Day 26: Purnia to Bodhgaya

0 Posted by - April 10, 2014 - Culture, Rearview Mirror

Today we drove from Purnia, to Bodh Gaya. We stopped at Nalanda to see the ruins of the ancient University.

Splendid work has been done by the Archaeological Survey of India in the restoration of this historic site. Our local guide had ensured that we were allowed into the monument site area even after closing time. Nalanda was an acclaimed Mahāvihāra, a large Buddhist monastery in ancient Magadha. The site was a centre of learning from the fifth century CE to c. 1197 CE.

Drastic change in Bihar was visible from when we drove there last. Roads have made remarkable improvement in most places. We arrived late in Bodh Gaya and visited the Mahabodhi Temple that contains the Mahabodhi Temple with the diamond throne and the holy Bodhi tree.

Origin: Purnia, Bihar
Destination: Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Distance Covered: 360 kms

States Covered: Bihar


Visits to Cyclopean Wall, and Bimbisara’s prison; A night-drive through Bodh Gaya.

Nalanda University flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire as well as emperors like Harsha and later, the rulers of the Pala Empire. At its peak, the school attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia. The university at its peak had 10,000 students and over 1,500 faculty members. Even from the ruins you can see the different faculties of subjects and dormitories for pupils, reading and common areas. It was humbling to see that we in India had an international university all these hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, it was ransacked and destroyed by an army of the Muslim Mamluk Dynasty under Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1197 CE.

Bimbisara’s Prison in Rajgirh: Bimbisara was a King, and later, Emperor of the Magadha empire from 542 BC till 492 BC and belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He is also known for his cultural achievements and was a great friend and protector of the Buddha. Bimbisara built the city of Rajagriha, famous in Buddhist writings. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Ajatashatru.

The Cyclopean Wall perhaps the oldest of archeological constructions that can be seen in India. Once 40 Km long, it encircled ancient Rajgir town. Built of massive undressed stone carefully fitted together, the wall is one of the few important Pre-Maurayan stone structures ever to have been found. Traces of wall still subsist, particularly at the exit of Rajgir.

Bodh Gaya is the most holy place on Earth for the followers of the Buddhist faith all over the world. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela. King Ashoka was the first to build a temple here.

The Mahabodhi Temple that contains the Mahabodhi Temple with the diamond throne and the holy Bodhi tree. This tree was originally a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, itself grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree under which The Buddha was supposed to have received is enlightenment.

It is believed that 250 years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha, Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya. He is considered to be the founder of the original Mahabodhi temple. It consisted of an elongated spire crowned by a miniature stupa and a chhatravali on a platform. A double flight of steps led up to the platform and the upper sanctum. The mouldings on the spire contained Buddha images in niches. Some historians believe that the temple was constructed or renovated in the 1st century during the Kushan period. With the decline of Buddhism in India, the temple was abandoned and forgotten, buried under layers of soil and sand.

The temple was later restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the late 19th century.

A very interesting and extensive interview with a person from Kerala who has settled in Bihar for many years now, and wanted us to reunite him with his family members in Kerala. His views on politics and governance made for a very good discussion. We also interviewed a local village lady and got her views of life today.


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