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Bodhgaya Circuit
4 Nights / 5 Days Program

Day 01: Arrive Gaya. Drive to Bodhgaya.
Welcome on arrival at Gaya International Airport. Drive to Bodhgaya (12 Kms, 20 minutes drive). Upon arrival check in to Hotel.

Bodhgaya-the highlight of the tour, is the place where Siddhartha reached the state of Enlightenment commonly referred to as Buddhahood. Bodhgaya, situated on the bank of the river Niranjana, is the spiritual home of Buddhists from the world over and attracts tens of thousands of believers. Siddhartha attained enlightenment meditating under the Bodhi Tree, which still stands today in its original place. It was here that Buddha spent 7 weeks meditating in and around seven different spiritual spots. Bodhgaya houses different Buddhists monasteries erected by people belonging to different sects of Buddhism such as the Therabada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. The magnificent Maha Bodhi temple in Bodhgaya is an architectural amalgamation of many cultures. Carvings of Buddha in different postures and scenes adorn the walls, and a colossal Buddha are seen touching the ground in the sanctum sanctorum, which have mythological significance in the Buddhist lore. Inscriptions of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China and Myanmar in the 7th and 10th Centuries AD including Hieun Tsang, the famed 7th century Chinese scholar, can be seen in the temple. A visit to Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum takes you back to history. With sculptures dating back to as early as the 1st century AD, it provides a religious art lover a glimpse of the art forms prevalent during those times. There are several other places of tourist interest such as the Surya Temple at Deo, the Sun God Temple at Umya, the Konchishwar Maha Deva temple at Konch; Barabar Caves, the Buddhist Rock-Cut Caves of 3rd Century.

Day 02: Drive Bodhgaya – Rajgir – Nalanda – Vaishali - Patna.
Breakfast at Hotel. Drive to Patna, enroute visit Rajgir, Nalanda & Vaishali.

Rajgir (70 Kms, 3 Hours), a site of great sanctity and one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. There are also many sites of historical and archeological importance here. The Gridhakuta Hill, in Rajgir, was the seat from where Buddha delivered many of his sermons. It was on this hill that the teachings of Buddha were recorded in writing for the first time and also where the Mauryan King Bimbisara, one of his greatest devotees, converted to Buddhist.

Rajgir also served as the ancient capital of Magadha ruled by Bhimbisara. One can see in Rajgir the remains of Jibaka, the personal physician of the Lord Buddha. The remains of Gridhakuta (the vultures beak) and King Bhimbisara's jail are the important archaeological and historical monuments at the site. After the Buddha reached 'parinirvana', his followers held the first Buddhist council here at the Saptaparni cave. The sculpture, which depicts the 'Parinirvana' or the 'great cessation' of Buddha, is another monument of artistic and historical importance. It shows the Buddha lying on his right forearm resting under his head to commemorate the final salvation or 'Mukti'. Today, Rajgir is a picturesque and serene place, visited by pilgrims from all over the globe.

We continue to Nalanda (17 Kms, 30 minutes drive) in the afternoon. "Nalan" means Lotus, which is signifies supreme wisdom and "Da" means to give. Nalanda is a place, which provides supreme wisdom. It was a center for Buddhist learning during the 5th to 11th centuries. Buddha passed many times through Nalanda on the way to Vaishali to Bodhgaya. Nalanda University had 22 thousand students and 17 hundred professors. It was a center of great learning, which reached its zenith between 5th and 12th Century AD. Both Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira visited this place. The famous Chinese Scholar of 7th century Yuan Chwang (Huang Tsang) studied 6 years in this University.

