which means "the sage of the Shakya tribe."
Siddhartha was born in the town of Kapilavastu (located in today's Nepal). His parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side. At that moment her son was conceived. Brahmins came and interpreted the dream. The child would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic. The future child would be named Siddhartha, which means "he whose aim is accomplished."
When Siddhartha was about 20, when he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King's ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahul.
At the age of 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city as he was not allowed to go out of the palace as the King was afraid as the astrologer had predicted the Prince to become an ascetic. During two trips, Siddhartha saw the "Four Sights" that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness, and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning the holy man and the man told him that he wanted to win salvation. That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. In the forest, Siddhartha took off his sword, and cut off his hair and beard. He then took off all his princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Chianna to take his possessions back to the King.
through the northeastern India, Siddharth sought out holy men, and
learned about Samsiara (reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. One day,
Siddhartha realised that his years of penance only weakened his body,
and that he could not continue to meditate properly. When he
stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to get out, and it
is believed that the trees lowered their branches to help
At that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted.
Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often refeired to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara (an evil god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust, and distractions of pleasure but Siddhartha stayed unswayed in deep meditation, and recalled all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego which bound him to the world. Thereby, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (enlightened one).
Buddha went to the city of Sarnath. There he began teaching holy men what he had learned. This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or "Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine." Siddihartha revealed that he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he had first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism that he had practiced. Neither of these was the true path to Nirvana. The true path was the Middle Way, which keeps aloof from both extremes. At an age of about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda fed buddha with a meal that caused him to become ill.
Buddha even then forced himself to travel to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to rest in a grove of shala trees. It is said that as a crowd of followers gathered, the trees sprouted blossoms and showered them on Buddha. Buddha told Ananda, "I am old and my journey is near its end. My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help of leather straps." Three times, Buddha asked the people if they had any questions, but they all remained silent. Finally Buddha said, "Everything that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation with diligence. After passing through several states of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana (the cessation of perception and sensation).
Fly overnight to India, arriving in the late
evening. Your tour leader will accompany you to your hotel in the
heart of Delhi, followed by the Traditional Indian Welcome at the
hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Old Delhi: The 350 years old walled city was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in 1648 as his capital. Opposite the fort are the black and white onion dome and minarets of the Jama Masjid, the most elegant mosque in India. Raj Ghat is worth a visit where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948.
New Delhi: The new capital designed by Sir Edward Lutyens. An interesting drive in the one passing through the impressive Rajpath from the World War I memorial arch, the India Gate towards the Presidential Palace. Visit Humayun's Tomb built in 1565 AD, Safdarjung's Tomb, the Qutab Minar, 72 meters high and the most curious antique, the uncorroded Iron Pillar, which dates back to the 4th century AD.
Agra is famous as being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World the "TAJ MAHAL". The architectural splendor of the mausoleums, the fort and the palaces is a vivid reminder of the opulence of the legendary Mughal Empire, of which Agra was the capital in the 16th and early 17th centuries. While its significance as a political center ended with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1634 by Shah Jahan, its architectural wealth has secured its place on the international map. Agra is known for its superb inlay work on the marble and soapstone by craftsmen who are descendants of those who worked under the Mughals. The city is also famous for its carpets, gold thread embroidery and leather shoes.
Susan Shumsky of Divine Travels is a member of Travel Service Network, Inc. (TSN).
After breakfast, leave for Domestic Airport to catch
flight for Varanasi, CD # 7407 at 14.10 Hrs. and Arrive Varanasi at
16.05 Hrs. Followed by visit to Sarnath and Buddhist Museum. In the
evening, return back to Varanasi. Dinner & overnight at
Sarnath: After attaining enlightenment, Buddha came to Sarnath, where he preached his first sermon. In the sylvan surroundings of a deer park, he initiated his first five disciples into the Buddhist monkhood. Here began one of the greatest religions of the world. Emperor Ashoka erected a magnificent stupa here. Forgotten for centuries, Sarnath was excavated by British archaeologists in 1836.
At sunrise you'll
board a small boat for a cruise on the Holy River Ganges. You can
photograph riverside temples & ghats in a rich golden light.
