Reblogged is a series of blog posts on my life in India coming from the weblogs I set-up. It’s an attempt to put the stories all in one place! The post Bodh Gaya: the land of Buddha’s enlightenment was originally posted on September 30, 2012, written on the day things happened. Another post will follow after, which has more photos and videos as the way to tell the partial story about a full-week’s trip to North India with VSO co-volunteers Julie and Amanda, with their friend Laura. This was part of the vacation I called “The Pilgrimage” as we visited the holy cities of Bodh Gaya and Varanasi.
Oh yes! The stuff I used to hear from my history teachers is now coming into life! I am, at present, in Bodh Gaya, where prince Siddharta Gautama, later popularly known as Lord Buddha, was said to have achieved full enlightenment.
After more than 30 hours of train journey and a rather fun and funny shared auto rickshaw drive after, I was welcomed to Bodh Gaya with signs and posts proclaiming this place as a revered site in India. A small village in the state of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is among the must see places in India, not just for the devout monks and Buddhists but for foreigners ad visitors like me, Julie and Amanda (my two co-volunteers who also arrived yesterday after a 14-hour train from Orissa). We set out in the late afternoon sun from our hotel Kundan Bazar, located in a quiet little village away from the noise of traders and peddlers in Bodh Gaya’s center.
Famished and sleep-deprived, we ended at Be Happy Cafe, a five-minute walk from the center. We were led there by a young boy, Jatish,, selling maps and Buddhism or Buddha teaching CDs. At Be Happy, we indulged ourselves in a hummus bowl (my first), a Greek Salad (which was a bit different from that of Cyma), a veggie lovers pizza (Amanda is vegetarian and I avoiding meat especially chicken and fish in the time being), juices, cups of Americano coffee, and black Darjeeling tea! By the time we willed ourselves to leave Be Happy, it was already dark and we were lucky that Mahabodhi, the main temple, is open until 9pm.
Walking back to the center, we can see a lot of people coming and going–Indian men and women in longis and sarees, monks in saffron, orange, brown, red and yellow, and white robes and overalls, children and students, and the usual sellers of different souvenirs and stuff. I was ‘coerced’ by small kids to buy a bouquet of lotus flowers as offering to Buddha. Well, at 10 rupees (originally 20!) for about 10pcs, it’s not bad eh?! Plus, we’re able to split the flowers amongst us 3 so we all had something to ‘offer’ to the holy Buddha.
While the outside is noisy and almost chaotic, upon entry to the Mahabodhi temple area, a certain kind of silence, a different kind of peaceful feeling, and an air of serenity suddenly fills the air. These envelope you, making you feel at ease, transported even, to a state of mesmerized bliss. I know, it sounds surreal, or too flowery. Believe me, it was like this. At least for me, and I am not even a Buddhist or a follower of Buddha’s teachings.Anyway, all I am saying is, it’s a calm and peaceful place and it rubs off on you. And, to top it off, I can brag, este, say that though I was not enlightened, I have seen the Bodhi tree (4th generation but still has part of the 1st tree) where Siddharta Gautama has been enlightened and transformed into Buddha!Update: this morning, apart from the temples we saw and visited, we went to the 80-feet (25-meter) statue of Buddha! It’s massive!