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Footsteps of Buddha Tour

  • 10 Nights/ 11 Days
  • Delhi - Agra - Lucknow - Sravasti - Lumbini (Nepal) - Kushinagar - Vaishali - Patna - Rajgir - Nalanda - Bodhgaya - Varanasi - Delhi

Footsteps of Buddha Tour is highly cherished and most opted Buddhist circuit tour. It encompasses the holiest pilgrimages of the Buddhist- Lumbini (birthplace of Buddha), Bodhgaya (the place where Buddha attained enlightenment), Sarnath (the place where Buddha delivered first sermon, began ‘dharmachakrapravartana’and established ‘sangh’) and Kushinagar (where Buddha attained ‘mahaparinirvana’). In the course of visiting these four holiest sites, the itinerary takes you to some other prominent destinations related with Buddha, like Shravasti, Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda etc. In addition to prominent Buddhist places, you happen to visit Taj Mahal in Agra and India’s cultural capital Varanasi.

Day 1 Arrive in Delhi

Footsteps of Buddha Tour commences as you land in Delhi, the capital city of India. After landing in New Delhi, you will be met by our representative in the arrival hall at the airport of Delhi and transferred to pre-booked Delhi hotel. During the course of reaching hotel, on the way, you will get the first impression of the bustling capital. Delhi, situated on the banks of River Yamuna, was formerly called Indraprastha and offers innumerable evidences of its highly developed existence since the time of Mahabharata. Later, Delhi was ruled by various dynasties of Hindu rulers. Islamic rulers captured and annihilated traditional Delhi in 12th century and rebuilt several buildings, inspired by Islamic architecture. After Mughals, the Delhi again was conquered by the Hindu rulers, especially Marathas. But this reign didn’t last long and the British annexed it and established it as capital of modern India. Delhi has several holy temples of Hindus & Jains, gurudwaras of Sikhs, mosques & tombs of the Muslim, churches of the Christian, forts, places, museums, parks and cultural centres. Overnight stay has been planned in Delhi.

Day 2 Delhi – Agra arrival- Agra sightseeing

Today you will travel to Agra. Having relished scrumptious breakfast in New Delhi hotel, depart for Agra, a historical city that is world over famous for three UNESCO World Heritage, including gracious monument of love-the Taj Mahal. On arrival at Agra, directly check in at the pre-booked Agra hotel. After a brief respite, explore the city. You start your tour with a visit to the majestic fort on the banks of river Yamuna. Get to know the imposing buildings, immerse yourself in the world of the Mughal kingdom and marvel at his chambers and Peacock Throne. Before retiring, visit the highlight of every India tour of the North- the world famous Taj Mahal at sunset. Featuring an unrivaled perfection and beauty, Taj Mahal is the most expensive monument. It shines today in white marble - especially in the early morning hours before onslaught of tourists. Mughal king Shah Jahan built this mausoleum in 1631 in fond memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. 20,000 workers have it built in 22 years: a dream of white marble, which rises in perfect proportions amidst an elegant garden with a fountain. Use the evening then to visit the colorful markets. Late evening, post dinner, you will be transferred to Agra railway station to board train for Lucknow. Overnight journey will be by Train.

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Day 3 Lucknow arrival – Sravasti (by car-160 kms/ 4 hrs)- Sravasti visit

Early in the morning, you will be received by our representative at Lucknow railway station. From Lucknow railway station, you will be directly driven to Sravasti (near Balrampur). The ride in a private air-conditioned vehicle is a comfortable experience. Sravasti has been one of the most visited places by Buddha. At Sravasti, Lord Buddha spent 24 “Baisakh” (Chaturmases) of his life. Here, Buddha delivered most of his sermons and accomplished the status of a legend by many miracles. Shravasti was one of the six largest cities of Buddhist era.

Founded by Vedic era king Shravasta, present day Sravasti is home to ancient stupas, majestic viharas and several temples at and nearby village of Sahet-Mehet. Sravasti, as Nagarjuna mentions, was a great centre of trade and learning and was inhabited by more than 900000 people during Buddha’s time. All these monuments, related to Buddha and ancient Hindu culture were built within a fortification that is is available to be seen in the form brick and mud built ramparts.

In the historic town, visit the Jetavana Monastery, Sahet Mahet, the remains of the ancient city of Sravasti of the Buddhist period, and the Stupa of Angulimala. The rest of the day is free. Overnight stay in Sravasti hotel.

