History Watch – Buddhist Circuit !!!

Buddhist Circuit:-

Background:-

“Buddham Sharanam Gachaami ,Dhammam Sharanam Gachaami ,Sangham Sharanam Gachaami”

In the Mahaparinirvana sutra, the Buddha tells his followers that they can attain merit and a noble rebirth by going on pilgrimage to the places where he was born (Lumbini), gained enlightenment (Bodhgaya), first taught (Sarnath), and attained Nirvana (Kushinagar).(“Ananda, these are four places for who are confidently treading on the path of Dhamma to visit which may further inspire them in Dhamma” as said by Buddha)

India, the country where Buddhisim originated, still has rich reminiscence of the Buddhist legacy. As part of its drive towards austerity, the only kind of art and architecture that it supported were Stupas (stone cased moulds that commemorated relics of Budha), Chaityas (prayer halls) and Viharas (cells for the monks).

Buddhist Circuit and The Place of Importance :-

The Buddhist Circuit Train which is popularly known as Mahaparinirvan Express is a tourist train , operated by IRCTC.
Note – Not all the stories are important , but give it a read to understand the specifics of a place and how it came to be and it’s present importance in Indian cultural landscape.Agra forms part of Buddhist circuit though it has no importance as far as Buddhism is concerned , however it is a value for a money and a rational addition in the Buddhist circuit. Here the reference to circuit should be understood in the context of the Mahaparinirvana express.If  we consider only Buddhist circuit , it may also include the places given below that has significance in Buddhism.
Places coverd
GAYA:
Budha Up Map
Gaya derives its name from the mythological demon Gayasur (which literally means Gaya the holy demon), demon (asur, a Sanskrit word) and Gaya. Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur, the holy demon by using the pressure of his foot over him. This incident transformed Gayasur into the series of rocky hills that make up the landscape of the Gaya city. Gaya was so holy that he had the power to absolve the sins of those who touched him or looked at him; after his death many people have flocked to Gaya to perform shraddha sacrifices on his body to absolve the sins of their ancestors. The most popular temple today is Vishnupad Temple, a place along the Falgu River, marked by a footprint of Vishnu incised into a block of basalt that marks the act of Lord Vishnu subduing Gayasur by placing his foot on Gayasurs chest. Buddhist tradition regards the footstep in the Vishnupad Temple as a footstep of Buddha. For Buddhists, Gaya is an important pilgrimage place because it was at Brahmayoni hill that Buddha preached the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta) to one thousand former fire-worshipping ascetics, who all became enlightened while listening to this discourse. At that time, the hill was called Gayasisa.
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BODHGAYA
Bodhgaya Up Map
According to Buddhist traditions, 500 BC Prince Gautama Siddhartha, wandering as a monk, reached the sylvan banks of Falgu River, near the city of Gaya. There he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree. After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddhartha attained enlightenment and insight, and the answers that he had sought. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience. After seven weeks, he traveled to Sarnath, where he began teaching Buddhism.

Disciples of Gautama Siddhartha began to visit the place where he had gained enlightenment during the full moon in the month of Vaisakh (April-May), as per the Hindu calendar. Over time, the place became known as Bodhgaya, the day of enlightenment as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree.

As the place of the Buddhas Enlightenment, Bodhgaya is the spiritual home of Buddhists. Located in Bihar, 115 kms from Patna, the land is rich and fertile, dotted with green fields and watered by the river Phalgu – the same ancient Nairanjana River where the Buddha bathed after attaining enlightenment. A range of low forested hills silhouette the small hamlets flanking the glistening, sandy banks of the river. Monks and nuns rub shoulders with tourists and believers from all over the world. An all-pervading calm envelops the town, giving visitors a sense of peace.

