Tag Archives: India

FotoFolio: Buddha’s Nirvana (Faces of Enlightenment)

I first read about Buddha and Nirvana when I was in high school. Or at least that’s what I remember. But all I used to remember was this prince who meditated so hard that he became enlightened. No, don’t blame my teachers. It’s probably due to my lack on general interest for history at the time.

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The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

It was only when I traveled to Bangkok as part of my Backpacking South East Asia in 2011 that I had my first real encounter with Buddha, Buddhism and Nirvana.

Of course, I am not saying that I know a lot. But I think I know enough to say that I think the teachings of Buddhism (at least the ones I heard of) ring true, even today. Or, perhaps, especially today.

But anyway, this post is not really about Buddhism and Nirvana in the religious sense. More of in a historical and artistic note I think. You see, I have seen several versions of Buddha’s Sleeping Position (reclining for some) as he enters Nirvana–from golden statues to simple stone form to massive temple-sized carving.

I don’t know if it differs based on the sects or schools of Buddhism but one thing is for sure—all of these show the Buddha in a rested and peaceful state. I guess Nirvana really is enlightening. Or something like that. So, below are some of the Buddha’s Sleeping Positions that I have seen from different countries and states.

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A Closer Look at Wat Pho’s Reclining Buddha
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Simple statue of the Reclining Buddha at Loha Prasat (Wat Rachanadda, the only temple left of its kind), Bangkok, Thailand
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The Sleeping Buddha of Baphuon Temple, Angkor Wat Archaeological Temple Complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Just to show how massive Baphuon temple is, from which the Sleeping Buddha was carved from
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Japanese Peace Pagoda by the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
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The Sleeping Buddha is one of the four statues in each side of the Japanese Peace Pagoda

And, as bonus, I also included here a photo from the 4th Generation Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. It is under the ancestors of this Bodhi Tree that Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment and entered the Nirvana.

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The descendant of the original Bodhi Tree where Buddha was said to have attained Nirvana

Of course, I will be a liar if I’d say that I reached Nirvana or was “enlightened” in the same sense that Buddha did but I did feel great, as in kind of at peace, when I went to Bodh Gaya with my co-volunteers. Maybe someday, you can try it for yourself too.

If you want to visit the Mahabodhi Temple Complex and the other Buddhist temples at Bodh Gaya, you need to get in at Gaya Jn train station in Bihar and take a shared (Rs 20) or hired auto-rickshaw (tuktuk, Rs 150) or taxi (about Rs 500-700 at night). Leave a shoutout if you need more info. Smile You can also read on our experiences or see more temples and activities (esp monks) at Bodh Gaya. If you really want to, you can also watch my videos/playlist for the Bodh Gaya trip.

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FotoFolio: Group of Monuments, Hampi, Karnataka

As part of my South India on a Run (aka final holiday in India), I explored and basked in the history and charm of Hampi in Karnataka, South India, the former seat of the Vijayanagara Empire.

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Towering Virupaksha Temple (as seen) from the gates of Achyutarya Temple)

Hampi is getting more and more popular to tourists these days, especially attracting the foreign “hippie crowd” who are the mainstays of less-known and more secluded beaches of Goa and Gokarna.

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Across the River

So much so that the “island” across the river from the main Hampi Bazaar area is locally known as the “Hippie Island”.

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Bunder (Monkey) in the House at the Virupaksha Temple

Apart from the monuments and old temples, Hampi also has a lot of Lord Hanuman’s relatives—monkeys! You would see them in almost every temple, running and jumping around. And yes, they are cute and all but what would amuse you more, actually for almost all monkeys I’ve seen not just in Hampi but everywhere in India, is their ability to eat all the processed and packed foods as if they were born to have it!

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The Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple is one of the most visited and photographed

Another amazing thing about Hampi is the fact that a lot of its monuments (at least the ones I saw) are still pretty much intact. Some has been reconstructed (it’s distracting when I saw the workers do this by the way) and luckily were made as if it was the real thing.

Pillars of Kalyana Mandapa - Hampi
The pillars of the Kalyana Mandapa (Wedding Hall) at Vittala Temple Complex

I only managed to see the temples in Hampi and not the palaces as I was really taking my time with each and I wasn’t much in the mood to overexert myself to go around. I t was hot when I went (February) and I guess I was tired from my Aurangabad trip just the previous weekend!