Day 4 Sravasti – Lumbini (by car-250 kms/ 05 hrs)- visit Lumbini

Have breakfast in Sravasti hotel and depart for Lumbini, the birth place of Siddharth (later known as Buddha). Lumbini is in Nepal. Being birth place of Buddha, Lumbini holds special salience in Buddhism and is one of the four pilgrimages of the Buddhist across the globe. Lumbini had been granted UNESCO World Heritage Sites status in 1997. On arrival at Lumbini, you will be transferred directly in pre-reserved hotel. Refresh, relax and move for visiting holy and historical places, having association with Lord Buddha. Asokan Pillar in Lumbini is one of the historical monuments. Asokan Pillar holds attraction for the Buddhists as Ashoka proselytized into Buddhism. Mayadevi Temple is another holy place for the Buddhist pilgrims. The temple has been dedicated to and named after Mayadevi, mother of Siddhratha (Lord Gautam Buddha). A holy dip into sacred pond named Puskarni is a must-do religious activity to be performed. It was the pond where Buddha's mother Mayadevi took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he, too, had his first bath. Also visit several monasteries and birth place of Gautam Buddha. Overnight stay has been planned in Lumbini.

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Day 5 Lumbini – Kushinagar (by car-175 kms/ 04 hrs)- visit Kushinagar

After enjoying delicious breakfast in Lumbini hotel, depart for Kushinagar, the next stop of your trip is back in India. It takes about four hours to reach Kushinagar. You will be directly transferred to pre-reserved hotel to relax and refresh.

Kushinagar is situated in Northeaster Uttar Pradesh and is considered to be the place where Lord Buddha attained ‘Parinirvana’ after his death. The place has many ancient monuments associated with Lord Buddha. It is said that the town derives its name from the name of Kusha, the son of Lord Ram of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya. According to historical records, Mallas held the reigns of the kingdom during the time of Lord Buddha and it was their capital city. A number of ancient stupas dating back to the time of ancient kingdoms, including many associated with Lord Buddha, dot this town and the surrounding landscape. Today, many temples built by the ardent devotees of different nationalities – Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese, South Korean, Tibetan and Japanese – also are part of Kushinagar. Some of the most important and major places for a visitor to see in Kushinagar are Nirvana stupa – which contains a copper vessel said to contain Lord Buddha’s remains, Mahaparinirvana temple – which houses a very long statue of Lord Buddha in the reclining position which was unearthed during the excavations of 1876, Mathakuar shrine, Ramabhar stupa – the site of Lord Buddha’s cremation, etc. Kushinagar is thus among the most sacred and important places associated with Lord Buddha and his life and constitutes a prominent part of the itinerary of any visitor on the Buddhist circuit. It is also a must visit destination for any visitor exploring religion, history, culture, civilization, heritage, etc.

On a tour you will see the Mahaparinirvana Stupa, which sits at the place where Buddha died and got cremated. Nearby is a 1,500-year-old image of Buddha. The Mahaparinirvana stupa is surrounded by the ruins of ancient monasteries. Go here on a small archaeological discovery tour and enjoy the very special atmosphere at this location. Overnight stay has been planned in Kushinagar.

Day 6 Kushinagar – Vaishali (240 kms/ 5 hrs) – Patna (60 kms/ 2 hrs)

Having delicious and timely breakfast in Kushinagar hotel, depart for Patna, visiting Vaishali on the way. Vaishali, founded by king Vishal, finds mention even in Mahabharata and was one of the prominent metropolis of Buddhist era. Vaishal has been the first republican state of the world, several centuries before Sparta. Visit the Ananda Stupa and Asokan Pillar at Kolhua and Vaishali where Lord Buddha after his enlightenment spent the first five years. He also gave his last sermon here. After exploring Vaishali, move for Patna, erstwhile Pataliputra. Overnight stay has been scheduled in Patna hotel.

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Day 7 Patna – Rajgir (85 kms/ 02 hrs) – Nalanda (15 kms) – Bodhgaya (95 kms/ 02 hrs)

On your way to Bodhgaya visit two other important places related to the life of Buddha. The first destination on the way to Bodhgaya is Rajgir.

Modern-day Rajgir is a small place and town which lies in Nalanda district in Bihar state, but it is a historical and ancient place and its history dates back to the ancient times. It is believed that references to the place have been made in the epic, the Mahabharata. Historical accounts show that it served as the capital city of the Magadha kings – hence the name, ‘Rajgriha’ or the ‘residence of the royals’ – before one among their lineage, Ajatashatru, moved the kingdom’s capital to Patliputra (or modern-day Patna). Historical records show that the place was also closely associated with major events in Lord Buddha’s life and the path that he founded. It is recorded that he stayed in Rajgir and delivered sermons at that place and also converted emperor Bimbisar who became one of his ardent followers. It is also the place where the first Buddhist council was formed. Rajgir also has many Hindu and Jain temples and draws devotees of these two faiths. The place Rajgir besides being imbued with so much history and tradition is also a very scenic place with thick vegetation, hills and a valley. It also has warm water ponds whose water is said to have therapeutic and medicinal benefits. The list of places to visit when at Rajgir is very long. The list includes Jarashand ka Akhara, Jivakameavan Gardens, Ajatshatru Fort, Cyclopean Wall, Shanti Stupa, Venu Vana, Bimbisar Jail, Jain Temples and Swarn Bhandar.

