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Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts

Udaygiri - Glory intact in stones

While following the road marks, I was snaking in the foothills of the Jajpur district in Eastern Ghats and completely desolated areas and vacant roads were the onoly company. Finally I reached at the spot, which was precisely located in a picturesque valley.

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LALITGIRI - The Pilgrimage from Ancient History!

Flourished under the patronage of legendary king Ashoka, the kingdoms of Magadh and Kalinga became important centers from where Buddhism spread to the outside world. Present day areas of Bihar-Jharkhand used to be the kingdom of Magadh and parts of Odisha-Andhra Pradesh composed Kalinga kingdom. At their peak these places were often referred as most prosperous regions on the earth and were full of amazing temples and universities imparting ancient Indian knowledge. However, with passage of time dust accumulated on these sites and these places gradually faded out from the eye of common people. In fact, many got buried with layers of earth and since then have been waiting to get resurfaced in future.

With the development coming to these areas, many of these extinct places are coming to life. One of the such places I came to know during one of my visits to this part with lots and lots of things to discover was Lalitgiri. Lalitgiri is situated at a distance of 10 km. beyond the River Virupa in Cuttack district, about 90 km. from Bhubaneswar which is the capital of Odisha state. Excavations in this region have indicated towards existence of very ancient Buddhist complex. With the discovery of Lalitgiri, and stitching together the chronology of event with iconographical similarities, the timeline of Lalitgiri goes back to the 2nd century BC. Based on this, Lalitgiri can be safely considered as one of the most ancient Buddhist establishments. So, I was about to walk into one of the lost chapters in our history, with due excitement.  

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Bodhgaya - Where Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment...

Long back a boy got so much disturbed on seeing the people suffering in the vicious cycle of life and death. One fine day he left his house in search of divine knowledge which can provide freedom from the cycle of life and death. The name of the boy was prince Siddhartha. He travelled relentlessly across places in search of that knowledge. Finally, he decided to sit in deep meditation to attain that wisdom under a tree. Legend says the demons of darkness, illusion and ignorance were unleashed onto him, but his wisdom conquered all the devilish forces. By now prince Siddharth had become “Lord Buddha”, meaning the Enlightened one. And the place where he attained the enlightenment was Bodhgaya.

Far from the eyes of the popular travel itineraries lies the town of Bodhgaya, the most revered destination for Buddhists worldwide. Mahabodhi temple complex is the spot where Buddha had attained enlightenment. It is one of the earliest built Buddhist temples, still standing.

References found shows that the temple was initially built by king Ashoka around 246 BC and was further revamped in 5th -6th century during reign of Gupta dynasty. The main temple is 50 m. high structure built entirely in brick is a classic example of ancient Indian architecture.


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Thotlakonda Buddhist Complex...

Apart from the beaches, ports, steel plant and refinery the place Vizag has been once a flourishing centre for Buddhist culture. It was a surprise for me too till I actually reached this place called “Thotlakonda Caves”.  As I always say Travellers never think of themselves as foreigners, whatever time I could have managed from my schedule I stepped out to relish the soothing ambience at Thotlakonda.

It is believed that Vizag had been once a part of legendary Kalinga Empire and Buddhism flourished here under the patronage of rulers of Kalinga. The place must have been flourishing centre around 200 BC - 200 AD.


Thotlakaonda is around 15 Km. from Vizag enroute to Bheemlipatnam. Way to Thotlakonda will be at your left hand side, please be vigilant or ask the locales. Situated atop a hill, Thotlakonda caves make a picturesque site for the visitors and archaeologists too. Caves were discovered during an aerial survey by Indian Navy in 1970's.



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Dehradun - Blended in culture of city and hills

Capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun is a small, charming city that is known for its scenic surroundings, acclaimed educational institutes, cool environment and lots of interesting attractions to explore.


Such is the location of Dehradun that one can enjoy the journey either via Haridwar/Rishikesh or via Nahan. If you are coming via Nahan then enjoy a number of spots in the way too. First one being citrus fruits' orchards at Dhaula Kuan (58 km. from Nahan).


HIMCO shop on the main road sells fresh juices, squashes and pickles. Do not forget to try.
Moving 17 km. ahead it is the time to pray at Poanta Sahib Gurudwara. Poanta Sahib is a sacred town built in the memory of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs.

Gurudwara serves 24 hrs. langar (free kitchen) to everyone. Though it is not necessary, but if possible "Do contribute something to support this divine initiative" by the Gurudwara. Pray for a few moments here and continue the journey to Dehradun.


Another 27 km. straight drive will take you to barrage at Dakpatthar. This is slightly (5-6 km.) off the track from Dehradun. Continue straight from Herbertpur crossing, right turn will take you to Dehradun. Thanks to my special friend, I got to enjoy such a lovely point. 


Apart from the barrage, there is also a beautiful children's park here. From here Dehradun is only 40 km. ahead. Also if you have time, you may consider rock edit at Kalsi (7 km.).

Coming back from Nahan, a brief stopover at Dehradun is both wise and refreshing. Dehradun is a little town that boasts of hustle-bustle of a city with some quiet and calming corners.

