Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sarnath - The birth place of Buddhism

Sarnath is a holy city near Benaras or Varanasi (The oldest city of the world). Sarnath (also known as Mrigadava, Mrigadaya, Rishipattana, Ishipattana) is the land where Buddhism started its journey that is the concept of “Sangha” was founded.


Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath
Sarnath or Ishipatana is one of the four holiest sites of Buddha Circuit mentioned by Prophet Goutama Buddha (Tathagata, Bodhisatwa) where his devout followers must visit for pilgrimage. Other three places are Lumbini (Where the Prophet was born as prince Siddhartha), Bodh Gaya (Where prince Siddhartha attained enlightment and became Tathagata) and Kushinagar (Where he passed away).

Reason behind the name of Sarnath:

According to mythology, when Prophet Buddha was born, devas (Gods) came down to announce it to 500 holy men. The holy men rose into the air and disappeared and their relics fell into the ground. So, the name Rishipatana (Rishi means Holy men and Patana means drop) was derived. Ishipatana is the mispronunciation of Rishipatana.

Tha name Mrigadaya means deer park (Mrig means deer) in Pali. When Tathagata came here it was a forest given by the King of Varanasi.

According to Hieuen Tsang, it was quoted in Nigrodhaing Jataka that deers were allowed to roam around this place.

The name Sarnath has been derived from the Sanskrit word Saranganatha which means “Lord of the deer”. One legend says that once upon a time Bodhisatwa was born as a deer.

Surprisingly the deer park still exists as a silent witness of history.


Sarnath
History of Sarnath:

Dear reader, before saying about my day out I would like to do a quick time travel with you and cover a golden era from X BCE to 12th ACE.

The time of Rishipatana starts at the age when King Bimbisara ruled from Pataliputra. After attaining enlighment, Tathagata started his journey to Rishipatana from Bodh Gaya and started finding his five former companions. He arrived at the deer park of Rishipatana and taught what he has learnt during his enlightment.

On a full moon night of Ahalya Puja, he delivered his first discourse to those five (said above) as known as Dharmachakra Pavatta Sutta and at that moment the “Sangha” was founded.


Dharmachakra Pavatta Sutta
Beside to Dharmachakra Pavatta Sutta, he preached some other Suttas like Dharma Sutta.

Buddha spent next rainy season at Sarnath and the member of Sangha got increased to 60.

The supportive king and the wealthy merchants helped Buddha religion to flourish. Within next centuries Sarnath had become an important center of Arts. The King also found 30 monasteries. According to Hieuen Tsang, 1500 monks were there at Sarnath.

King Ashoka commissioned a Stupa at Rishipatana at 249 BC that indicated the location of his offering to Buddhism. On 500 ACE the iconic Dhamek Stupa was established to replace the old one. Detail about Dhamek Stupa will be discussed later.

At the end of 12th Century ACE, Sarnath was attacked and almost destroyed by Turkish vandals. The ruins were gradually destroyed until 1836 when British started excavation.

My day out at Sarnath:

Usually Sarnath is a day out tour from Varanasi. So like other tourists we went to Sarnath from Varanasi. Our driver wanted to drop at a newly created temple that contains a gigantic Buddha statue and tried to convince that this one is the original place of Sarnath. I knew that he was bluffing, so I contacted to the travel agent and escalated about the driver, then he dropped us at the bus stand.

On the opposite of the bus stand there is a Buddha temple - Mulagandha Temple. Here prophet taught his lessons to the closest peers. The holy place is marked by a model and the original “Pavatta Sutta” is written in Pali, Sanskrit, Bengali, English and Hindi.


Mulagandha Temple, Sarnath
After viewing them we came out of it and went to the main excavation of Sarnath. The excavated area is gigantic and larger than life.

Let’s start travelling inside the main excavation.

Monastery V:

On the right hand side of the gate of main excavation, the ruin of Monastery V is located. It contains an open courtyard, a series of cells on four sides and a wall in the center of the court. It is example of the Chatuhsala-Sangharama.


Ruin of Monastery V, Sarnath
This structure gives a brief idea about the usual type of monasteries in Gupta age.

Monastery VII:

On the opposite of Monastery V, the ruin of Monastery VII is found. It is believed by the archaeologists that the monastery was constructed at the early days of medieval period.