After visiting famous Buddhist places and monuments of Rajgir, drive to Nalanda. Lying only 15 kms from Rajgir, Nalanda is an historical site, probably the oldest and largest Buddhist teaching center of the ancient world.

Nalanda, is a site in Bihar about 88 kilometers from Patna, which was an ancient and one of the earliest centers of higher learning and was patronized by royal dynasties, until it declined because of factors including its ransacking and destruction by a Turkish invader Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. This center of learning was founded in the 5th century AD and during its prime attracted students, scholars and visitors from as far away as China, Persia and Greece. It was a residential center of learning and had facilities for housing student-scholars, as also halls where learning was imparted and also had a very large library. It is believed that the university was set up and established in 5th century AD, but it is not certain who exactly founded it, even though it is known that it was set up under royal patronage. It is believed that the courses and learning taught at this university were all inclusive and the whole knowledge available at the time was sought to be imparted to the student-scholars of the university. Travelers and scholars from around the world visited the university and their chronicles are good sources of information regarding this famed ancient seat of learning. Present-day Nalanda is being maintained by government departments and a visitor to the site can see and explore the archeological complex and museum.

Visiting Nalanda, proceed to Bodhgaya ("place of enlightenment") - the international Buddhist pilgrimage center. On arrival at Bodhgaya, you will be transferred to pre-reserved hotel for overnight stay.

Day 8 Explore Bodhgaya

The whole day is meant to explore Bodhgaya and visit various temples and monasteries, in addition to Mahabodhi Temple.

Bodhgaya which is in proximity to modern-day Gaya town in Gaya district of present-day Southern Bihar is considered to be among the holiest and among the most revered sites and places for Buddhists, as it is said that Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under a Boddhi tree located here. That very site at which he is said to have attained enlightenment and the areas nearby are what constitute modern-day Bodhgaya today. According to Buddhist tradition, Lord Buddha who was a wandering monk with a quest for discovering the ultimate truth reached Bodhgaya after having traversed diverse lands, undertaking many spiritual practices in the wilderness and sat in meditation under the Bodhi tree and attained the blessed and blissful state of enlightenment. He continued to meditate at a few other spots in the vicinity where he first attained enlightenment and received the confirmation of having indeed attained enlightenment and the final answers to all his questions and the ultimate truth. After this, it is said Lord Buddha then travelled to Sarnath where he began to preach and teach the principles that he had realized. At the very site where the Bodhi tree existed, emperor Ashoka – 250 years later to the date considered to be the day of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment – and then other famous kings of different dynasties after him, built ornate temples to mark and commemorate the event. Modern-day Bodhgaya now has a number of temples built by Buddhist followers from Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam.

You will also see the village Sujata and the monasteries from different countries that emerged around the city. Take the rest of the day for your own explorations. Overnight stay has been scheduled at Bodhgaya.

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Day 9 Bodhgaya – Varanasi (265 kms/ 05 hrs)- Sarnath visit

Check out a bit early in the morning from Bodhgaya hotel, after having enjoyed delicious breakfast. Your chauffeur will bring you to Varanasi. The city on the Ganges has a long religious tradition and is considered a sacred place of Hinduism. For over 3000 years, the faithful make pilgrimages here. To bathe in the Ganges is to cleanse from sins. Dying in Varanasi and to be burnt here imparts salvation (‘moksha’), meaning escape from the constant cycle of rebirth as per the Hindu mythology. On arrival at Varanasi, check in at the pre-booked hotel. Having relaxed for a while, move for one of the four pilgrimages of the Buddhist- Sarnath.

Sarnath located in southern Uttar Pradesh, in close proximity to Varanasi (or, Benares) is a historical place and site and closely associated with Buddhism and also with Jainism. According to Buddhist tradition, the two major events of Buddhism, the ‘first sermon’ i.e. ‘the preaching of Dharma’ of Lord Buddha and the establishment of Buddhist Sangha were at Sarnath. And, according to the Jain tradition, Singhpur, a village one kilometer away from Sarnath, is the birth place of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism. As Sarnath is believed to be the site of Buddha’s first sermon after he had attained enlightenment, it is among the most sacred places for Buddhists and is considered to be one of the four places – the other three being Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Kusinara (or Kushinagar), of any devout Buddhist’s pilgrimage circuit. The many monuments that stand witness and are testimony to the age and times of that period include Dhamek Stupa, Dharmarajika Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Ashoka Pillar, etc. The Sarnath museum houses many other sculptures, artworks, etc. of these periods and is a treasure trove for the pilgrim and the interested alike. Present-day Sarnath also has many modern temples built by devout Buddhists and Buddha worshippers of diverse nationalities. Sarnath epitomizes and showcases the spirit and times of an important ancient period in Indian history as also of human civilization itself.

