Budham Saranam Gachami..Dhammam Saranam Gachami, Sangham Saranam Gachami…Buddhism, as a religion has come a long way, with India having a prominent role to play. Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal and roamed around the north eastern parts of India teaching Buddhism. He made a difference in the life of every person associated to him making him one of the greatest spiritual leaders the world ever saw.
The concept of ‘Buddha’s footprints in India’ is an interesting one. There are many holy places where Buddha left his foot print across Asia during his life as a teacher. Those marks have been preserved intact each with its own story. Over 3000 footprints have been found out with a distinguishing feature like the Dharmachakra or 132 auspicious signs on the sole.
But out of these, four are considered to be very important as they are the landmarks in Gautama Buddha’s life – Lumbini (Nepal), Shravasti (Uttar Pradesh), Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh) andSarnath (Uttar Pradesh).
Prince Siddhartha who later on became Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini. The sacred garden which contains the site of the birth, Ashoka Pillar, the Pushkarni pond and the Mayadevi Temple are places to be seen there. The sacred Garden is one of the World Heritage sites and is home to many Buddhist monasteries from across the world. The sacred pool is the place where Buddha’s mother took bath before she gave birth to him.
Bodhgaya is the place where Lord Buddha attained Nirvana or found enlightenment after meditating for 49 days. The Mahabodhi Temple, the Vajrasan throne donated by King Ashoka, the holy Bodhi Tree, the Animeshlochana chaitya, the Ratnachankramana, the Ratnagaraha, the Ajapala Nigrodha Tree, the Muchhalinda Lake and the Rajyatna Tree are the main attractions here.
Lord Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath after the enlightenment. At Kushinagar Buddha left the world in 543 BC.
In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Buddha advises his followers that they can attain nirvana and a noble rebirth if they go on a pilgrimage to all these four places. The Buddha footprints not only attract people from all over India, but the entire world actually. Lot of tourists, especially from the South Asian countries, visit these places annually. Sometimes the tour is not just only to satisfy your curiosity but also an informative one. Sometimes it is quest for answers while at other times it is to pay homage to a great leader who once lived on this earth. In order to provide easy travel to the Buddhist followers a special circuit train (Mahaparinirvan Express) has been launched that will take you to all these places. The tour dates commencing from Delhi are:
March 2011: 26th (Sunday)
September 2011: 17th (Saturday)
October 2011: 01st (Saturday) & 22nd (Saturday)
November 2011: 06th (Sunday), 15th (Tuesday) & 26th (Saturday)
December 2011: 05th (Monday) & 17 (Saturday)
January 2012: 07th (Saturday) & 21st (Saturday)
February 2012: 04th (Saturday), 13th (Monday) & 25th (Saturday)
March 2011: 10th (Saturday) & 24th (Saturday)
April 2011: 07th (Saturday)
There are also special charter trips available on request. Alternatively, you can prepare you own trip plan and hire a vehicle. There are two plans:
Option 1 (8 Nights / 9 Days):
On the very first day, you travel to Lucknow from New Delhi by train or air. On the second day, you reach Sravasti by the Pilgrims coach. On the third day, you travel to Kapilavastu, followed by Lumbini on the fourth day and Kushinagar on the fifth day. On day six, you visit Vaishali and Patna and on the seventh day, Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya. On day eight, Varanasi and Sarnath are the places you will visit while on the ninth day you will return to Delhi by flight or train.
Option 2 (7 Nights / 8 Days):
On the very first day you reach Gaya from Calcutta. The next day you travel to Buddhagaya by the Pilgrims coach. On the third day you visit Rajgir, Nalanda and on the fourth day Varanasi and Sarnath. On the day five, you will see Kusinagar while on the sixth day you get to see Lumbini and Kapilavastu. On day seven, Balarampur, Sravasti and Lucknow are the places you will see. On the eighth day you will return to Delhi or Calcutta by train or flight.