First in line was Tapkeshwar Mahadev temple. The legend has it that this place was often used by the gods and saints for offering prayers to Lord Shiva. Guru Dronacharya, after many years of worship, too got the gift of the archery knowledge by Lord Shiva. The knowledge was later transferred on to Arjun, the greatest archer that ever lived and ever would live.
The huge temple premises looks like a small tour of Gods’ land. It starts with Lord Shiva’s temple, the cave where gods and saints prayed for years. It daily attracts a large number of devotees who worship numerous forms, statues or shivalings that represent Lord Shiva.

Temple premises is distributed on either sides of a small stream of clear and cool water, to reach the other side of the premises you have to cross a small water stream (do that bare foot and bid adieu to all your tiredness in a flash). There, one temple each is dedicated to Goddess Santoshi, Lord Hanuman and Goddess Vaishno Devi, which in fact is a replica of the cave in Jammu and Kashmir.


The reach to the small sanctum sanctorum of Vaishno Devi temple, through the small cave route, is both spiritualistic and thrilling. 

What catches the eye and strikes inquisitiveness in one and all is a marble stand with a small square platform and some cylindrical marble pieces on it. A close look at it tells you that it is your guide to nine planets, their properties and how they affect your life.

Next is Japanese Temple or Buddha temple for a similar soul-satisfying experience. This is an important of Dehradun and is widely acclaimed for its impressive architecture, beautiful interiors and pleasing surroundings.

One can easily spend a few hours to explore the huge premises of this temple and every minute spent there is worth it. The temple attracts large number of tourists and Buddhist followers from every corner of the world. Major attraction within the temple is 103 ft. high statue of Lord Buddha, dedicated to Dalai Lama.

The main stupa of the temple, about 220 feet in height, is built as a replica of Mindrolling monastery, Tibet. It is claimed to be the largest reliquary in Asia.

Stupa with company of adjacent structures, craft its own identity and presents a magnificent skyline to Dehradun.

 

From the towering Lord Buddha statue, giant stupa, calm praying halls to little monks showcasing some brilliant football skills, the place seems like without any worldly trouble. Watching monks play football is something which no one should afford to miss. You can also join them and hone up your football skills. Free accommodation, clothing, food, and other facilities are provided by the Buddha Temple authorities to around 500 monks who live here and study.

 

The colourful gardens, full of various types of roses, other flowers, plants and lush-green trees add to the place’s decor and peace. The shops and temple garden are open for the public seven days a week. However, the interior of the temple remains open only on Sundays.

Too much of spirituality lets now proceed to some cave exploration at the much acclaimed – Sahastradhara, around 11 km from the city of Dehradun. The earlier generation tells you tales of these mountains squirting out water streams in all their resplendence. However, the scene is not as stunning, but still too beautiful. However, the cool water, slowly trickling down the mountains around you makes your journey fulfilling.


Take a dip or just sit on the huge rocks with your feet in water or better still do some casual climbing to discover a your very own hidden pool or some historic cave. Once there, do not forget to try something from the small eateries. Pick your favourite from hot and crispy pakoras, vegetable maggi or mouth-watering aloo tikki.

And you can end your brief meeting with this small town amid its main market, bustling with energy. Just a few moments away from its new-age cafeterias, bakeries, restaurants, and shopping centres, is the old market near the clock tower. A look at that age-old clock tower and any Ruskin Bond fan would immediately identify with his many characters’ experiences and stories. It is perhaps the lanes of this market only that his famous character – Rusty – ran down with his local friends to savour local sweets and delicacies.

 

The market not only is a treasure trove for souvenirs, junk jewellery and local handicrafts, it also houses decade-old eating joints serving the flavours from across the country in authentic style.


Even if for a day or two, the time spent here would make for lifetime memories.


Way to Explore: Nahan – Dhaula Kuan (58 Km.) – Poanta Sahib (17 km.) – Dakpatthar (27 km.) – Dehradun (40 Km.)

From Dehradun one can go to Rishikesh (54 km.)/ Haridwar (53 Km.) or come back to Delhi. If you are interested in continuing the journey, head off to Mussourie (35 km.), to enjoy below panoramas:

Happy travelling Friends... 
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Sarnath - Where Lord Buddha first preached...

The Holy city of Varanasi has been a symbol of spiritualism for thousands of years and has been a centre of enlightenment and awakening for many great thinkers and preachers. Almost all the renowned saints/ personalities like Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Patanjali,....have been associated with this city in one way or other.

Lord Buddha too started his journey from this placeAfter Lord Buddha has attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to "Sarnath", located 10 kms. from Varanasi. This was the fortunate place where Lord Buddha gave the first teachings of what enlightened the world as "Buddhism".

On reaching Sarnath, the first monument to come our way is the CHAUKHANDI STUPA. Stupa is a huge mound of brick-work whose square edifice is surrounded by an octagonal tower. What a gigantic structure this is...? Construction of such a huge structure with only brick work might not get approval in present times:

The Chaukhandi Stupa is believed to have originally built as a terraced temple during the Gupta period between 4th - 6th Century to mark the site where Lord Buddha and his first disciples met traveling from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath. Later Govardhan, the son of a Raja, modified the stupa to its present shape by building the octagonal tower.

