After giving his first two sermons at Sarnath, Buddha returned to Bihar and then moved the present day Rajgir, Gaya, Vaishali & Keshariya.
Giving sermons at different places and spreading his noble truths, he starts wandering again and moving different regions of Bihar.
Therefore in order to trace the journey of Buddha, we started our expedition Bihar Beyond Imagination and followed his footsteps.
Following the footsteps of Buddha in Bihar was not an easy task.
Unavailability of information at any fixed place, shabby condition of architectural sites and associated various tales are distracting ones focus.
By traveling months in the interiors of Bihar in the search of different historical spots of Buddha Life, we encountered a lot of information.
So let start accounting his Life of Buddha and his journey of enlightenment.
Bramhajoni Hills ( Gayasisa)
After setting in motion the wheel of Dhamma in Sarnath, Buddha returned to Gaya and taught the Dhamma to the eminent Kassapa brothers known for his foremost spiritual authorities – Uruvela, Nadi & Gaya and their thousand disciples.
Knowing the mendicant’s mind, Buddha skillfully performed a series of super-normal feats eg. reading Uruvela’s mind, splitting 500 wooden logs in an instant, remaining unharmed during a great flood and taming a fierce naga.
A few days later Buddha summoned the bhikkhus to the Gayasisa mountain and delivered his third sermon-The Fire Sermon.
Mahabodhi Temple & Seven Sacred Places
After three days and three nights, Siddhartha attained Enlightenment and answer that he had sought. A beautiful temple was later on built by Emperor Ashoka in around 260 BCE.
The Buddha then spent seven succeeding weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity, meditating and considering his experience.
Several specific places inside the Mahabodhi Temple relate to the traditions surrounding these seven weeks.
Buddha spent his first week under the Bodhi Tree.
During the third week, Buddha walked back and forth between the location of the Animeshlocha Stupa and the Bodhi Tree.
The Buddhist texts and legend says that Lotus flowers sprung up along this route. The complete route is famous as “RatnaChakrama” or “The Jewel Walk”.
During the fifth week, Buddha answered in detail to the queries of Brahmans under the Ajapala Nigodh Tree, now marked by a Pillar.
He spent the sixth week next to the Lotus Pond.
Pragbodhi Cave ( Dungeshawari Mountain)
After seeing Siddhartha receiving food from the hands of a woman, the five companions (who were living with Siddhartha for the last six years) become disappointed. They all left Siddhartha believing that he had reverted to a life of luxury.
Siddhartha felt sorry for their lack of confidence in him but he didn’t give up about being alone.
The first man-made cave of Brabar and Nagarjuni, around 42 Km from Gaya are wonderful examples of early cave architecture.
In the 12th year after his coronation, King Ashoka built a stupa on the top of Barabar Hills to commemorate the spot where the Buddha enjoyed meditating throughout the night.
Ashoka advised to cut out the Barabar caves for Ajivikas also, a sect founded by Makkhali Gosala.
Jethian was the place where King Bimbisara welcomed Buddha and their 1000 fire worshippers turned bhikkus. The Buddha was glad to see his old friends and he taught the king and his ministers the teachings on benefits of charity, ethics as a foundation for liberation, the harm of over-indulgence in sensual pleasure and four noble truths.
Highly pleased and elated by the talk of Buddha, King Bimbisara invited the entire bhikkhus to the royal courtyard for the meal. The next day he offered his pleasure park, the 100 acres Bamboo Grove to the Sangha. This pleasure park with its lotus pond, pavilions, flower gardens, walking paths, the cluster of bamboo trees is the site of Sangha’s first monastery. From here the only tradition of dwelling in the permanent monasteries for bhikkhus starts.
In front of the lotus pond, there is a shrine with Buddha statue, which marks the memories of Buddha’s stays here in his second, third and fourth rainy seasons after enlightenment.
As King Bimbisara was a great follower of Buddha and he often visits here to listen to Buddha’s discourses.
Later on, a long winding stone-brick path leading up to the diversion was built there by King Bimbisara.
Xuan Zang, a Buddhist scholar, and traveler say that the first cave before the peak, Ananda attained enlightenment before the first council. The second cave is known as Boar’s Grotto, where Sariputta became Arahant. And at the end of the main path, one comes across the stairways that lead to the top of the mountain containing ancient ruins and a contemporary shrine.
The Shanti Stupa was built by the renowned late Japanese monk Nichidastu Fuji. The Shanti Stupa contains the relics of Buddha.
Legend has it that one day a man woke up early morning, he noticed a poisonous snake slither over his wife’s arm and curl out of the room. He woke up his wife and told her about what had happened. This incident had a deep impact on him and thus with his wife’s approval he shaved his head, sewed a robe from discarded rags and set out as a homeless wanderer in search of the meaning of life and teacher.
While resting at Nalanda, the man saw Buddha approaching and he offered him his robe to sit on. The Buddha accepted it with a smile and then offered his own robe in return. Receiving Dhamma instruction from Buddha, the traveler realized the experience of an arahant and thereafter known as legendary Mahakassapa.
The Mahadevsthan Temple in Silao village is the place where Buddha and Maha Kassapa first met.
Nalanda Mahavihara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the international center of learning since ancient days. It was a prosperous place of spiritual importance during the days of the Buddha.
While staying in Nalanda’s vicinity, Buddha usually resided in Amballathika or Pavarika’s Mango Grove. Xuan Zang writes that King Shakraditya ( 5th Century CE) established the Nalanda Mahavihara at the site of Pavarika’s Mango Grove.
Nalanda was also the place of birth and nirvana of the famous disciple of Buddha, Sariputta.
Xuan Zang memorial was set up as a tribute to one of the greatest Buddhist scholars and travelers of the time, Xuan Zang. In his epic travelogue, he left behind a fascinating account of Indian culture, history, and information about the society that he had observed during his visits to the sacred sites and while teaching and learning at Nalanda.
After the Budha attained Mahaparinirvana in Kushinagar, his ashes were divided into eight portions. Later on, these ashes were distributed among eight regional kingdoms. These Kingdoms are, the Licchavis of Vaishali, Ajatshatru of Magadh, Shakya of Kapilvastu, Koliyas of Ramagram, Bulis of Alakapa, a Brahmin of Vethdweep, Mallas of Pava and Kushinagar.
These eight stupas are famous as Maha Stupas.
Later on, after 300 years Ashoka excavated the Licchavi Stupa. Ashoka later on distributed the remains of this stupa to different one he built throughout his empire.
Kolhua marks the spot where Buddha spent a few rainy seasons. It is also the same place where a local monkey chief had offered honey to Lord Buddha. This is also the same place, where women were allowed to join Sangha for the very first time. At Kolhua only the Nagarvadhu of Vaishali, Amrapali, converted into a nun.
The Stupa at Kolhua commemorates the Buddha’s cousin and a committed attendant of 25 years, Ananda. It is said here only Buddha announced his approaching Mahaparinirvana.
When Buddha decided to leave Vaishali, the devoted Licchavi prince followed Buddha as he wandered through the countryside. As a token of gratitude to them, he handed them his alms bowl and implored them to return to Vaishali. From that point onwards, he wanted to walk to Kushinagar only with a retinue of selected bhikkhus. The prince stubbornly refused to leave the side of their master. Left without a choice, Buddha used his physic powers to create an illusory flood that separated them from him.