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BODHGAYA: As the place of the Buddhas Enlightenment, Bodhgaya is the spiritual home of Buhddhists. It attracts tens of thousands of believers from all over the world. Bodhgaya situated near the river Niranjana, is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres since it was here that Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.The population of this town is 22,000 and is situated at an altitude of 113 m. Maximum temperature in summer rises to 45-47 degree Celsius and minimum is 27 degree, while in winter maximum is 28 degree and minimum is 4 degree. It receives an annual rainfall of 1,860 mm. Most countries with vast Buddhist population have a temple or monastery here. The 25 m Great Buddha Statue in the Japanese Kamakura style was unveiled by his holiness Dalai Lama in 1989.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama of the Saakya tribe came here in 528 BC, in search of the truth. He had renounced life as a prince, broken family ties, practised severe penance and trained under several teachers for six years before he came to Bodhgaya (then called Uruvela). It was while meditating under a peepul tree here that he gained spiritual enlightenment or Bodh.
Much of the towns history is known from inscriptions on the stone railing of the Mahabodhi Temple and the accounts of travellers and pilgrims. Excavations carried out since the 19th century have revealed interesting examples of art and architecture. Of particular importance is a model of the original temple that was found during excavation.
During the 4th century, Sri Lankan Buddhists gained control of the Mahabodhi temple as a result of the efforts of the Sri Lankan King Meghavanna. The king later built a monastery in Bodhgaya. During the Gupta period (4th to 6th century) the temple and its surrounding area went through many changes. Quite a few small shrines were constructed, but only the remains of their foundations can be seen today.
One of the most prosperous periods for the temple was during the reign of the Pala kings of Bengal (8th to 12th century). The temple received lavish donations and gifts from the Pala rulers and other Buddhists of Bengal. During this time it was also an important centre for learning. The famous Bengali scholar Atista, who is credited with playing an important role in the resurgence of Buddhism in Tibet, was ordained here.
With the decline of Buddhism in India in the 12th and 13th centuries, Bodhgaya became less frequented and almost all its temples and shrines fell to ruin. Four centuries later, attempts to restore the art and architecture, and revive the place as a centre for pilgrimage began once again. Today, Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centre in the world. It is a fairly quiet, small town that explodes into a colourful, tented Buddhist pilgrimage centre every winter.
Day 1 : Delhi
Arrive Delhi-Arrive Delhi. Meeting and transfer to Hotel Park or similar. Afternoon, lunch followed by city tour, visiting Laxmi Narayan Temple, Hanuman Mandir, India Gate. National Museum, Humayun's Tomb and Qutub Minar. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 2 : Delhi/Agra
Transfer to railway station for train to Agra Shatabdi Express. Breakfast on train. Transfer to Hotel Clarks Shiraz or similar. After check-in and lunch, city tour visiting Taj Mahal built in 1652 by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Agra Fort - built by four successive emperors. Within its walls is the Moti Masjid - the largest pure marble mosque in the world; the Tomb of ltmad-Ud-Daullah, father of Empress Noor Jahon and a noted general in Emperor Akbar's army. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 3 : Agra/Varanasi
After breakfast, transfer to Tundla Railway Station for train to Mughal Saroi. Lunch on the train. Arrive Mughal Sarai and transfer by car/coach to Varanasi's Hotel Ideal Top or similar. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 4 : Varanasi
Early morning, a boat-ride on the River Ganges to see the sunrise and visit the bathing ghats. Return to hotel for breakfast. Half-day city tour visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple - the most sacred shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, New Vishwanath temple - with the whole Gita engraved on its marble walls, Tulsi Manas Mandir - with text of Ram Charit Manas engraved on its walls and Banaras Hindu University. After lunch at hotel an excursion to Sarnath (10kms/0.25hr). At the sacred Buddhist Centre, the Dhamek Stupa marks the spot of Buddha's first sermon and Chakrama, where Buddha walked in meditation. Dinner & overnight at Varanasi hotel.
Day 5 : Varanasi/Gaya (250kms/7hrs)
After breakfast, depart by car/coach to Gaya, carrying our packed lunch. Check-in at Hotel Siddharth International. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 6 : Gaya/Bodhgaya/Gaya
After breakfast, drive by car/coach to Bodhgaya, the Mecca of Buddhism (10kms/1/2 hrs). Full-day religious activities at the Mahabodhi Temple - where Gautam Buddha got the supreme enlightenment under a Bodhi tree 25 centuries ago. The 55m high temple is substantially the same temple that existed in the 7th century, if not earlier and has a pyramidal structure, capped by beautiful stupas. Inside the temple is a colossal gilded image of seated Buddha. Lunch at the temple. Return to Gaya tor dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 7 : Gaya/Patna (116kms/3.5hrs)
After breakfast, drive to Patna by car/coach carrying packed lunch, enroute visiting Nalanda - the great Buddhist University which came-up much after Buddha passed into Mahaparinirvana; Rajgir - the town where Buddha meditated and preached. Here at Girdharakuta Hill we shall see the monastery Venuvna Vihar, built by King Bimbsar as an offering to Buddha. Also visit Karanda Tank - where Buddha used to bathe. Evening arrive Patna, visit museum & check-in at Hotel Maurya Patna or similar. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 8 : Patna/Gorakhpur (418kms/10hrs)
After breakfast, drive by car/coach to Gorakhpur carrying packed lunch. Enroute visit Vaishali -the town Buddha visited on three occasions and where he announced his approaching Nirvana; continuing onto Kushinagar - where Buddha passed into Mahaparinirvana. Arrive Gorakhpur, check-in at Hotel Avantika or similar. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 9 : Gorakhpur/Bhairawan (132 kms/4.5hrs)
After breakfast, leave for Bhairawan by car/coach. On arrival, check-in and lunch at Hotel Yeti or similar. Excursion to lumbtni (45kms/1hr) - the birth place of Lord Buddha. Return to Bhairawan for dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 10 : Bhairwan/Balrampur (240kms/5.5hrs)
After breakfast, leave by car/coach for Balrampur. Enroute visit Kapilvastu - the ancient capital city of the mighty Sankya clan, where his father King Suddhodana ruled. Arrive Balrampur, check-in and lunch at Hotel Pathik or similar. Excursion to Sravasthi (6kms/0.5hr) - where Buddha confounded his critics with a million fold manifestation of himself seated on a thousand petaled lotus while fire and water emanated from his body. Back to Balrampur for dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 11 : BaIrampur/Lucknow (165kms/4.5hrs)
After breakfast, leave by car/coach for Lucknow. The 18th century capital of the Nawab -Wazirs, Lucknow created by Asaf-Ud-Daullah - a great patron of art and of beautiful courtesans. On arrival, check-in at Hotel Clarks Avadh or similar. Lunch, dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 12 : Lucknow/Delhi
After breakfast, half-day city tour of Lucknow, visiting Bada Imambara - one of the most imposing of India's buildings built by Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daullah in 1784 and of great elegance where the main hall (50ft high) is the largest vaulted apartment in the world; Chhota Imambara - built some sixty years later than Bada Imambara and also known as Husainabad, is less ouster in design and contains the throne amid coloured stucco and gilt-edged mirrors; the adjoining Husainabad market famous for its gold/silver brocades and silverware; Museum and Clock Tower. After lunch, transfer to railway station for train to Delhi (Shatabdi Express),dinner on the train. Arrive Delhi and transfer to Hotel Park or similar.
Day 13 : Delhi/Bock Home
After breakfast, transfer to airport for flight to onward journey/back home.
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