India is the land of origin of Buddhism. Though Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini in Nepal, almost all of his life was spent in different parts of northern India. He renounced royal living after being disturbed by seeing the pains of life. The Lord took to wandering in quest for finding answers to his questions till the time he decided to meditate in Bodhgaya and attained enlightenment, the ultimate knowledge. Thereafter, his was the life of a preacher who gave sermons at different places, beginning with Sarnath as its first destination. Great impetus was given to the spreading of Buddhism by King Ashoka who produced some of the most astonishing pieces of architecture.
Tracing the footprints of the life and the times of Lord Buddha and in exploration of roots of this faith of Buddhism, pilgrimage tours are organized covering these destinations. For the followers of Buddhism across the world, these India holidays themed on Buddhism provide a way to acquaint themselves with the lands where he visited and to see the various places associated with this religion. This article takes you to four of these important destinations. These are ideal for family holidays as well.
Lumbini: This place is the birth place of Lord Buddha and is currently in southern Nepal. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Sidhartha to queen Mayadevi in 563 BC on the occasion of Baisakhi Purnima. The pilgrimage tours to this place are centered on the sacred garden where he was born, the Mayadevi temple, the pillar of King Ashoka and the Pashkani pond.
How to reach Lumbini?
Kathmandu to Siddhartnagar ( Bhairahawa): 14 flights in a week (2 flights per day by Yeti Airlines, all days in a week)
Mahaparinirvan Express takes tourists till Gorakhpur from where they can take the road travel, either by car or by bus, to reach Lumbini.
By Bus: Buses ply from Kathmandu, Pokhara, Gorakhpur and Varanasi to Sunauli from where Siddharthanagar is only 3.5 kilometers.
Bodhgaya: One of the most visited places in India, this is the place where Lord Buddha attained Nirvana or enlightenment under the famed Bodhi tree under which he meditated for 49 days.
This is one of the most revered places in India and people from all over the world come here to see the place of his meditation. Now this place comes under the Maha Bodhi temple complex. The temple itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple was built by King Ashoka 250 years after the death of Lord Buddha and was restored to its current position during the colonial period of the British by Sir Alexander Cunningham.
How to Reach Bodhgaya?
By Air: Nearest airport is of Gaya and direct flights are operated from five cities to Gaya.
a. Bangkok to Gaya: 2 flights in a week (Druk Air on Saturday and Thai Airways on all days except Wednesday and Friday).
b. Kolkatta To Gaya: 1 flight in a week (Air India on Friday)
c. Delhi to Gaya: 7 flights in a week (1 flight, all days in a week)
d. Paro to Gaya: 1 flight in a week (Druk Air, only on Friday)
e. Yangon to Gaya: 4 flights per week (MAI on Wednesday and Saturday and Air India on Monday and Friday)
By Rail: Nearest railway station is of Gaya and it can be reached from Delhi, Patna and Kolkatta among other cities. From Gaya one can take the bus or cab for reaching Bodh Gaya.
Sarnath: Sarnath is close to modern Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. It was also called by the name of Isipatana. This is the place where the Lord gave the first sermon after attaining nirvana in Bodhgaya.
This is also the place where he first taught Dharma and the mentioned the four noble truths. The main tourist attractions of Sarnath are the Dhamek Stupa, the pre-Ashokan Dharamarajika Stupa, the Chaukhandi Stupa and the Sarnath Archaeological Museum where the Ashoka Pillar with Lion Capital is kept.
How to reach Sarnath?
By Air: Varanasi is the nearest airport. 7 cities have nonstop flights to Varanasi. These are from:
a. Gaya: Air India operates 1 flight daily, all days a week.
b. Kathmandu: Air India operates 1 flight on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
c. Khajuraho: Jet Airways and Spicejet operate 1 flight daily, all days a week. Air India operates 1 flight on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. so, in total more than 2 flights in a day are operated.
d. Kolkatta: Jet Airways operates 1 flight per day, all days a week.
e. Mumbai: Air India operates 1 flight per day, all days a week.
f. Delhi: Spicejet operates 3 flight per day, all days a week. Air India and Jet Airways operate 1 flight per day, all days a week. Additionally, Spicejet operates 1 flight on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
g. Sharjah: Spicejet flies 1 flight on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Rail and bus connectivity is also present from all the major cities of India to Varanasi.
Kushinagar: Located close to the Gorakhpur city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, Kushinagar is the place where the Lord attained the Maha Parinirvana after his death.
The place was chosen by him since it has been the ancient city of Kusavati which was the royal city of Maha-Sudassana. Another reason for the choice was that Subhadda could learn the meditation from him while he was still alive. During the time of his death, the place was ruled by Mallas.