After exploring and visiting Sarnath, return to Varanasi hotel for overnight stay.

Day 10 Varanasi exploration – Delhi (by air)

Today you will be exploring various aspects of the cultural capital of India- Varanasi. Varanasi (or, Benares) which lies on the banks of the river Ganga (or, river Ganges) in the south-eastern part of Uttar Pradesh is considered to be among the holiest and the most ancient places of Hinduism. It is also said to be among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India. The great old religions traditions of India – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism – ascribe the town and the city with great religious significance and thus it occupies a prominent position in each of these religious traditions. But the most prominent position for the holy river is among the Hindus for whom just a bath in the holy Ganga washes, purifies and purges them of all the sins committed in the past, just as does the worship of the presiding deity, Lord Shiva, in the holy Vishwanath temple there. References to the city of Benares, or Kashi (as the town was and is most popularly referred to), abound in almost all of the scriptures of Hinduism and the city is considered to be among the holiest and among the most sanctified by divinity and divine powers. Recorded history does show that at different times, the city and the region surrounding it were under the rule of different kings and ruling clans, but for longer periods were under the suzerainty of a few single dynasties. Varanasi today offers not just something, but a lot to every kind of visitor and tourist. From the student-scholar, the serious, the arty and artistic, the simply curious, to the one out to shop for the most traditional of items, and to, of course, the religious and pious pilgrim, Varanasi offers and opens up. The devout have the traditional ghats of the river in which they can undertake their purificatory rituals and bath before the traditional worship at the temple. The shopper can select and choose from an assortment of wares – silk items, handicrafts, brassware, etc. As also can the inquisitive and the serious-minded from the numerous scholarly centers and scholars who abound in this traditional and modern learning center. Indeed, Varanasi is a place with a difference and more so a distinguished place.

Welcome the morning in Varanasi with a boat ride on the Ganges. Thousands of believers come every morning to the banks the Ganges to bathe and pray. Before the silhouettes of the temples and palaces in the morning, the faithful light candles those float on banana leaves over the river. Let the magical atmosphere engulf you. Then return for a leisurely breakfast in your hotel. After relaxing a bit, proceed for a guided tour of Varanasi visiting the Bharat-Mata Temple, Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple ( where a large monkey population lives), Tulsi Manas Temple, the university campus with its Art Gallery and the Vishwanath Temple galis (narrow alleys). The day ends with a flight to Delhi. On arrival at New Delhi, you will be transferred to hotel for overnight stay.

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Day 11 Transfer to the airport

On the last day of Footsteps of Buddha Tour, you will be transferred to Indira Gandhi International Airport to board flight for your onward destination.

Delhi

Delhi is enriched with long historical past, glorious culture, an enviable treasure of monuments and modern infrastructure. Delhi, currently the capital of Indian Republic, has passed through several upheavals during its thousands of years of existence and has witnessed many ups and downs of history with many dynasties flourishing and diminishing with the passage of time.

Delhi has been built nine times over the years and accordingly named in the scriptures. Indraprastha, known as first Delhi, was founded by Pandavas of Mahabharata in around 1500 BC. Qila Rai Pithora, termed as second Delhi, was built by Raja Anang Pal and later re-christened by Prithviraj Chauhan as Lal Kot. Siri, the third Delhi, was founded by Ala-ud-din Khilji. Siri Fort, a major tourist attraction, is a famous monument of that time. Tughlaqabad, called as fourth Delhi, had been founded by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. Tughlaqabad Fort is a testimony to that. Jahan Panah, the fifth Delhi and a walled city, was constructed by Muhammad bin Tughlaq to address the constant threat of Mongols. The sixth Delhi, Ferozabad, was founded by Feroz Shah Tughlaq and its testimonial evidence can be seen in the form of 13-metre high tapering quadrangular pillar adjacent to Ashokan pillar. Din Panah, the seventh Delhi, was rebuilt afresh by Humayun and later razed and constructed by Sher Shah Suri. Earlier this Old Fort or Purana Qila was seat of legendary ruler Prithviraj Chauhan. The walled city of Shahjahanabad, known as eighth Delhi, had been founded by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who built Taj Mahal as well in Agra. Modern and present day Delhi, the ninth Delhi and known as Lutyens' Delhi or New Delhi has been laid down by the British.