Ruin of Monastery VII, Sarnath
There is nothing much to see here. Let’s walk straight as something very interesting is getting there.
Dharmarajika Stupa with some Votive Stupas, Sarnath
A group of Votive Stupas:

From Monastery VII I walked straight towards a cylindrical ruin, on the way a huge number of votive stupas are there.


A group of Votive stupas at Sarnath
Dharmarajika Stupa:

Next to Votive Stupas, the ruin of cylindrical Dharmarajika Stupa is present.


A close view of Dharmarajika Stupa, Sarnath
I think, the above photo is fair enough to get the idea of the rounded structure. The original structure was raised by the great king Ashoka, the first addition was made by Kushan period with brick, the second enlargement came with the addition of circumambulatory path in the fifth or sixth century AD and the third enlargement was done in seventh century. Fourth and fifth enlargements were made in ninth to eleventh century, The sixth and the last encasing was done in twelfth century.

Two iconic images – Buddha seated in the attitude of preaching and the colossal red sandstone Bodhisatwa were found here. Now the images are placed in the adjacent ASI museum. This is a very holy stupa for Buddhists.


Devotee in front of Dharmarajika Stupa
Main Shrine (Mulagandha Kuti):

Main Shrine is located on the north of the Dharmarajika Stupa. It is a temple surrounded by a concrete pavement. This is Mulagandha Kuti. According to Hiuen Tsang, it was about 60 meter in high. The temple was built in bricks and plaster with a mingling of carved stones from earlier structure.


Mulagandha Kuti, Sarnath
Excavators state that the Shrine was first constructed in 2nd century BC and then further construction was done in Gupta age.


Another view of Mulagandha Kuti, Sarnath
Ashokan Pillar:

Ashokan Pillar is locates at the east side of Main shrine. Right now, there is only a replica of the original pillar is there, the original pillar is kept at the adjacent ASI museum. This pillar is the national emblem of India.


Replica of Ashokan Pillar, Sarnath
Dhamek Stupa:

This is the iconic architecture of the Sarnath. The gigantic solid cylindrical was constructed in Gupta age. It is 24.06 meter high and its diameter is 33.53 meter. The structure consists of a circular stone drum to a height of 11.20 meter resting on a ground without usual rectangular basement. The stones of each layer are bonded by iron clamps. The magnificent structure reflects the richness of engineering and art of ancient India.


Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath
Geometrical, floral patterns combined with birds and human figures, depicted to its body makes everybody spellbound.


Patterns depicted on Dhamek Stupa
Other monasteries:

Monastery I, II, III, IV was not open for public when I visited there as some maintenance was going on. Even in my second visit they were not open to public. Hopefully, next time I will be able to see them.


Panchayatan Temple-Sarnath
Chaukhandi Stupa:

Another great example of ancient Indian architecture is Chaukhandi Stupa. But this is outside of the main excavation site. Due to time constraints I could not go there.

ASI Museum:

The museum is a must visit place. The sculptures and living accessories found during the excavation is properly conserved in the museum. Camera is not allowed inside the museum.

Suggestions to the honorable readers:

  • My suggestion is to skip other places and spare at least 6 hours inside the monasteries. Please talk to the driver about this plan. Please do not tell them that you are going to stay there for six hours. Just tell them that you are interested for Sarnath only.
  • The drives of cab and auto rickshaw will take you to some newly created monasteries in Sarnath and will make you fool. They are very beautiful but do not go there at the beginning. Though they are nice with feel good factors but the original Sarnath is the place that I have said in this post. If possible, show some pictures of Dhamek Stupa to them and ask that you want to go there.

  • Please do not sit on the wall of excavation site.
  • Taxi drivers of varanasi will try to make you fool by misguiding, do not listen to them and plan according to your wish.

Going:

Sarnath is included in the day tour package from Varanasi. Honorable readers, again I would like to suggest you to skip other places and spare at least 6 hours inside the monasteries. Please talk to the driver about this plan.

Staying:

There are lots of hotels in Varanasi starting from INR 500 per night to INR 10000 per night. Please choose according to your budget.