All devote Hindus must make the Varanasi pilgrimage, bathing in the
Ganges as a rite of purification. After breakfast, leave for
Bodhgaya by surface (265 Km/08 Hrs). Reach Bodhgaya and transfer to
hotel. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world. Apart from being a significant archaeological site, it is also a vital Buddhist centre. Devout Buddhists and tourists from all over the world visit Bodhgaya, to study Buddhism and the art of meditation, or to simply absorb the aura of solemn grandeur that surrounds the place. Bodhgaya is a quiet and peaceful place. You could visit Bodhgaya in a day, or even plan a long study leave, depending on your inclination. Under the giant Bodhi tree, the Buddha gained enlightenment. After spending seven weeks pondering over his awakening, he stepped out to spread his message to the world. The Niranjana river where he bathed after enlightenment still flows close by. Bodhgaya has a magnificent complex of monasteries in various Buddhist architectural styles.
Rajgir the ancient capital of Magadha kings. The Buddha often visited Rajagriha to retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery, preaching and meditating on the Gridhakuta Hill. The disciples of the Buddha built many structures here. Rajgir is also sacred to Jains as Lord Mahavira studied and meditated here. The first Buddhist Council was held here after the Buddha's nirvana.
Nalanda is believed to be the oldest university in the world. Founded in the 5th century BC, it became a renowned centre of Buddhist and Jain learning. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveller, spent several years here in the 7th century AD. Nalanda Archaeological Museum has a magnificent collection of Pali and Mauryan statues, bronze and manuscripts. Nalanda Mahavihara an institute for the study of Pali literature houses rare Buddhist manuscripts. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th - 12th centuries. The Chinese scholar and traveller Hiuen Tsang stayed here in the 7th century, and has left an elaborate description of the excellence, and purity of monastic life practised here. About 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world, lived and studied in this international university.
Susan Shumsky of Divine Travels is a member of Travel Service Network, Inc. (TSN).
Kushinagar: One of the principal centers of Buddhist pilgrimage is Kushinagar 53 Km. west of Gorakhpur, where Shakyamuni entered Mahaparinirvana his death and cremation, that marked his final liberation from the cycles of death and rebirth. This was the furthest he had reached on his final journey, which retraced much of the road he had walked when many years before he had left Kapilavastu.
General Cunningham and A.C. Carlyl brought this ancient site to light. Only after this excavation of the site in 1861, its antiquity was established for the first time. After this, between 1904 and 1912, several excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India at Kushinagar confirmed its ancient identity.
When he reached his eighty-first year, Buddha gave his last major teaching--the subject was the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment--and left Vulture's Peak to journey north. It is when he crossed the Ganges for the last time at place where Patna now stands and came to the village of Beluva where Buddha was taken ill but he suppressed the sickness and continued to Vaisali. It was also the principal location of the third turning of the wheel of Dharma.
Coming to Pava, the blacksmith's son Kunda offered him a meal which included meat. It is said that all the Buddha's of this world eat a meal containing meat on the eve of their passing away. Buddha accepted, but directed that no one else should partake of the food. Later it was learned that the meat was bad. Buddha had already sensed his end on reaching the village of Kushinagar of the Mallas. He asked Ananda to prepare a bed for him with its head turned towards the north between two Sal trees. Ananda who served him for 20 years was deeply upset. "Don't grieve, Ananda!" the Buddha consoled him. "The nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us. Everything born contains its own cessation. And just as a worn-out cart can only with much additional care be made to move along, so too the body of the Buddha can only be kept going with much additional care".
As desired by the Buddha, the Mallas of Kushinagar were informed of his impending death, and they came to pay respects to him. As the third watch of the night approached, the Buddha asked his disciples thrice if there were any remaining doubts concerning the doctrine or the discipline. Receiving silence, he gave them the famous exhortation: "Impermanence is inherent in all things. Work out your own salvation with diligence." After this Shakyamuni Buddha entered Mahaparinirvana.
For the next six days the body of the Great Master was laid in state. Preparations were made for his funeral under the direction of Anirudha a cousin and follower of the Buddha. On the seventh day, after honoring the body with perfumes and garlands, it was taken to the Mukutbandhana Chaitya, the sacred shrine of the Mallas. The last ceremony was performed by Maha Kashyapa and the body of the Great Master was cremated with due honor. When the cremation was completed the ashes were collected by the Mallas as relics, which consisted of a skull bone, teeth and inner and outer shrouds. The relics were then distributed into eight shares amongst the representatives of the other eight Kingdoms which constituted ancient northern India. These relics were again subdivided after King Ashoka decided to build 84,000 Stupas. Today these relics are enshrined in Stupas across Asia.