Agra

Agra finds its mention in epic of Mahabharata as ‘Agravana’. Agra is traditionally and culturally part of Brijbhumi, associated with legendary Lord Krishna. Strategically located on the banks of river Yamuna, the city of Agra has seen many upheavals due to intermittent attacks of the invaders to take control of it. Agra remained under control of the Rajputs, the Muslims, the Marathas and the British. Though the influences of these regimes are quite visible in art, architecture and culture of the city but the Mughal impact is more pronounced, especially in old Agra. Now-a-days, Agra has been synonymous with Taj Mahal from tourism perspective. Taj Mahal can easily be termed as a feather in the cap of India, particularly Agra, which also possesses the most precious jewel in the country’s crown the “Taj Mahal”. Sikander Lodhi, Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan ruled with Agra as capital of their kingdoms. Babur was the first Mughal king who built first Islamic monument in Agra i.e. Gul-e-Afgaan or the Aram Bag -a planned garden. During the rule of Akbar, famous monuments of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort, were constructed. Sikandara and It-mad-ud-Daula are the famous buildings of Jahangiri period. World renowned Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan in fond memory of Mumtaj Mahal, is now one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. Agra is also known for its fabulous handicrafts, made of marble and soft-stone inlay work. Agra's major handicraft products besides inlay work are: leather-ware, brassware, carpets, jewellery and embroidery work.

Shravasti

Sravasti has been one of the most visited places by Buddha. At Sravasti, Lord Buddha spent 24 “Baisakh” (Chaturmases) of his life. Here, Buddha delivered most of his sermons and accomplished the status of a legend by many miracles. Shravasti was one of the six largest cities of Buddhist era.

Founded by Vedic era king Shravasta, present day Sravasti is home to ancient stupas, majestic viharas and several temples at and nearby village of Sahet-Mehet. Sravasti, as Nagarjuna mentions, was a great centre of trade and learning and was inhabited by more than 900000 people during Buddha’s time. All these monuments, related to Buddha and ancient Hindu culture were built within a fortification that is is available to be seen in the form brick and mud built ramparts.

Lumbini

Lumbini (Sanskrit for "the lovely") is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located at the Nepalese town of Kapilavastu, district Rupandehi, near the Indian border. Lumbini is one of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites based on major events in the life of Gautama Buddha. Interestingly, all of the events occurred under trees. Lumbini is the traditional birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who was born in the 7th or 6th century BC.

According to Buddhist tradition, Maya Devi (or Mayadevi) gave birth to the Buddha on her way to her parent's home in Devadaha in the month of May in the year 642 BC. Feeling the onset of labor pains, she grabbed hold of the branches of a shade tree and gave birth to Siddharta Gautama, the future Buddha. The Buddha is said to have announced, "This is my final rebirth" as he entered the world. Buddhist tradition also has it that he walked immediately after his birth and took seven steps, under each of which a lotus flower bloomed.

In 249 BC, the Buddhist convert Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and constructed four stupas and a stone pillar. Ashoka's Pillar bears an inscription that translates as: "King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20 year of the coronation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan ["blessed one"] having been born here. Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight part (only)".

Monasteries and temples were built at Lumbini until the 9th century, but Buddhism declined in the area after the arrival of Islam and later Hinduism. All that remained was a sculpture, revered by local women as a fertility symbol. The garden of the Buddha's birth was lost for a thousand years.

The site was rediscovered in 1895, when a German archaeologist came upon Ashoka's Pillar, identified by its inscription. Records made by the Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian were also used in the process of identifying this religiously acclaimed site. Lumbini was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Kushinagar

Grooming the pastoral landscape, the small hamlet of Kushinagar, 53 km in west of city Gorakhpur, is revered as the site of Buddha's Mahaparinirvana. On his birth he stepped seven steps in every direction and declared it as his last birth. It was known as the place of death and cremation, that marked his final liberation from the cycles of death and rebirth which will be a holy site for the followers of Lord Buddha

Kushinara, Buddha's Nirvana site then called, was a small town in the kingdom of the Mallas, surrounded by a thick forest cover of Sal trees. It remained hidden & unknown, until the late nineteenth century, when archaeologists rediscovered the site, and began excavating the facts to rediscover the site as the holy Buddha-recognition.

The Buddha's living nirvana, achieved during enlightenment, as death transforms to nirvana without human residue. Self possessed, without psychological pain, untroubled by the thoughts of death, Buddha identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death. "But don't hinder yourself by honoring my remains," he added.