Bibliography:
     
  • Sarnath Archaeology, Art & Architecture by Archaeological Survey of India

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Uttarey – a dreamy village of Sikkim

Sikkim is regarded as a state (in north-eastern India) where Mother Nature eternally smiles. This state is blessed by the beauty of eastern Himalaya and popular for the view of snowcapped mountains like Mt. Kanchenjungha, Mt. Pandim, Mt. Kabru North, Mt. Kabru, South, Mt. Kabru South, Mt. Narsingh and many other glorious snow peaks, dense alpine forests, colorful flowers, waterfalls, picturesque villages and last but not the least warm nice villagers.

Though there are many popular and crowded tourist spots like Pelling, Gangtok, Rinchengpong, Ravangla etc., personally I love to go to the remote villages of Sikkim. This is because I am much more interested to enjoy the nature and the calmness of unknown places refreshes my mind. Invariably I have seen that the unknown places have some hidden natural treasure that common people usually do not know.

In this post I am going to say about a small village of Sikkim names Uttarey.


Panoramic view of Uttarey in a cloudy afternoon
Located in the northern slope of Singalila Range, the small settlement of Uttarey at West Sikkim is an ideal gateway for the tourists.

On the bank of Simphok Khola River, the hamlet is blessed by the beauty of green mountains enriched with the wilderness of Singalila National Park and dreamy atmosphere. The behavior and hospitality of the local villagers makes the trip more pleasant. Uttarey is famous for its tranquility and natural beauty. During winter the mountains around here are covered with snow allowing heavenly views. This place is ideal for taking small hikes or moderate treks to refresh your soul.

Usually people who go are interested to visit south or west Sikkim is suggested to add Uttarey in their itinerary.

To reach Uttarey, Singshore Bridge needs to be crossed. Singshore Bridge is one of the star attractions of Uttarey. A great example of engineering, the bridge is the only gateway to this settlement by road. This is the second highest gorge bridge (almost 100 meters high) of Asia.

Singshore Bridge
We reached Uttarey at 2pm, checked into the hotel, had lunch and came out to walk through the village. It was a pleasant experience to roam around the village. Since I am a street photographer, I enjoyed it a lot. As I got some frames of local villager.

Little farmer of Uttarey
Unfortunately rain came and we took shelter inside a hut. We started chatting with the owner of the hut with the tea. Later the owner of the hut managed umbrella and took us to the hotel.

Next day, though it was raining, we decided to go to the Mainbaas Waterfalls. This is the main attraction of Uttarey and located at a distance of 4 km from Uttarey. In local dialect, “Main Baas” means honeycomb. Lots of honeycombs are found beside the magnificent waterfall.

On the way to Mainbaas Waterfalls
First we trekked up to the trout cultivation centre, run by the fisheries department of the state government. It was just one kilometer trek. Then we started to trek more. The trek route was awesome. Dense forest was on our left side, and the river was on our right side. After walking 2 kilometer we crossed the river and went inside the dense forest of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Our guide asked us not to take gap between us as there is a chance to get out of the track. And since it was raining, we won’t get able to track if somebody misses the trail, moreover there are beer and leopard. We got a bit scared but enjoyed the trail a lot. I think, the trek route through Barsey rhododendron sanctuary during the month of April must be a feast for the eyes. After walking 1 kilometer, we reached at Mainbaas Waterfalls.

Hanging bridge on the way to Mainbaas Waterfalls
The beauty of the falls cannot be expressed in words. It was a gigantic one. Honeycombs were found here and there.

Mainbaas Waterfalls
For tourists interested in more adventure, can further trek to the top of the Singalila Riadge via Chitrey and Chiwyabhanjan pass through Barsey rhododendron sanctuary. But for that trek, the team must be well equipped with tents, sleeping bags, ration. It was not in our itinerary, so we came back to Uttarey by the same route.

We had a wonderful lunch at hotel and got ready for going to visit to Kagju Gompha (or Kagyu Gompha). But due to heavy shower a local villager asked us not to start. As the Samaritan strongly discouraged us, we decided not to go there instead we heard stories about that place.