In later times Fa Hien found monasteries at Kushinagar, but when Hsuan Tsang came the site was almost deserted. Hsuan Chwang did see an Ashoka Stupa marking Kunda's house, the site of Buddha's last meal. Commemorating the Mahaparinirvana was a large brick temple containing a recumbent statue of Buddha. Beside this was a partly ruined Ashoka Stupa and a pillar with an inscription describing the event. Two more Stupas commemorated former lives of the Buddha at the place. Both Chinese pilgrims mention a Stupa where Shakyamuni's protector Vajrapani threw down his scepter in dismay after Buddha's death, and some distance away a Stupa at the place of cremation and another built by Ashoka where the relics were divided.
Vaishali: After dwelling at Kapilvastu the Buddha left for Vaisali, ancient site that has been identified with modern Basarh in Bihar. Vaisali is also known as Visala. The blessed one was staying at the Great hall in Mahavana (Large Grove). For Buddhists Vaisali is a sacred place primarily for four main reasons.:
Prajapathi Gothmi, the aunt of the Buddha Shaved her hair, doomed the saffron robes arrived at the great hall in the company of five hundred Sakyan ladies and pleaded to grant ordination. The Buddha granted permission and decreed eight rules which should be honored, respected, esteemed and revered and should be transgressed for life. Later the Buddha delivered further admonitions and Pajapathi Gothami attained satisfaction. Yasodhara, Janapada Kalyani, Nanda, Khema, Uppalawanna, Bhadda Kapilani, Patachara, Dhammadinna, Sona, Sakula, Kundala Kesa, Sigalaka matha, Kisa Gothami and a large number of ladies joined the ranks of the order of nuns at a later periods.
It was at Vaisali that the miracle at the nature of offering of a bowlful of honey to the Buddha by the monkeys took place. It was here that Lichchhavis erected a Stupa over their share of the relics of the Buddha after Parinirvana of the latter. Buddha received the gift of the Mangoo grove from the courtesan Amarpali at Vaisali.
The second Buddhist council was held about a century after the death of the Buddha which led to the split of Buddha temple into two camps, easterners to Mahayana or progressives and westerners to Theravada or the Orthodox. In the Asokan period this place was restored with pillars and Stupas. Around Vaisali there is a pillar with a lotus capital surmounted by a lion and its design and craftsmanship are of the type of Asakan Pillars. According to the Chinese travelers Fa-hien and Hiuentsang there were numerous shrines existed at Vaisali and the Tibetian monk Dharmaswamin who visited Vaisali in the thirteenth century refers to a miraculous stone image of the goddess Tara that he had seen at Vaisali.
Once Vaisali was a trade center and a large number of clay seals bearing the names of bankers and traders were found here. Among other shrines, there is a small tank, known as Rama Kunda, which has been identified as a tank dug by the monkeys for the use of the Buddha. Vaisali, the capital of the Lichchhavi kings was the birth place of Nigantanathaputra, the 24th Jain ascetic according to Jainism.
Vaisali is connected with the life story of Buddha mainly because it was that he proclaimed that his Parinirvana would take place with in a short time. During the time of the Buddha there was a plague that ravaged the Vaisali city. The Buddha then preached the Ratana Sutta.
Lumbini: The birth place of Lord Buddha. Lumbini is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. The holy site is being developed with international support as the supreme Buddhist pilgrimage and a symbol of world peace. The shrines and monastries that many countries have built or are still building reflect the architectural traditions of those countries, and thus giving Lumbini an international feel with a message of universal love and brotherhood.
breakfast, leave for Balrampur. Reach Balrampur and stay at Palace
of Maharaja of Balrampur (subject to availability) Or transfer to
Sravasti. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
Hotel: Balrampur Palace Or Lotus Nikko, Sravasti (Meals - Breakfast & Dinner)
breakfast, meeting with Maharaja of Balrampur (subject to
availability) at his palace. After lunch, visit the former hunting
lodge of Maharaja of Balrampur & visiting the local village of
the tribal people. Followed by evening tea under the Sandalwood
Tree. Evening night drive back to Balrampur through forest to
enable viewing of wild life. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
leave for Lucknow by surface. Reach Lucknow in the evening and
transfer to hotel. Dinner & overnight at hotel.
After breakfast, half day sightseeing of Lucknow. Afterwards, transfer to Railway Station to catch Shatabdi Express for Delhi at 15.35 Hrs. Reach Delhi at 21.45 Hrs. and transfer to IGI Airport & tour terminates.
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