Gaya, often described as
"a halt in the river of life… a halt flows on
into the sea of consciousness, to the beginning of a
new faith," is a small town in central Bihar and
one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the
world. It was here that Prince Siddharta's quest ended
after nine long years of seeking the Truth and the saga
of Lord Buddha began. The Niranjana river in which
Buddha bathed after his long penance flows outside a
quiet hamlet, silhouetted against a range of low hills.
Start your pilgrimage with the
Maahabodhi tree which is said to be a direct descendant
of the original tree under which Buddha mediated and
attained enlightenment. Beside it is a raised platform
marking a spot where he sat in mediation. According to
tradition the original Bodhi tree sprang up the day
prince Siddhartha was born.
The sacred tree still radiates an
aura of abiding serenity and peace. Next to it is the
Mahabodhi Temple topped by a tower. Built like a
truncated pyramid which soars to a height of 170 feet,
the temple dates back to the 2nd century AD and is one
of the oldest in the country. Giant lamps illuminate
the entrance and the sanctum houses a massie gilded
image of the Buddha. The stone railing around the
temple is decorated with wonderful carvings of mythical
Between the temple and the tree
lies the Vajrasana, the Buddha's seat of mediation and
a large stone with his foot-print known as Buddha-Pada.
The Animeshlochana Stupa houses a
standing figure of the Buddha gazing at the Bodhi tree.
The place where he waled to and fro in quiet mediation
while lotuses bloomed beneath his feet is called
Ratnachankramana and is marked by a brick platform with
18 lotuses symbolising his footsteps.
Another sacred spot is the
Muchalinda Lake, a few meters away, where the serpent
king, Muchalinda is said to have risen from the bottom
of the lake top protect Buddha from a severe storm
created to disturb his meditation.
For those interested in visiting
religious and historical sites it is best to start your
trip from Patna which is linked to all major cities by
Indian Airlines and Sahara flights, as well as by rail
and road. Patna is the nearest airport for destinations
Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Pavapuri, Sonepur, Jamshedpur and many others. For those keen on wildlife
sanctuaries and hill resorts the nearest airport is Ranhi. There are
daily Indain Airlines services connecting Ranchi with Patna, Calcutta,
Lucknow and Delhi.
There are hotels, and lodges to suit all pockets
both at Patna and Ranchi. State Tourism Corporation (Tel. : 06119-5273)
offer air-conditioned as well as non air-conditioned rooms at
reasonable rates. For five-star comfort you can try Centaur Hokke Hotel
(Tel. : 06119 -5245/5231). Or the Tourist Corporation's Kautilya Vihar
Hotel which offers modern comforts at really affordable rates. At
Ranchi there are Government Rest Houses and Birsa Vihar run by the
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC, Tel. :
0651-314826). There is a wide choice of places to stay at both Patna
If you are keen on spending a day or two in the
place of your choice there are several options to choose from. At
Bodhgaya you could stay at Hotel Siddhartha Vihar run by BSTDC (tel. :
0631 - 400445) run by ITDC. Both are moderately priced. All tourist
spots have similar accommodations and can be reserved before hand. The
wildlife sanctuaries have Forest Department Rest Houses. In addition to
these there are private hotels and lodges everywhere.
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation
operates daily deluxe coach services to and from places of interest.
There are buses to Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Vaishali, Pavapuri,
Sonepur and others. Taxis are also available for details contact
Tourist Bhawan, Veer Chant Patel Marg, Patna 800 001. Tel. :
0612-225411/222611. Fax : 0612-236218.
SHOPPING AND CUISINE
Bihar is known for its Madhuban art, leather and
sujini work, jute and brass-ware, Bhagalpursilk and tribal crats.
Unless you have some-one local to take you shopping it is best to stick
to State Emoria. Typical cuisine includes Kachori of various kinds,
specially sattu-ki-kachori, baigan-ka-choka, litti, thhekua and
dal-bhari, among others.
Jamshedpur is known as the Steel City of
India. A major industrial centre with a chain of multiple industries
set amidst picturesque surroundings, Jamshedpur is very well connected
by road with all Bihar's important towns.
Jubilee Park in the heart of the city is a
well planned garden like Vrindavan in Mysore.
Dimma Lake lose to the city is a popular
Dhanbad 171 km from
Jamshedpur, the mining
town of Dhanbad has some of India's richest coal-fields.
Bokaro, India's biggest steel complex
located on the southern bank of river Damodar is 47 km. from Dhanbad.
An important railway station on the Eastern Railway, Dhanbad is very
well connected with Patna, Calcutta and other important cities in
India. It is also well connected by road.
CALL OF THE WILD
Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary : Nestling in
low hilly terrain which stretches over 184 square km of plains,
undulating country, sleep hills and deep meadows, the Hazaribagh
Wildlife Sanctuary is a delight to visit. The best time is early
spring. Numerous observation towers scattered all through the Sanctuary
make it easier to have a closer encounter with the wild. You can expect
to find wild bear, sambhar, chital and nilgai gambolling and enjoying
themselves near water holes. If you are lucky and patient you may come
across sloth bear, panther or even the tiger!
Belta National Park : The Belta National
Park in Palamau with its thick tropical forest and a rich variety of
fauna stretches over 232 sq. km. Easily accessible by road Belta is 140
km. from Ranchi and 1,000 feet above sea level. Palamau shot to fame as
early as 1932 for its tiger census - the first of its kind in the
world. In 1974 it became one of the country's first reserve. The best
time to visit it is between February and April when you are sure to
confront large herds of gaur and chital. Elephants are visible after
the monsoons. Tiger, panther, sloth bear, wild bear, sambhar, nilgai,
kakr and mouse-deer are all permanent residents of the Park as are
large families of langurs. As in the Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary, the
Forest Department provides jeeps for viewing wildlife. For an overnight
stay there is BSTDC's Van Vihar, rest houses belonging to the Forest
Department, private tourism lodges and cottages.
The Dalma Sanctuary : Dalma Sanctuary near
Jamshedpur is the best elephant habitat in Bihar.
EXCURSIONS AROUND HAZARIBAGH AND NETARHAT
Parasnath : This is well-known Jain
pilgrimage centre on Hazaribagh's eastern margin which rises to a
height of 4,480 feet and is the highest hill in Bihar. No fewer than 20
out of 24 Tirthankaras including Parsvanath are said to have attained
salvation on this hill. Parsvanath, the 23rd Tirthankar was greatly
loved by the tribals of Chotanagpur. Both the Shwetambar and Digmbar
Jains have many beautiful temples here on the hill.
The Tilaiya Dam : Across the Barakar river,
55 km away from Hazaribagh, the reservoir lined with hills offer a
breathtaking sight. A few km from the dam is the Urwan Tourist Complex
developed by Bihar State Tourism where you can enjoy boating.
Rajrappa Falls : 90 km from Hazaribagh the
area is famous for the Chinna masa Temple, situated where the river
Bhera joins the river Damodar, falling from a height of 30 feet. There
are some spectacular rock formations in this area.
Konar Dam :51 km from Hazaribagh the dam is
yet another tranquil spot for a quiet outing.
Places of Interest at Netarhat Include :
The upper and lower Ghagri falls, View Tower on the Koel River which
offers a panoramic view of Natarhat. The Lodh Falls, one of the highest
waterfalls in Bihar where water falls from a height of 468 feet. The
Sadni Falls where the water twirls down like a snake. All these are
popular picnic spots.
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