Buddhism came into being in northeastern India, during the period from the late 6th century to the early 4th century BC, a period of great social change and intense religious activity. It was Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince 2,500 years ago in Lumbini, renounced his royal heritage, and as a young man, sat under a tree in Bodhgaya determined to find a way to transcend suffering. He recognized that all of the world's problems begin with a fundamental ignorance that causes beings to misunderstand the true nature of reality. Because of this, they engage in actions that lead to their own suffering and fail to recognize what leads to happiness.
- Lumbini, Buddhas’ place of birth,
- Bodhgaya, where he gained enlightenment,
- Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon,
- Kushinager, where he left his mortal body,
- Dharamsala, home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and,
- Agra, home of the Taj Mahal
- Discussions on “History of Religions in India” and “Buddhism in India”.
Day 1, February 22: Leave Europe. Arrive late at night in Delhi. Representatives will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel for the night.
Day 2, February 23: Sightseeing in Delhi, the capital city of a succession of mighty empires dating back to the 1st cent BC. Being at the cross road of North India, Delhi has been home to many cultures and religions and thus we will see expressions of the finest forms of architecture in the form of graves, forts, palaces and places of worship for the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Islam, Sikhs and the Bhai Faith. Discussion: “History of Religions in India”. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3, February 24: Travel by train to Agra, city of the Taj Mahal. We will first visit the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri - an epic poem in red sandstone, built by Emperor Akbar the Great in 1569. The Taj Mahal is perhaps the greatest love story ever told, built by Emperor Shahjehan on the death of his wife. Behind Agra Fort’s forbidding red sandstone battlements lie palaces that tell the story of the Mogul Empire. Later, take an overnight train to Lucknow. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4, February 25: Spend the day in Balrampur. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5, February 26: Drive to Lumbini in the South-Western Terai of Nepal. Queen Maya, returning to her parental home, gave birth to Lord Buddha in 623 BC under a Sala tree in full moon while the royal caravan rested there. Today, there is no trace of Lumbini village, but an Ashoka pillar commemorating the emperor’s visit in 249 BC, stands marking the sacred spot of Buddha’s birth. Also see Puskarni - the sacred pool where Maya Devi took a holy dip prior to giving birth, and where infant Buddha was given his first purification bath. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6, February 27: Drive to Kushinager. Here towards evening on a couch between two sal trees, Buddha "laid himself down on his right side, with one leg resting on the other, mindful and self-possessed", left his mortal body saying "Decay is inherent in all things". This was the full-moon day of May. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7, February 28: Drive to Patna, and spend the rest of the day sightseeing. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8, March 1: Drive to Bodhgaya. Seeking a deeper knowledge, Buddha journeyed into the forests with the intention of finally and completely realizing the infinite. Siddhartha sat beneath a Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya. Touching the earth, thereby calling it to witness the countless lifetimes of virtue that had led him to this place of enlightenment, he entered into a state of deep meditation. Three days and nights passed and his intention was realized. Siddhartha became the Buddha, meaning the "Enlightened One." The tree that stands today is believed to have grown from original peepal tree under which lord Buddha meditated and river Niranjana in which Buddha bathed after attaining enlightenment flows quietly outside the tiny hamlet. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9, March 2: Spend the day sightseeing in Bodhgaya. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10, March 3: Drive to Varanasi. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11, March 4: Dawn boat cruise on the holy Ganga. The time to see the ghats is early dawn when out of the morning mist, forms descend the steps, increasing to a solemn silent multitude lit by the sun's first rays, immersing itself in the holy stream and to salute the sun, nature worship rituals prevalent in India 3,000 years ago. Visit many ghats and the 17th century Gyanvapi Mosque built by Aurangzeb on the site of the Vishwanath Golden Temple Walk and shop through ancient lanes of Varanasi, wide enough to touch buildings on both sides of the lane.
Later drive to Sarnath where Buddha preached his first sermon to five disciples at the Deer Park here, enshrining the principles of his teaching into laws. The Dhamek Stupa marks the location of a once resplendent monastery. Also see a large complex of ruined monasteries cover the area north of the stupas, some belonging to the Kushan and Gupta period. The first monk communities probably settled here in the 3rd century BC. Discussion: “Buddhism in India”. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 12, March 5: Continuing sightseeing of Varanasi, fly to Delhi, and then take train to Amritsar in the evening. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 13, March 6: Visit Harmandir Sahib, or, as known the world over, The Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh places of worship, which enshrines the Holy Book of the Sikhs. Later, drive to Dharamsala. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 14, March 7: Perched on the high slopes of the Kangra Valley, in the enchanting world where the spinning of the wheel and fluttering prayer flags spread the message of peace and universal harmony, Dharamsala is the home of the Buddhist spiritual head, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan government in exile. Visit Tsuglag Khang the most important Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 15, March 8: Return to Delhi through Amritsar. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 16, March 9: Whole day free for shopping. Departure this night. Included: (B), (L), (D).
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