30th October 2014 – Bodh Gaya, India
They say food changes perception, unfolds novel ideas,And lets you weigh a plan, and watch it fold and flutter.And so it did for me. After a plate of greasy Aloo paratha,Between a border and the Buddha, I decided to go for the latter.
So, Uttar Pradesh was supposed to be my last Indian state, and I was to ride yesterday evening to Gorakhpur on the north, from where the Nepal border is just 100 KMs away. A breakfast changed all that.
Among the different tourists I had met in Varanasi, there was this Austrian girl who was leaving yesterday, and called me if I wanted to have breakfast near the Varanasi railway station since her train was late. I met her, and we had a quick breakfast. When inquired where she was heading, she informed me of this place called Bodh Gaya. I’ve always known of Bodh Gaya, but never expected it to be that touristy. A quick check in google images showed me that there were a few things to visit there, and a couple of photogenic days to spend. I still had time to cross into Nepal, so I bit the bullet. I rode to Bodh Gaya instead of Nepal, 255 KMs away.
Bodh Gaya is in the Indian state of Bihar, which also happens to be one of the poorest states in India. And it was here that Buddha received his enlightenment, while sitting under a peepal tree. So, this place is one of the most religious places for the Buddhists. And when compared to the rest of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is maintained in rather pristine conditions. There are monasteries everywhere, built by international Buddhist missions from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and any other country where there is a sizeable Buddhist population.
One of the main tourist attractions in Bodh Gaya is the 80 foot statue of Buddha in the city centre. The statue is actually 82 feet in height, and is possibly one of the tallest statues in India. It is said that it took 7 years to complete, and was inaugurated by the then Dalai Lama in 1989.
I’ve seem to have come a long way from temple ghats to Buddhist statues today.