The villagers believe that the immortal soul of their dead family members stay there. This is a very revered place of worship for local villagers.  The ruins of the monastery were very much in sight up to 1982. The monastery was rebuilt with the relics found around the place. The wall paintings are an example of the cultural enrichment of Buddha religion. It is strongly believed amongst the locals that there are hidden sculptures buried in the earth near this holy structure. It is a historical fact that King Tensung Namgyal of Sikkim married Princess Mukma Hangma, daughter of Yomo Hang, the Limboo King of Aruntambar of Nepal. Ancient history of Sikkim claims that the couple with its entourage walked through this Uttarey Valley.

Durga Mandir is also a holy place that can be visited with a small walk. There is a belief among the local villagers that there was a huge pokhri (lake) in Uttarey Valley which has now dried up over the period. It is heard from the octogenarians that this pokhri was called the justice lake.

Going:

From Siliguri take a car to Jorethang, Pelling or Rinchenpong. From there, hire a car to Uttarey. Or there are shuttle car from Jorethang to Uttarey.

Staying:

Eco-tourism has been developed in this village. Tourists, who like nature, will enjoy the eco-tourism in this dreamy place. Nagbeli Hotel and Resort is a nice hotel for staying.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Day out at Gangani (Gongoni) - The "Grand" Canyon of Bengal

Whenever we think or say about the word “Canyon”, first, the name of Arizona, USA comes in our mind. Even in the geography book, we read the name of Arizona as an example of canyon. Some wanderlust also knows the name of Mahabaleswar.

But as I always say that our state – West Bengal is so blessed by the nature, it has a lot of hidden treasure in its natural treasury. Gangani (or Gongoni) is one of them. Where the Shilabati River flowing through a 70ft-deep gorge and the adjoining places taking the form of different shapes and figures because of erosion.


Gangani
Located at Garhbeda village of Medinipur district, Gangani can be reached by various ways:
  1. Train to Garhbeta followed by cycle rickshaw
  2. Kolkata – NH6 – Bagnan – Uluberia – Kolaghat – Karagpur – NH60 – Godapiasal – Salboni– Garhbeta

  3. Kolkata – NH2 – Tarakeswar – Arambagh – Chandrakona Road - Garhbeta
I took the option 3. One fine morning, my friend Sumanta drove us to Gangani. It was a hot and humid sunny day of August but the sky was a bit dusky and due to the blow of scorching sun, almost nobody was there.

There is a local folklore that during the exile of Pandavas, Pandava prince Bheema slayed here the demon Bakasura who lived in this Canyon. Even a cave like structure is there but I could not understand how a big demon could live inside the small cave!!! May be this is a criteria to be demon that they can increase and decrease the size of their body whenever required!


Let’s keep the folklore aside and enjoy the natural beauty. Believe it or not, looking astonishingly my friend Shipra said “It is something similar to the sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora”. She was absolutely right. While we were looking at the “ruins” from far we notices the shapes of different animals created by the erosion. Suddenly we noticed that there is a stair case (constructed by the State Government) to go inside the canyon. We took the stair case.

We walked down and went inside the lanes-bi lanes of the “ruins”. As we were approaching, more structures were coming into view.



Suddenly we noticed a pagoda. “It is hard to believe that this is created by nature!!!” said by my friend Avra. It is really hard to believe that that the pagoda is a natural rock formation and not a man-made shrine.

The gorge was comprised of red soil but turns to yellow as it slopped down to bottom. The mellow sunlight made it golden. Jaisalmeer fort of Rajasthan is known as the “Golden Fort” after a Bengali novel and film “Sonar Kella” by the Oscar winning director Satyajit Ray, keeping that in mind I must say the canyon becomes “Golden Canyon” in mellow sunlight.



We stayed there for few more hours and went back as it is not safe to stay in Garhbeta after sunset because that place is a bit politically disturbed. But I can suggest that Gangani is a nice option for a perfect day out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dreamy weekend at Takdah

I had a dream from my young age about enjoying a week end by staying in a British bungalow that must be located in a hill station. Every morning I would open the window and Snowy Mountain would bless me. Right from my childhood days I have a bad reputation of over dreaming. I added more spices in that dream like that bungalow must have a lawn where I could sit with coffee on a deck chair and sunrays would make me warm in the cold morning. Since I am a reader of British literature, it was expected that the fire places would make my evening and night cozy.