Buddhists worldwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One. Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar is amongst the four cities declared sacred by Buddha to his followers. While we were appreciating the peaceful environment here, we found ourselves at the doors of celebrated "Sarnath Temple"


It was the time for praying and thanking the GODs for their benevolence on me and also seeking their blessings for continuing my travels.

The walls of this temple are decorated by life paintings of Lord Buddha.

Lord Buddha is reforming a notorious savage:


This place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon was and still is a Deer Park. In the language of religions, Lord Buddha set in motion the wheel of Law (maha- Dharmachakra Pravartan).

Let’s share the session of Lord Buddha teachings underneath the same tree, which has been the witness of that great session.
Actual place where Lord Buddha gave his first teachings
Those 5 disciples also deserve a mention, names being - Mahanama, Kaundinya, Ashwajit, Bhadridaya and Vappaji.

One of the greatest emperors of ancient India, King Ashoka, who dedicated his life in spreading the Buddha’s message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234 BC and erected a stupa here. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail.

Originally said to be built by Emperor Ashoka. DHAMEK STUPA (Dharmarajika Stupa) is the most remarkable structure at Sarnath. The Stupa is a huge cylindrical structure, 28 m. in diameter at the base and 43.6 m. in height, built partly of stone and partly of brick. The stone facing the lower part is adorned with delicate floral carvings of Gupta origin.

Adjacent to the Dhamekh Stupa is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Mahavira. The top of the main chamber where statue of Lord Mahavira rests is in scripted by a basic reality of life:

Meaning - "Whether he is a king, emperor and used to ride on elephant with great pomp and show, but everyone including him, has to die one day when his turn will come"

Most of the times we keep on living as if we are immortal and will stay on this earth for ever and on the day of our end we realise that we have never lived. However, the truth is that we are just a visitor for a small time in this world. Walls of the temples too are decorated with paintings of various Tirthankars of the Jainism.

Walkover to the back side of the temple and Dhamek Stupa to the Deer park and enjoy:

And deers too..

Sarnath is also sacred to the Jainism as Sarnath is looked as the site of asceticism and death of Sreyansantha the 11th Trithankara. Opposite to this temple is a park dedicated to Lord Mahavira:

Not to forget an exquisite museum dedicated to Lord Buddha, is the oldest site museum by Archaeological survey of India displays grand panorama of Buddhist cultural wealth and the antiques ranging from 3rd Century B.C. - 12th Century A.D. found at Sarnath.

Since photography is "strictly" prohibited inside the temple premises, so I had to content myself with only a picture of the museum building from outside. Some of the notable antiques/ statues are: Abacus, Giant Umbrella, Terracota figurines and Lord Shiva killing demon Andhak; all the antiques are dated around 1st century AD.
The Modern name Sarnath seems to be a contraction of Saraganatha (Lord of deer). Sarnath is an exceedingly tranquil place giving the universal message of peace and harmony to the entire World. With a peaceful mind and a contented soul it was the time to return to Varanasi, however while humming within ourselves:

Buddham saranam gacchami (बुद्धम  शरणम्  गच्छामि ) : I go to the Buddha for refuge
Dhammam saranam gacchami (धम्मम् शरणम्  गच्छामि): I go to the Dhamma for refuge
Sangham saranam gacchami (संघम शरणम्  गच्छामि)    : I go to the Sangha for refuge


Let’s pledge to keep this earth a beautiful place with peaceful co-existence of every soul and form of life, because a life lived for others is truly a life lived.



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Jogey Temple, Seoul


Just at the walking distance, there is a Beautiful Buddhist Temple, Jogey Temple. From the day one, I was watching the beautiful temple and was making plans to visit it as soon as possible. The chilling temperatures, however kept it postponing to next day, next day and so on...





One fine afternoon, we decided to offer prayers at the temple. Within 5 minutes we were in the temple. The magnificent Buddha statue is excellent par anything. The beautifully decorated rooftops and prayer singers present a marvelous panorama.



The atmosphere was vibrating with the ongoing rhymes and verses, which quickly turned in the devotional spirits within our hearts. We were unable to recite along with everyone, but very soon I was soon recalling the teachings of Buddhism and the "Nirvana".

I did not noticed when I started praying:

बुद्धम् शरणम् गच्छामि
  
संघम् शरणम् गच्छामि

धम्मम् शरणम् गच्छामि





Rightly said, Praying to GOD does not require words – Prayer is conveyed by sentiments.

Once the prayer got over, the head priest arrived and everyone rushed to take his blessings. Me too was not in a mood to let go this opportunity, so I too rushed to seek his blessings.
Above all it was pleasing to see the religion which originated in my country being followed so religiously in other parts of the world.

Time was short and we had to rush back to our office so we started back, albeit a few rounds of pictures outside the temple too.
Will be coming back a few times more before I go back to my country. However I was a bit surprised as there were no youngsters in the Temple. Have to find the reason.

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