On reaching the village of Kushinagar of Mallas, on the further side of the Hiranyavati River, Buddha realised that his end was fast approaching. He told Ananda to prepare a bed for him with its head turned towards the north between two sal trees. Ananda who served him for 20 years was deeply upset. "Don't grieve, Ananda!" Buddha consoled him. "The nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us. Everything born contains its own cessation. I too, Ananda, am grown old, and full of years, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning 80 years of age, and just as a worn-out cart can only with much additional care be made to move along, so too the body of Buddha can only be kept going with much additional care".

As desired by Buddha, the Mallas of Kushinagar were informed of his impending death, and they came to pay respect to him. Among them was a mendicant named Subhadra, a 120-year-old Brahmin. Ananda had earlier turned him away but when Buddha overheard this he called the Brahmin to his side. He was admitted to the Sangha (Buddhist order) and immediately after his conversion he passed away.

When the third quarter of the night approached, Buddha asked his disciples three times if there were any doubts about the teachings or the disciplines. The Bhikkhus stood silent. "Not one, Ananda, has misgivings. All will eventually reach enlightenment. Buddha then uttered his final words, "Listen, Bhikkhus, I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay. Strive with diligence". He passed into meditation absorptions and entered mahaparinirvana (the great passing away). It was the full moon of the month of Vaisakha (April-May) and the year was probably between 487 and 488 B.C. However, according to the Sri Lankan tradition and other southeastern countries, it is believed that the Buddha entered Parinirvana in 544-543 B.C.

For the next six days the body of the Great Master was laid in state. Preparations were made for his funeral under the direction of Anirudha a cousin and follower of the Buddha. On the seventh day, after honouring the body with perfumes and garlands, it was taken to the Mukutbandhana Chaitya, the sacred shrine of the Mallas. The last ceremony was performed by Maha Kashyapa and the body of the Great Master was cremated with due honour. When the cremation was complete, the Mallas collected the ash as relics, which consisted of a skull, bone, teeth and inner and outer shrouds. The relics were then distributed into eight shares amongst the representatives of the other eight Kingdoms, which constituted ancient northern India. These relics were again subdivided after King Ashoka decided to build 84,000 stupas. Today these relics are enshrined in stupas across Asia.

Vaishali

Vaishali, believed to be the first republic of the world, having an elected body of representatives, holds special significance for Buddhist devotees. At Kolhua, Lord Buddha delivered his last sermon, hitting at his impending departure from the mortal world. Later, Emperor Ashoka erected a huge pillar to commemorate the spot of the last sermon. Vaishali was also the center of the IInd Buddhist Council congregation, held after 100 years of Buddha’s Parinirvana to discuss the ten pints of Vinaya, the rule of conduct under dispute.

At the excavated archaeological site of Raja Vishal Ka Garh is an ancient parliament house, which indicates that this republic flourished in the 6th Century BC. 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 (Bhikshu) 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. Also worth a visit is Kunupur, 4kms from here which is the birthplace of Lord Mahavira (6th Century BC) who spent 22 years of his initial years here.

These were some of the important places connected directly to the life of the Buddha. As the years went by important centers of Buddhist learnings kept coming up to spread his message all over India. We shall now highlight some important centers in each part of India beginning from the East, where Buddhism almost has a complete region under its strong influence.

Rajgir

Rajgir, meaning "the Royal Palace", (Raja Griha) lies 12 Kms south of Patna. Rajgir is a site of great sanctity and significance for Buddhists. The Gridhakuta Hill, in Rajgir, was the seat from where Buddha delivered many of his sermons. It was here that the teachings of Buddha were recorded in writing for the first time. An aerial ropeway takes visitors up the hill where the Japanese have built a beautiful Stupa.

Many sites of historical and archaeological significance surround the holy city of Rajgir. Bimbisara Jail reminds one of the devoted Mauryan King Bimbisara (5th-6th Century BC) who, being a Buddhist chose this as a place to spend his last days. From here he could see Buddha climbing up the Grihakuta Hill to do his meditation.

Ajatshatru’s Fort is another place of tourist attraction. 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’, of the great founder of the Buddhist Faith.

Other prominent sites of importance at Rajgir include Saptdhara, the hot springs which supposedly have healing powers; Venuvan Vihara, the residence built by the king Bimbisara for Buddha; Jivaka’s Mango grove, residence of an ardent Buddhist follower, Jivak who was a surgeon, and the Karnada Tank, bathing site of Lord Buddha. Also the first Buddhist Council was convened here, at the Saptaparni Cave, after the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha. Getting There: The nearest airport is Patna at 107 kms. To reach Rajgir by rail, get on the Delhi-Howrah mainline for Bhakhtiyarpur, 54 kms from Rajgir. The loop line connects Rajgir directly. Rajgir is also connected by road to Patna, Gaya and Delhi/Calcutta.