When my friend Avra told me about going at Takdah in late December, prima facie, I nodded my head as hill station is my favorite most vacation place. But till that time I did not know much about Takdah. It is my habit to study a lot about any place before going there, same practice drove me to acquire knowledge about Takdah and I found there is a British bungalow - Saino Heritage Guest House. I requested Avra to book that bungalow. Avra smiled and said that he had already booked that one. I thanked him a lot.


Saino Guest House - Takdah
Located at Kalimpong sub division, Takdah can be reached by two ways – either from Hill Cart Road (Siliguri-Kurseong-Ghum) or from Teesta Bazar. We took the first option as we were coming from Dhotrey. One can go from Darjeeling also.

This is the time to introduce my team mates. It was a big team of 8 people. My friendly couple Avra and his wife Shipra, Avimanyu and Hiya, my friend Sumanta and another friendly couple Mrs. And Mr. Dey. I was the youngest member in the team.

On the way to Takdah
We reached Takdah at around 1.30PM. At the very beginning, the owner of the bungalow Mr. Pradhan welcomed us and asked a boy to serve complementary tea. With the cup of tea I entered into the room and it impressed me a lot. I said myself “Hey Amlan, this is the place of your dream”. The room reflects the British aristocracy.

We were a bit tired and hungry, so we got freshened up and had lunch. After lunch, we started walking through the road. The greenery of pine forest impressed us a lot. Our lungs got some pleasure of breathing fresh air.

Takdah monastery is adjacent to the Bungalow. We visited there in the late afternoon. Monastery is always my favorite place. Interior of the monastery is really beautiful. The walls are decorated by various Buddha paintings that depict the stories of Jataka.  An old lama is there with some young lamas. Since all of us are fond of Buddha culture, we requested the old lama to allow us during the evening prayer. He is a proper gentleman with full of wit. First he welcomed us by Buddhist modesty scarf and then granted the permission. We touched his feet and sat at the corner of the monastery. We saw the prayer and after that spent a long time with the veteran lama. Then he offered chocolates. We thanked him and came out of the monastery.
In the evening, the fireplace got ignited. We enjoyed the cozy environment by chit-chatting accompanied by mouthwatering snacks and warm drink.

Veteran Lama inside Takdah Monastery
Next morning we got up a bit early and prepared ourselves soon. The morning was a bit cloudy, so I did not see Mt. Kanchanjungha. By that time our car came and we started for some sight-seeing.

First we went to a hanging bridge. The road was not that much motor able. So we got down just before 1km of the bridge and trekked down to the bridge. The bridge is very photogenic. We spent some time there.


Hanging Bridge near Takdah
Our next destination was Peshok tea garden.  This is the most beautiful place near Takdah. Our driver drove us to the Sunset point of the tea garden. We got down from the car and the lush greenery of the garden gave our eyes a great pleasure. Meanwhile the sky got clear and Mount Kabru North was slightly visible, slightly because, there were some cloud on the northern sky and the snow peaks were just behind the cloud.


Peshok Tea Garden near Takdah
Spending more than 3 hours we decided to have lunch at Teesta Bazar because our next destination was on the bank of the River Teesta.

Bank of the river Teesta did not impress us as the place was very dusty. We came back quickly and our driver suggested us to go to Orange Garden.

We did not get much photograph in the Orage Garden as it was about to dark. We came back to the Bungalow.


The call of devotion at Takdah Monastery
Next morning we got up late and went to the adjacent Takdah Monastery again. We had a nice chit chat with the veteran lama. Meanwhile, our car came. We had lunch and left for New Jalpaiguri to get the train for Kolkata.


Bye Bye Takdah
Going:

Train to NJP or flight to Siliguri followed by car from Siliguri/ NJP can reach you to Takdah by two ways – either from Hill Cart Road (Siliguri-Kurseong-Ghum) or from Teesta Bazar. You can also take a car from Darjeeling to Takdah.

Staying:

Saino Heritage Guest House is the best place to stay at Takdah.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rajgir - The capital of Magadha

The word “Rajgir” has been derived from the phrase “Raj Griha” means the house of King. On 7th Century BC, Rajgir was the capital of Magadha. It became the capital of Magadha. It became a major Buddhist hub during the regime of King Bimbisara (543-491 BC) and his son Ajatashatru (491-459 BC) as prophet Tathagata (Gautama Buddha) spent a long time there.  Later the town’s popularity was waned when the capital was shifted to Pataliputra (Patna).


