Life in the 21st century has turned out to be one big rat race, a marathon against time, where success is measured by materialistic gains and achievements. Gone are the days where solace, contentment and spiritual wellbeing take centre stage in one's life on earth.
With the increasing stress and clutter life dumps upon us, many young and old have now turned towards finding inner peace to salvage their weary souls. If spirituality is what you yearn for, what better place than India, a country that's teeming with an abundance of religions and spiritualism. With more and more people turning towards the spiritual heritage it's no wonder that India has become a hot spot for pilgrimages. There are plenty of pilgrimage sites scattered across the country's vast terrain that evoke one's sense of spiritualism and its goes without saying that these pilgrimages usually leave you with a peace of mind and cleanse your inner soul.
Buddhism In India
Once upon a time, over twenty five centuries ago, Kapilavastu, the capital of the Sakyas was in a festive mood. Mahamaya, the chief queen of King Suddhodana, had a dream in which a magnificent white elephant with a lotus in his trunk appeared and entered her side. The sixty four Brahman soothsayers who were invited to interpret the queen's dream prophesied that she would give birth to an illustrious son who would either be a world conqueror or a world renouncer.
Siddhartha Gautama, who was after enlightenment given the title of 'Buddha', was born a prince into the Shakya clan in 563 BCE. On the birth of the child, named Siddhartha, the astrologers predicted to his father Suddhodana: "The child, on attaining manhood, will become either a universal monarch (Chakravarti), or abandoning house and home, will assume the role of a monk and become a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened soul, for the salvation of mankind". At the age of 29 years he left home and started wandering as a beggar and ascetic. After about six years he spent some time in Bodh Gaya. Sitting under the Bo tree meditating, he was tempted by the demon Mara with all the desires of the world. Resisting these temptations, he received enlightenment.
A lot of differences arose between Hinduism and Buddhism practices like ahmisha, puja, worship and vegetarianism. In 10th century Turkish invasion started and a further blow to Buddhism in India and the major monasteries of India wiped off the map. After that Buddhism never came as major force in the land of Sakyamuni's birth.
During modern India, Buddhism survived only among the peoples of Ladakh, lahul, Spiti, Kinnaur in the Western Himalayas and the Monpas, Shedukpens, Lepchas, Bhutias and Chankmas in the eastern Himalayas. In late 1950s and 1960s under leadership of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar many depressed class people change their religion to Buddhism.
The flight of his Holiness the xivth Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959, led to the eastablishment of his government in exile in Dharmasala in North India, where there is a thriving Tibetan Buddhist community.
Four Sacred Buddhist Places
Lumbini: this is located in Nepal - where prince siddhartha (latter lord buddha) was born.
Bodhgaya : This holy place is where prince siddhartha, attained enlightenment under bodhi tree and became "the enlightened one".
Sarnath : The holy place of the first sermon where lord buddha preached his first sermon to his five disciples.
Kushinagar : This holy place is where lord buddha stayed last and entered into mahaparinirvana.
More Buddhist Places
Kapilvastu : The erstwhile capital of the Sakya clan, Kapilvastu was the place where Siddharta Gautam spent early part of his life.
Nalanda : Nalanda is one of the world's oldest living cities. The evocative ruins of its monasteries and temples still convey a vivid impression of the serene and ordered life of contemplation and learning that prevailed here.
Rajgir : Surrounded by five holy hills, the picturesque little town of Rajgir is important for Buddhists as well as Jains. Siddhartha, after his renouncement of luxurious life came to Rajgir to seek the path of salvation.
Sravasti : Sravasti, capital of an ancient kingdom by the same name, is sacred to the Buddhists because it was here that Lord Buddha confounded his critics with a million fold manifestation of himself, seated on a thousand-petalled lotus, as fire and water emanated from his body.
Ajanta Caves : Designated World Heritage Site, these caves have seen the rise and spread of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism.
Ellora Caves : Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ellora caves are important to see the common threads of the Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Sanchi : The world famous stupa of Sanchi is a wonderful example of the early Buddhist stupa architecture. It also is a UNESCO World heritage Site.
Best Time to Visit - August to March
Summer, April to September max 43ºc min 32ºC
Winter, October to March max 29ºc min 10ºC
How to Reach
You travel to the Buddhist sector, using the following means of transport -
4 By Air - the nearest airport is Gaya and Varanasi. But Delhi is still a major gateway combining Delhi and Agra Taj Mahal tour.
4 By Rail: well connected with all major cities, like Gaya, Patna, Varanasi and Lucknow.
4 By Road: Well-connected by a network of roads including Nepal.
Air lines operating to Delhi - Sri Lankan Airlines
Food and Dining
All the hotels serve multi cuisine food and most of those are specialize in country wise cuisine such as Thai, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. Sri Lankans particularly love the taste of North Indian food.
Where to Stay
You can enjoy a comfortable stay while on a Tour to Buddhist Places as there are all types of hotels available from budget to luxury class traveller.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born as Sathyanarayana Raju on November 23, 1926 in the village of Puttaparthi, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India. Even as a child, His spiritual inclination and contemplative nature set him apart from other children of His age, and He was known as 'Guru' and "Brahmajnani' (knower of Brahman or Godhead) among his peers and others in the village. However, it was not until October 20, 1940, the day He made the historic declaration of His Avatarhood, (Avatar - Divinity Incarnate) that the world at large learnt of this divine phenomenon. Today, millions of devotees from all over the world, gather every day at his ashram Prasanthi Nilayam, to worship Him as an 'Avatar', and an incarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi.
The Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram provides low cost accommodation to those who visit Sathya Sai Baba. Rooms are available for married couples and those travelling alone or in a group are allocated rooms in one of the many accommodation blocks. Accommodation is usually granted for three or four weeks stay.
Note: persons under the age of 21 years, travelling alone, will be refused accommodation in the ashram. Persons under the age of 21 should be travelling in groups or with family. Note that this discretionary rule may soon be raised to under the age of 25.
Accommodation in Prashanti Nilayam Township
There are many hotels outside the ashram, in the Prashanti Nilayam Township. The township offers two-three star hotel accommodations along with guest houses and other accommodation rooms. Rates vary according to season, and you should bargain intensely as rates are very exaggerated and overpriced for the quality of the room.
Some of the major hotels in Puttaparthy are Sri Sathya Sai Towers Hotel, Sai Renaissance, Sri Sai Plaza, Sri Prashant Towers, Hotel Sai Gangaputhra, Hotel Sri Sai Sadan and Hotel Sai Heritage.
Sai Baba has three main ashrams, and occasionally visits other locations in India.
Sai Baba's ashrams are located in Puttaparthi and Whitefield.
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