Achyutaraya Temple - Hampi
Achyutarya Temple from the top (you have to climb from the gate and then go down)

Also, I think, while Hampi is totally doable in a day, you would need more than that to imbibe all the history and culture it could offer. I mean, if you would like really want to see and feel Hampi, you just gotta take your time and stay longer!

All in all, Hampi is a great place to see if you want to do some Indiana Jones or Lara Croft-like activities. Trekking, stone-climbing, river crossings and maybe even treasure hunting.

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Virupaksha Temple from the Hill just before sunset

Another good thing you can do is devote a little of your time (and money) to help the cause of the Hampi Children Trust. Ran by a CouchSurfer (who hosted me despite him being in Kerala), Hampi Children Trust aims to educate 40 local children in different standards (grades). You can also buy second-hand donated books for sale too! I think it’s a good way of traveling and also giving back to Hampi!

FotoFolio: Kailash Temple, Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

I spent the weekend on top of the world—well, on top of cliffs and mountain-plateaus to have better viewpoints of the Ajanta and Ellora caves, with the Kailash Temple as one of the highlights of my Aurangabad cave exploration!

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View from the Top: Kailash Temple and its ornate designs and carvings, surrounded by the cliff from which it was made from (see the people climbing up?) and the garden/park

Here’s a basic description of the Kailash Temple, according to Wikipedia: Kailashnath Temple, also Kailash Temple or Kailasanath Temple is a famous temple, one of the 34 monasteries and temples, known collectively as the Ellora Caves, extending over more than 2 km, that were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff in the complex located at Ellora, Maharashtra, India. Of these 34 monasteries and temples, the Kailasa (cave 16) is a remarkable example of Dravidian architecture on account of its striking proportion; elaborate workmanship architectural content and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture.[1] It is designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.[2] It is a megalith carved out of one single rock. It was built in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I.

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View from the left-side terrace (second level): massive elephant rock sculpture, towering pillar, and temple areas containing the Shiva lingam and Nandi (Shiva’s bull), adorned by carvings of deities, celestial nymphs, elephants, lion, dragons (and the mix of three creatures in one!)

And, according to me, the Kailash Temple is a magnificent symbol of millennium-old awesomeness of Indian architecture, religion and culture. The entire complex of Ellora Caves actually! Whenever you are in Aurangabad, a visit to the Ajanta caves (totally different area) and Ellora Caves is a must and marveling at the Kailash Temple is a delight. Now, climbing on top of the high basalt cliff from which the Kailashnath Temple is carved from? That is another experience altogether. If you can do that, you’ll see the Kailash Temple from a different angle and really, maybe you’d feel like Shiva looking over his worshippers!

Intimate Couples at Kailash Temple
If you are observant enough, or not yet overwhelmed by the number of carvings waiting to be admired, you will notice sculptures of couples in intimate scenarios

FotoFolio: Mahad on my Mind (Memories of Rural India)

It was May last year when I first saw rural India, up close and personal. I was invited by my colleague Charu to celebrate a once-in-three-years festival at her native place Mahad in Maharashtra, India.

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I wrote two blog posts about it (click for Part 1: A day in the Life and Part 2: Getting Up Close and Personal) at the Project 365 Blog developed with other VSO Bahaginan volunteers.

It was a great experience for me and I guess the nostalgia came over me so I felt the need to share some of the trip’s photos here with you. Smile

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FotoFolio: Meditation Mudras

One of the first things that greeted me upon arriving in India (via Thai Airways Flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi) is the brass plate (?) wall with these massive hands showing different poses. These, apparently and as I suspected, are Mudras for meditation.

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Here is what Wikipedia has to say: A mudrā (English: /muːˈdrɑː/ ( listen); Sanskrit: मुद्रा “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”; Tibetan. ཕྱག་རྒྱ་, chakgya) is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism andBuddhism.[1] While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers.[2] A mudrā is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions and traditions of Dharma and Taoism.

I think using these must be effective as I watched a friend of mine once, in the Bodhi Meditation Garden in Bodh Gaya (the land of Buddha’s enlightenment”), using one of these poses while meditating. Her body was kind of gyrating/revolving, without her knowing it. She explained it must be the energy flow from meditation. And she said she felt great afterwards!