Vishwa shanti Stupa, Rajgir
Now a days, tourists from across the world came to visit the ruins, Vishwa Shanti Stupa and to enjoy the cable car ride. People of Buddhist religion come here for pilgrimage as it is a major town in Buddha Circuit.

History of Rajgir:

As I said earlier, Rajgir was the capital of Magadha from the period of King Bimbisara to King Udayin (459-440 BC).

Prophet Tathagata came here twice in their time. First he came when he was prince Siddhartha, before attaining enlightment.  Second time he came to Rajgir and spent a long time during the regime of King Bimbisara. Then he taught lessons to his followers.

Rajgir has association with the epic Mahabharata. In Mahabharata, this place is called as Girivraja and recounted the story of King Jarasandha, and his battle with Pandavas.

My day out at Rajgir:

I visited Rajgir from Bodh Gaya and after checking in to hotel I went to Nalanda and on returning back, I visited to Kakolat Waterfalls. I would like to suggest the readers to visit Kakolat Waterfalls. My travelogue of Kakolat Waterfalls is written here.

Due to hectic schedule of the day we went to bed very early and decided to wake up early as there are many places in Rajgir to enjoy.

According to the plan, we got up very early on next day and booked a “Tonga” (a wooden car pulled by horse). My suggestion to the readers is to make sure the tonga puller will take you to Jarasandh Ka Akhara and will go to Ghora Katora Lake. Usually tonga-pullers avoid going in these spots by making lots of excuses. The charge of tonga is near about INR 1300.

At the very beginning I would like to mention that the city Rajgir is in a valley surrounded by seven hills – Vaibhara Giri, Ratna Giri, Saila Giri, Sona Giri, Udaya Giri, Chhatha Giri and Vipula Giri. In Sanskrit, the word “Giri” means hill.

We started at 8am and said the tonga-puller that Cyclopean Wall, Venu Van could be skipped as they are not that much interesting.

First our tonga took us to Maniyar Math.

Maniyar Math:

Maniyar Math is located at the center of Rajgir and more than 5000 years old. Based on some “Pali” text, its cylindrical brick structure has been recognized as “Manimala Chaitya” (the center of Yaksha).  Based on the Mahabharata, the identification of Rajgir was as the sacred adobe of Naga. Excavation revealed terracotta serpents that vowed the belief of the worship of Naga (snake) at that place.

Maniyar Math
Son Bhandar:

The road that leads to Son Bhandar and Jarasandh Ka akhara is deviated from the main road at Maniyar Math junction.


Son Bhandar, Rajgir
Son Bhandar means the “Hoard of gold”. Historians confirmed that two caves were constructed by Jain ascetic Vairadeva at the foot of Vaibhar Hill in the 3rd or 4th century CE for monks to meditate in.

Legends say the name Son Bhandar was given by the King Jarasandha as the caves contain hidden gold. The undeciphered scripts written in the wall are believed to be the password to open the door.

Archeologists wanted to break the layer of rocks but it might cause a severe damage to Vaibhar Hill and the hot spring could have been affected as the hill is the source of sulpher for the hot spring.

So let the gold to be kept there, let’s concentrate on the sculpture of the cave. The condition of the sculpture is not well now a days. We spent some more time with the sculptures and came out for Jarasandh Ka Akhara.


Sculpture inside Son Bhandar

Sculpture inside Son Bhandar
Jarasandh Ka Akhara:

Keeping Son Bhandar at the right side, we entered into the forest for Jarasandh ka Akhara. Again the driver showed his reluctance as it is strictly prohibited to go to that place without a covered vehicle like four wheeler. The forest is bit dense and the road crosses game tracks. But we were ready to take the risk so “somehow” I managed the tonga puller and visited the akhara.

To View of Jarasandh Ka Akhara, Rajgir
According to the Mahabharata, this is the place where Jarasandh and Bhima (2nd pandava) fought for one month. The battle ended with Bhima subduing Jarasandh.