Nalanda

Nalanda, 90 Kms south of Patna, literally means the place that confers the lotus. It was one of the oldest universities of the world. It has nine million books, ten thousand students, two thousand teachers and 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. Emperor Ashoka built a Vihara, while Emperor Harshvardhan donated a 26 mtrs high copper image of Buddha and Emperor Kumar Gupta built a college of fine arts. In 1951, an International Center for Buddhist Studies was established in Nalanda. Nava Nalanda Vihar, 2 Kms from here, is a similar institution.

Bodhgaya

Bodhgaya, in the state of Bihar, reckoned as the most important pilgrimage center, is the place where Lord Sakyamuni (Gautam Buddha) entered into meditation after being moved by the sufferings of mankind. The giant Bodhi Tree (Peepal) that we see today is believed to have grown from the original Bodhi Tree under which, sitting on the raised platform, Prince Siddharth meditated and finally attained Nirvana. Then there is Chaukramana, the Jewel Walk, where it is believed that the Buddha strolled while in deep thought.

The magnificent Maha Bodhi temple in Bodhgaya is an architectural amalgamation of many cultures. The temple bears the stamp of the architecture of the Gupta Dynasty and subsequent ages. On the walls of the temple, one sees Buddha carved in different aspects, and in the sanctum sanctorum, a colossal Buddha is seen touching the ground, which has mythological significance in the Buddhist lore. The temple carries inscriptions recording the visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China and Myanmar in the 7th and 10th Centuries AD Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveler, also visited the temple in the 7th Century.Other Places of Interest Adjacent to the Mahabodhi temple is the Shaivite Monastery that has a cluster of four temples. Surrounded by enchanting greenery and marked by architectural marvels, these temples have several samadhis (commemorative stones) in their vicinity. Just across are a number of cells, meant for residential purposes of monks.

Not far from the Shaivite Monastery is the Jagannath Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has the statue of the deity, carved in glistening black stone.

Finally, a visit to the Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum is a must for a religious art lover as it initiates one into the age of Buddha’s centered art forms. The Buddhist sculpture collection from 1st Century BC to 11th Century AD is housed here at one place. Reflected through several art forms, it is more like a treasure house of artistic expression. Bodhgaya is 245 Kms from Varanasi and 178 Kms from Patna via Rajgir and Nalanda.

Varanasi

Situated on the banks of holy river Ganga (the Ganges) , the spiritual capital of India- Varanasi is known by several names like Banaras (as local people call it), Kashi (desrived from 'Kashika' meaning the shining one referring to the light of Lord Shiva), Avimukta (meaning never forsaken by Lord Shiva), Rudaravasa (meaning abode of Lord Shiva) and Anandavana (meaning forest of bliss). Varanasi is one of the holiest of the pilgrimages of the Hindus. Being on the banks of the Ganges, the most sacred and venerated river in India, Varanasi becomes all the more pious spiritual centre among religious Hindus. Its name Varanasi is derived from its being on the confluence of two rivers- Varuna and Asi. Though Varanasi is the world's oldest living city but its oldest monument is not older than 300 years because of inimically destructive invasions of Muslims. Varanasi is a prominent business and trade centre as well since the ancient times.

Ghats of Varanasi along the western bank of the Ganges are special as these epitomize various aspects of Hindu way of life. Watch out people having early morning bath followed by ablutions, puja by Brahmin priests, people practicing meditation & yoga, cremation process on Manikarnika ghat and Harishchandra ghat, people consulting the astrologers under their palm leaf parasols, buy offerings for rituals, trades selling silk apparels and brassware etc.

Sarnath

Located 10 kms from Varanasi, Sarnath is one of the four pilgrimages of the Buddhists. It was Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon and declared the birth of a different 'dharma' (religion)- Buddhism. From Sarnath, the 'dharmachakra pravartan' commenced. In around 234 BC, Emperor Ashoka, a great follower of Buddhism, built a grand stupa- Dharmarajika Stupa, here. Later on Sarnath developed as a prominent Buddhist centre with a grand monastery. Between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, several Buddhist structures were built here in Sarnath. The Muslim invaders in medieval period ransacked and destroyed it. But an inquisitive traveler may still experience the rich past in the remnants of monastery, Dhamekh stupa, Dharmarajika stupa and Emperor Ashoka's pillar. Also, visit Sarnath museum. Sarnath museum also has the figures and the sculptures from the Mauryan, Kushana and Gupta periods discovered during the excavations at Sarnath.

  • Accommodation in the mentioned hotels on double sharing.

  • Daily breakfast basis on all places.

  • Total Meals: 11 (Breakfast-11).

  • Total night stays: 11 (Delhi-02; Shravasti--01; Lumbini-01; Kushinagar-01; Patna-01; Bodhgaya-02; Varanasi-01, Onboard Train-01).