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RAJGIR
Rajgir Rajgir Map
The meandering river Banganga and five hills ensconce picturesque Rajgir, ancient Rajgriha (literally, the abode of kings). During the lifetime of the Buddha this was the capital of the powerful Magadhan kingdom, ruled by the virtuous king Bimbisara. Like many others in search of Truth, Prince Siddhartha, after he renounced his royal heritage came to this city to seek the path of salvation. Later, he overwhelmed the citizens of Rajagriha with his serenity and grace and converted King Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to his religion. The hills and caves surrounding Rajagriha were home to spiritual teachers, ranging from the materialism of the early Charavaka School to the metaphysics of Upanishadic philosophers. In fact the first Buddhist council after the Buddha was hosted here at the Saptaparni caves. It was Rajgir which saw Gautam Buddha spending several months meditating, and preaching at Griddhkuta, (Hill of the Vultures). He also delivered some of his famous sermons. The rich merchant community here soon became the Buddhas followers and built many structures of typical Buddhist architecture.
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NALANDA
Nalanda -the most renowned university in ancient India derived its name from Na-alam-da, meaning Insatiable in Giving, one of the names by which the Lord Buddha was known. Nalanda was one of the worlds first residential universities, i.e., it had dormitories for students. In its heyday it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

The Buddha is mentioned as having several times stayed at Nalanda. When he visited Nalanda he would usually reside in Pavarikas mango grove, and while there he had discussions with Upali-Gahapati and Dighatapassi[, with Kevatta, and also several conversations with Asibandhakaputta. The Buddha visited Nalanda during his last tour through Magadha, and it was there that Sariputta uttered his “lions roar, affirming his faith in the Buddha, shortly before his death. Also, Nalanda was the residence of Sonnadinna. Mahavira is several times mentioned as staying at Nalanda, which was evidently a centre of activity of the Jains.

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VARANASI
Varanasi Map
The city of Varanasi is situated along the west bank of the Ganges in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Called Benaras by the British, Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year. The city finds mention in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. The renowned American novelist Mark Twain once wrote, ” Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” It has the holy shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. According to mythology, Lord Shiva once in fact lived in Kashi ( Varanasi ). Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a persons soul from the cycle of its transmigrations.

Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too. It was believed that over twenty-five centuries ago, a sage travelled 200 kms from Bodhgaya, where he had attained Nirvana to reach the ghats of Varanasi of Kashi as it was then called. The city had seen saffron clad spiritual teachers before him, who came here, drawn by its magnetic, inexplicable spiritual power. The Sage was looking for five Hindu ascetics, old companions from whom he had parted, because they had insisted that the only path to salvation was through self-mortification. The Buddha found them at Rishipattana, the Deer park near Kashi, and gave them the gift of the spiritual knowledge which he had attained since he parted with them, and they became his first followers, and the first members of the Sangha.

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SARNATH
Sarnath is located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India . It Sarnath (also Mrigadava, Migadaya, Rishipattana, Isipatana) is the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Gautama Buddha started teaching not to debate but for the advantage of and out of compassion for human beings. He explained the middle way which avoids extremes, the Four Noble Truths, and prescribed the Eight-fold path.

There are remains dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C. when Emperor Ashoka founded various institutions, stupas, monasteries and pillar edicts. The runs at Sarnath and the art collection in the Archaeological Museum are representations/ examples of the glorious past of Sarnath. Archaeological remains are open from Sunrise to Sunset.

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GORAKHPUR
Gorakhpur is a city in the eastern part of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, near the border with Nepal. It is the administrative headquarters of Gorakhpur District and Gorakhpur Division. Gorakhpur is famous as a religious centre: the city was home to Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh saints and is named after the medieval saint Gorakshanath. The city is also home to many historic Buddhist sites.

Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism, renounced his princely clothing at the confluence of the rivers Rapti and Rohini, near Gorakhpur , before setting out on his quest of truth in 600 BC. The city is also associated with the travels of Lord Buddhas contemporary Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism

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KUSHINAGAR
At this location, near the Hiranyavati River, Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana (or Final Nirvana) after falling ill from eating a meal of a species of mushroom. It is said that the Buddha had three reasons for coming to Kusin�r� to die:

1. Because it was the proper venue for the preaching of the Mah�-Sudassana Sutta;
2. Because Subhadda would visit him there and, after listening to his sermon, would develop meditation and become an arahant while the Buddha was still alive; and
3. Because the brahman Doha would be there, after the Buddhas death, to solve the problem of the distribution of his relics.As the scene of his death, Kusinara became one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha (in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta) to be fit places of pilgrimage for the pious, the other three being Kapilavatthu, Buddhagaya and Isipatana.