After visiting Nalanda, we continue our drive to Vaishali. Vaishali holds special significance for Buddhist devotees. Vaishali was the center of the IInd Buddhist Council congregation, held after 100 years of Buddha's demise. Vaishali is famous for Amrapali, the beautiful dancer and courtesan of Vaishali, who offered Buddha a mango orchard and impressed by his teachings became a nun in turn. The excavations carried out in Vaishali have brought to light Buddha Stupa I (4th Century BC) and II, built in brick with a casket containing part of the ashes of Buddha. Other sites of historical importance in Vaishali include Chaumukhi Mahadeva, a lingam carved with four faces of Lord Shiva; the Bhawan Pakhar Temple, where a large number of Hindu deities are enshrined at one place and are worshipped together; Coronation Tank where the Lichhavi Kings were anointed before being crowned and; the Vaishali Museum which has a small collection of regional handicrafts. Vaishali the capital of ancient Lichhavis is supposed to be the first republic of the world, having an elected body of representatives and an efficient administration as early as 6th century BC. Vaishali is also the birthplace of Lord Mahavira and is sacred to the Jains.

After long full day tour, finally we head towards Patna for overnight halt. Patna is the capital of Bihar state bearing a fascinating past. Turning over the pages of early Indian history one comes across the name of the pre-eminent city of Pataliputra. Its period of glory spanned a thousand years, from 6th century B.C. to 5th century A.D. Ajastshatru, second in the line of Magadh Kings, built a fort at Pataligram on the bank of river Ganga. This later became famous Muryan metropolis of Pataliputra and was ruled by Chandragupta Maurya (a contemporary of Alexander) and his grandson Ashok, acclaimed for the spread of Buddhism. Other emperors who ruled from Pataliputra were the Gupta and Pala Kings, Shershah Suri (16th Century) and Azimush-Shan (18th Century) grandson of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who renamed it Azeemabad. Vestiges of this ancient city can be seen at Kumhrar, Bhikhnapahari, Agamkuan, Bulandi Bag.

Day 03: Drive Patna – Sarnath – Varanasi.
After Breakfast, continue towards Varanasi (280 Kms, 8 Hours) via Sarnath.

Sarnath, mere 10 kms from Varanasi, holds an important place in Buddhism as it was here that Buddha delivered his first sermon, after attaining Nirvana termed as Dharmachakra Parivartan. This set in motion the great Buddhist tradition of the Sangha, for popularising the teachings of the great ascetic, worldwide. Gautam Buddha with his five disciples formed the first Sangha. Some of the remains here date back to the Mauryan period. The Lion Capital, the national emblem of India, and the Dharmarajika Stupa built by Ashoka are very important historical sites. The Dhamekh stupa is a cylindrical tower, which dates back to the Gupta period. The Chinese traveler Hsuen Tsang who visited India in the 7th century speaks of the glory of Sarnath and of the structures that existed then. A modern temple to Buddha has been built here that houses several of the Buddhist relics excavated here. On Buddha Purnima, the birthday of Buddha, relics of the Buddha are taken out in procession. The beginning of the celebrated Mantra, 'Buddham Sharanam Gachhami', owes its origin to Sarnath. The three Jewels - "I go for refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the Wheel of Law, I go for refuge to the Sangha" - first laid here, have remained unchanged ever since. Hence rightly, every Buddhist pilgrim after Bodhgaya endeavors to be blessed with a visit to Sarnath in his lifetime.

Proceed to Varanasi for overnight stay. Varanasi is one of India's oldest and holiest cities, where age-old temples overlook the broad waters of the Ganges, and where multitudes of devout Hindus come each year to wash away their sins in the sacred waters. Hightlights of Vanarasi are Vishwanath temple, Banaras Hindu University, Dasomedha Ghat.

Day 04: Drive Varanasi – Bodhgaya.
Early morning wake up to take boat ride to the Ganges for sunrise and to watch other religious activities performed by Holy Pundits, Kashi Vishwanath Temple, near that Ghat is the most sacred of the shrines dedicated to the Lord Shiva, originally constructed by the Queen of Indore in 1776.

After morning tour, depart for Bodhgaya (243 Kms, 6-7 Hours drive).

Day 05: Transfer to airport for departure.
Breakfast at Hotel. After breakfast, transfer to Gaya International Airport to catch flight back home.