  • Well-appointed upgraded air-conditioned rooms at all places.

  • Monument entrance charges.

  • Morning boat cruise in the Ganges during morning hours to enjoy panoramic view of Varanasi ghats.

  • English speaking & destination-specific guides at all destinations for mentioned sightseeing tour.

  • Meet & assist at the airport on arrival & departure.

  • Sightseeing tours as mentioned in the itinerary.

  • Air-conditioned private car for the whole sightseeing tour.

  • Driver for the whole tour.

  • All prevailing taxes like luxury tax, service tax etc.

  • All transfers, city tours, excursions & drives by air-conditioned transport.

  • Interstate road tax, toll tax, parking charges, driver’s wages, fuel charges etc.

Optima Special:
  • Morning boat ride in the Ganges along the ghats of Varanasi.
  • Indian railways experience.
  • Evening view of Taj .
  • Varanasi alleys & temples tour.
Don’t miss on Footsteps of Buddha Tour:
  • Have holy dip in Puskarni in Lumbini.
  • Evening Ganga aarti in Varanasi.
  • Visit of Tibetan Buddhist temple in Varanasi.
  • If you are handicrafts-freak, do squeeze out time to visit markets of Agra & Varanasi.
Shopping:

Delhi:Handlooms, handicrafts, stalls that sell products from all over India (Dilli Haat).
Varanasi: Rudraksha, Banarasi sarees, carpets and clay artefacts.
Agra: Marble souvenirs.

Cuisines:

Delhi: Street foods/snacks like ‘tikki’, ‘chaat’, ‘Dahi Bhalla’, ‘pao bhaji’, ‘fruit chaat’, ‘rabdi faluda’.
Varanasi: : Hot and garlicky fish steak (Lahsun wali machali).

Is This Trip For Me:
Travel Style Service Level TPhysical Demands Trip Type Trip Rating
Classic Standard FIT/Small Group 4.5/5
DestinationsStandardSuperiorDeluxeLuxury
DelhiJiviteshHiltonShangri LaHotel Imperial
AgraSiris 18Mansingh PalaceITC MughalOberoi Amar Vilas
Shravasti Nikko InternationalNikko InternationalNikko InternationalNikko International
Lumbini Lumbini HokkeLumbini HokkeLumbini KasaiLumbini Kasai
Kushinagar Lotus NikkoImperialRoyal ResidencyRoyal Residency
PatnaHotel Chanakya Hotel ChanakyaPataliputra ExoticaPataliputra Exotica
Bodhgaya Lumbini InternationalLumbini InternationalBodhgaya Regency Bodhgaya Regency
Varanasi Hotel IndiaRamada PlazaRadissonNadesar Palace
  • Price is per person twin/ double sharing basis.

  • Airfare not included.

  • Additional conditions may apply, please enquire for further details.

  • Prices shown are fully inclusive of taxes.

  • Additional levies, government charges & other applicable fees, including additional taxes and surcharges on flight routing, may apply and are beyond our control.

  • Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply depending on date of travel.

  • Payments made by credit card will incur a surcharge.

  • Prices shown are for payments made by cash in store or through normal bank transfer into our accounts.

  • These prices are a guide to the best price and are subject to change without notice.

  • Prices are subject to change without notice, due to matters outside our control, such as adverse currency fluctuations, fuel surcharges, taxes and airfare increases, please enquire for further details.

  • Please provide your passport details to Intrepid at least one month before travelling. Please note that if you do not provide your passport details you may be denied entry to any National Parks that are visited along this itinerary, or you may be charged a fee by the local government as passport details are now a requirement for entry into all national parks in India.

  • Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

  • In India normally the check in time is 02:00 PM and check out time is 10:00 AM.

  • Meals other than breakfast and as specified above.

  • Video camera/ still camera fee applicable at various monuments. The same will be paid by you direct on spot on actual basis.

  • Items of personal nature like telephone calls, laundry, tips, hard/soft drink etc.

  • Any expenses arising out of unforeseen circumstances like flight delay/cancellation/hike in fare, strike or any other natural calamities.

  • Indian visa fees.

  • Any compulsory meal supplements during festive season is not included.

  • Early check in & late check out at the hotels.

  • Any other Items is not included in " Inclusions" heading.

*Important Notice: The following information has been obtained from the relevant suppliers and should be considered an indicative guide only as to the prices that may be available for these products. Optima India Tourism cannot guarantee that any particular product will still be available at the following prices, or for your exact dates of travel. At time of making your booking, prices may differ to that price displayed on this website. Please contact an Optima India Tourism travel consultant to obtain the latest up to date information regarding applicable prices, fees and charges, availability and other terms and conditions which may apply.

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