March 31, 2013
It enlightens those who are in quest of the truth and for the religious minded and pilgrims it provides a peep into the different aspects of life of the man, who, about 2500 years ago, abandoned worldly pleasure for spiritual quest.
During its seven-night-and-eight-day long journey, the Mahaparinirvana
Express, the special train for the followers of Buddhism, takes the tourists to the most important spots dealing with life of Lord Buddha in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh as well as Nepal.
According to Railway officials, the train, which operates twice a month, begins its journey from Delhi’s Safdurjung railway station in the evening. The journey will take the travellers to the places where Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, delivered his sermons and died though not in that order.
This package trip starts with a visit to Gaya in Bihar from where the travellers are taken by road to Bodhgaya, about half an hour’s journey from Gaya, where the Buddha, who then was Siddhartha, had attained enlightenment while sitting under the shade of a peepal tree.
Then the tourists are taken to the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya that also has the Bodhi tree. It is believed that 250 years after the enlightenment of Buddha, emperor Ashoka had visited Bodhgaya. 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.
It is said that with the decline of Buddhism in India, the temple was abandoned and forgotten, buried under layers of soil and sand. It was restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the British archaeologist, in 1883.
The tourists also get a chance that many would crave for. As a part of the tour, people are taken to Nalanda so that they will get an opportunity to peep into the ruins of the famous Nalanda University, considered to be one of the oldest in the world, and Nalanda Museum. Then, the tourists are taken to Sarnath, about 15 km from Varanasi, as the part of the package. It’s a place, where Buddha, after attaining enlightenment, had delivered his first sermon or “set in motion the Wheel of Law.”
Ashoka had also visited Sarnath around 234 BC and erected a stupa there.
Sarnath today presents the most expansive ruins amongst the places on the Buddhist trail. It is now home to India’s tallest statue of Lord Buddha at 80 feet, built in an area of 2.5 acres and consisting of 815 stones.
Ganges is always an attraction for the tourists, irrespective of their religious
affiliations. And so the Mahaparinirvana Express travellers also get to enjoy the boat ride in the holy river and witness the grand “Ganga Arti” at the ghat in the evening.
Besides, Varanasi ( also known as Kashi) is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi bring salvation. Most Hindus pray and wish to visit the town at least once in their lifetime.
The travellers will get a chance to visit Kushinagar, about 50 km from Gorakhpur. Here Bhagwan Buddha delivered his last sermon in which he reminds people that “all competent things are subject to decay…work for your salvation in earnest”. At Kushinagar, an over six-metre terracotta statue of the Buddha lying on his side tells of a peaceful death (mahanirvana). The Buddha died when he was nearly 80, but not a wrinkle mark is on the face of the statue, which has since been painted in gold colour. (The red of the terracotta peeps through from the base.)
It is said that after the cremation, a skull bone, teeth and the inner and outer shrouds remained. There was a fight among his followers for the relics. To avert a conflict, a Brahmin, Dona, suggested an equal, eight-fold division of the relics between them. Some records state that, in fact, his remains were first divided into three portions, one each for the gods, Nagas and men. The portion given to humans was then subdivided into eight. Each of the eight people took their share to their own countries and eight great stupas were built over them. These relics were again subdivided, after Ashoka decided to build 84,000 stupas. Today, they are contained in various stupas scattered across Asia. The travellers also get a chance to visit Lord Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini, which is located in Nepal. The pilgrims here get to see the large stone sculpture which show the baby Siddhartha emerging from his mother’s side.
Lumbini is considered the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. The pilgrims are also taken to Shravasti, a town in Uttar Pradesh, where Buddha is said to have spent 24 monsoons.
The travellers also get an opportunity to visit Agra to see the world famous Taj Mahal, the monument of love. It is important that Buddha too had spread the message of love and peace. It will be an added attraction as many world leaders make it a point visit this place and get their photos clicked to be kept in their album.
The tourists also get to see some of the ruins of Buddhist monasteries located in Udaigiri, Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri in Odisha.
sourse: BUDDHIST ART NEWS