Extension trip to Lumbini, from Varanasi:

Day 04: Fly Varanasi – Kathmandu. Visit Swayambhunath & Bouddhanath.
Those who has time and interested in visiting Lumbini, can fly Varanasi to Kathmandu.

Upon arrival, meet & transfer to Hotel. After refreshment, drive to Swayambhunath.
Swayambhunath is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for both Nepalese and Tibetans. It is one of the most ancient chaityas in Asia and a major symbol of Nepal’s Buddhist heritage. Swayambhu represents the Primordial Buddha or Adi-Buddha. The hillock where Swayambhu Chaitya is built is called by the names of Padmagiri, Vajrakuta, Gosringa, Gopuchha, Samhegu, and Simbhu and is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After this we continue to Boudhanath. Bouddhanath is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage and old heritage sites in Nepal. It is said that this stupa contains the relics of Buddha Kashyapa. Almost 176 miniature stupas and paintings of Tibetan Buddhist pantheons cover the walls that surround the stupa at Bouddhanath. Newari style chaityas adorn the four gates of the stupa.

The Bouddhanath Stupa is believed to be the embodiment of Dharmakaya (Buddha mind) and hence an object of devotion for all Buddhists. The stupa built in traditional Nepalese architectural style consists of a raised plinth, a spherical dome, a cubical steeple and a spire of 13 discs. The plinth that consists of three terraces is believed to represent thirty-seven factors of enlightenment. The dome represents Tathagatagarbha (the Buddha nature) from which virtuous special qualities develop.

Bouddhanath Stupa is an important pilgrimage site for Tibetans. The stupa is mentioned in the Tibetan classical texts such as Biography of Yeshe Tshogyal (A.D. 8-9) and Padma Ka’thang (A.D.14). The Tibetan government had jurisdiction over the stupa from seventeenth century to the nineteenth century. Bouddhanath has numerous Tibetan monasteries.

Tibetan and Newar pilgrims at the stupa offer butter lamps and incense. Donating for the maintenance of the stupa is also regarded as a sacred act. Pilgrims circle and prostrate around the stupa, turn prayer wheels and recite mantras. They believe that rotating the prayer wheels and the reciting the six syllable mantra helps invoke compassion for all the living beings and eliminates the causes of suffering. They also seek blessings from the Rinpoches from the surrounding monasteries.

Day 05: Fly Kathmandu-Lumbini. Sightseeing tour.
After breakfast transfer to Domestic Airport for the flight to Bhairahawa (30 Minutes) to continue to Lumbini. Check in to Hotel and full day sightseeing tour of Lumbini.

Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha situated in western Tarai of Nepal holds a special place in the Buddhist world. It is also mentioned in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta that the Buddha advised his followers to visit Lumbini. Emperor Ashoka of erstwhile Magadha Kingdom of India made a pilgrimage in 3rd century BC and erected a world famous pillar with inscription stating ”Here the Buddha was born”. Chinese pilgrims Tsen Tsai (4th Century A.D.), Fa-hsien (5th Century A.D.) and Hiuen-Tsang(7th Century A.D.) accounted their travel to Lumbini mentioning that they saw the holy tree, the pond, stupas and shrines. Hiuen Tsang described the Ashokan Pillar with a horse capital on the top of it. Temple of Maya Devi, mother of Lord Buddha has been recently renovated under the vigilance of UNESCO. Several foreign monasteries and stupas have been constructed in Lumbini. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 06: Fly Bhairahawa –Kathmandu. Fly Kathmandu – Varanasi. Drive Varanasi – Bodhgaya.
After breakfast, transfer to airport for the flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival meet and transfer to International Terminal for the flight to Varanasi.

Drive to Bodhgaya (243 Kms, 6-7 Hours drive) right from the airport.

Day 07: Transfer to airport for departure.
Breakfast at Hotel. After breakfast, transfer to Gaya International Airport to catch flight back home.

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