Jarasandh Ka akhara, Rajgir
Today a broken brick structure is there as the witness of that legend. But the scenic beauty and calmness impressed us a lot. We stayed there for some time to enjoy the greenery and silence but suddenly a noise of howling broke the silence and within a while we ridded the tonga and tonga puller pulled the car very fast to go out of the forest. Later he said it was either a fox or big cat. At that moment I understood why he was unwilling to go there. But still I suggest the honorable readers of the post to visit that place.

Bimbisara jail:

Our next destination was Visha Shanti Stupa. On the way to that an almost ruined archeological remain of Bimbisara jail can be seen.
This is the place where the unfortunate father King Jarasandh was imprisoned by his son Ajatashatru as King Bimbisara was a patron of Buddhism. Hindu priests conspired with Ajatshatru for preventing the popularity of buddhism. While prisoned, King Bimbisara stared at Griddhakuta Hill to see Prophet Buddha meditating. Later Ajatashatru became a patron for Buddhism.

I suggest not spending more than 5 minutes in this place as there is nothing to see so we asked our tonga puller to take us to Vishwa Shanti Stupa.

Vishwa Shanti Stupa:

This is the main attraction of Rajgir that was built in 1969. People from across the world come to Rajgir for this place. This is holy place for Buddhists. Located on the top of Ratnagiri Hill, Vishwa Shanti Stupa can only be reached by cable car. Enthusiasts can go by trekking. I would suggest going there by cable car and coming down by trekking as ridding cable car is the most exciting part of the tour. The cable car contains a single chair and it is advised to sit properly.


Close view of Vishwa Shanti Stupa
Vishwa Shanti Stupa is made of Marble and has four statues depicting four stages of Prophet Buddha – Birth, Enlightment, Teaching and Mahanirvana (Passing away).


Four postures of Prophet Buddha
Lots of votive stupas, chortens can be seen in this place. Honorable readers, please have ample time to enjoy this place. This is the highest point of Rajgir so a top view of the town can be seen from this place.


Chorten at Vishwa Shanti Stupa
Sutra Stupa of Saddharma Pundarika Sutra is also a nice structure to see.


Sutra Stupa of Saddharma Pundarika Sutra
After spending more than two hours we started trekking down. While trekking, we saw the vulture peak of Griddhakuta Hill.

Griddhakuta Hill (Vulture Peak): 

I am not sure how people go there but personally I could not see any route to go to Vultures Peak. Trekkers might go there by trekking but there is a dense forest under the peak.


Griddhakuta Hill (Vulture Peak), Rajgir
This is the place where Prophet Buddha meditated and taught the lessons to his followers. Right now some prayer flags and vultures can be seen.

We trekked back and hand some snacks as we were hungry. Then we started for Ghora Katora Lake by tonga.

Ghora Katora Lake:

The most romantic journey to Ghora Katora Lake is through a beautiful trail. Ratnagiri and Khandagiri hills bless the tourists with their beauty.


Ghora Katora Lake, Rajgir
Ghora Katora means “bowl of horse”. Though artificial but this is the most beautiful place of Rajgir. Couples come there to enjoy some quality time. We enjoyed boating there.


Ghora Katora Lake, Rajgir
Now it was the time to come back to hotel. Returning on the same route we saw Jeevak Amravan.

Jeevak Amravan:

Actually there is nothing to see except a forest of mango trees. Jeevak Kumarvritya, a contemporary of Prophet Buddha, is considered to be an historical doctor. His home was inside the mango groves. A hospital has been constructed after his name.

Bramha Kund (Hot spring):

Our last spot was Bramha Kund (Hot spring). This is a sacred spring for Hindus. Devotees come there for bathing. Separate bathing place and change room is there for male and female.


Bramha Kund (Hot Spring), Rajgir
From Bramha Kund, we came back to hotel, had lunch and started by car for Bakhtiyarpur to get the train for Kolkata. Enthusiasts can stay there for another day and enjoy some hiking to Ratnagiri Hill, Udaygiri Hill.

Going:

Rajgir can be reached from Gaya and Patna by Bus or Car. Nearest rail station is Rajgir. But actually Bakhtiyarpur is the popular rail station nearest to Rajgir. Nearest airport is in Patna.

Staying:

There are lots of hotels in Rajgir. Tourists can choose according to his/ her budget.