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LUMBINI (NEPAL)
Lumbini (meaning “the lovely”) is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in Rupandehi District, Lumbini Zone of Nepal, near the Indian border. It is the place where Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama, who later became a Buddha (Gautama Buddha), and founded the religion of Buddhism. Gautama Buddha lived between approximately 563 BCE and 483 BCE. For Buddhists, this is one of the four main pilgrimage sites based around the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Bodhgaya, and Sarnath.

Lumbini is located 25 km east of the municipality of Kapilavastu, the place where the Buddha grew up and lived up to the age of 29. Kapilvastu is the name of place as well as the neighbouring district. Lumbini has various Buddhist temples including the Mayadevi temple. There is also the Puskarini pond and remains of Kapilvastu palace in Lumbini. There are other sites near Lumbini where, according to Buddhist tradition, previous Buddhas were born and achieved enlightenment and died.

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SRAVASTI
Sravasti, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala , has the honour for sheltering Buddha for 24 rainy seasons in the Jetvana Gardens . The city believed to be founded by the mythological king Sravast, has age-old stupas, majestic monasteries and several temples. Buddha is said to have performed some miracles here.

This holy place also has the famous Anand Bodhi tree, an offspring of the one, said to have been planted by Buddhas main disciple. Another famous incident in Sravasti was – during the time of Sakyamuni, Sudatta, a rich and pious merchant, lived in Sravasti. While on a visit to Rajgir, he heard the Buddhas sermon and decided to become the Lords disciple. But he was caught in dilemma and asked the Lord whether he could become a follower without forsaking worldly life. To his query, the Master replied that it was enough that he followed his vocation in a righteous manner.

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AGRA
Agras Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahans favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New 7 Wonders of the world, and one of three World Heritage Sites in Agra, the others being Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

Completed in 1653 A.D., the Taj Mahal is believed to be built by the Mughal Badshah (king) Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz. Finished in marble, it is perhaps Indias most fascinating and beautiful monument. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustad Isa, the Taj Mahal is on the bank of the Yamuna River . It can be observed like a mirage from the Agra Fort from where Emperor Shah Jahan stared at it, for the last eight years his life as a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. It is a masterpiece of symmetry, seeming to be floating in the air from a distance, and each revealed as an illusion experienced as one enters through the main gate. Verses of the Holy Koran are inscribed on it and at the top of gate 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj, with a diameter of 60 feet, rises 80 feet over the building and directly under the dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahans tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. Fantastic inlay works using semi-precious stones decorate the interiors.

Other Buddhist Destinations in India

Arunachal Pradesh – Bomdila and Tawang
Sikkim – Kalimpong and Rumtek
Jammu & Kashmir – Ladakh, Harwan, Ambarani and Parihaspura
Himachal Pradesh – Spiti, Kinnaur and Dharamshala
Haryana – Stupa at Sugh, Yamunanagar and Asangh (Jind)
Madhya Pradesh – Sardarah, Sanchi and Murakott
Maharashtra – Karala, Ellora, Kanheri, Ajanta Caves, Pitalgora and Nasik Caves
West Bengal – Darjeeling and Kolkata (Indian Museum)
Andhra Pradesh – Amravati, Salihunda, Borrah Caves and Nagarjunkonda

Note – Special attention should be given to places and the states, For example Borrah caves , Rumteck  etc were UPSC questions.
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By | 2017-02-13T22:01:15+00:00 May 4th, 2016|editorials, History|2 Comments
  • Navreet kaur

    Incredible
    Most required
    Thanks!!!!

  • Ark

    very good. pls keep it up.