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Tourism
East India (Bihar)
 

Bihar

Of all India’s states, Bihar is the one most intimately linked to the Buddha’s life, resulting in a trail of pilgrimages which have come to be known as the Buddhist circuit. The very name Bihar is derived from the world ’vihara’, which means Buddhist monastery. The Buddhist trail begins at the capital city, Patna, where a noteworthy museum contains a collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library has rare Muslim manuscripts including some from the University of Cordoba in Spain. 40 km away, Vaishali was the site for the second Buddhist Council as the presence of ruins testify. 90 km south of Patna is Nalanda which translates as ’the place that confers the lotus’ (of spiritual knowledge). A monastic university flourished here from the 5th to the 11th century. It is said to have contained nine million books, with 2,000 teachers to impart knowledge to 10,000 students who came from all over the Buddhist world. Lord Buddha himself taught here and Hieun Tsang, the 7th century Chinese traveller, was a student. Ongoing excavations have uncovered temples, monasteries and lecture halls.

Rajgir, ‘the royal palace’, 12 km south, was the venue for the first Buddhist Council. The Buddha spent five years at Rajgir after having attained enlightenment, and many of the remains at Rajgir commemorate various incidents, the hill of Gridhrakuta being perhaps the most important, as this is where the Buddha delivered most of his sermons. Bodhgaya is the spot where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, with the Mahabodhi Temple marking the precise location. Bihar’s Buddhist circuit has modest back-up facilities by way of accommodation, international dining and surface transport. (For those interested in the Buddhist circuit, it may be worthwhile to note that Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh, close to Varanasi, is an important part of the circuit, and has been beautifully developed. Besides the excavated sites, a museum here houses several Buddhist icons, among them the Ashoka Lion, India’s national emblem).

Patna - The imperial city

Patna once called Pataliputra the capital of Bihar,is among the world's oldest capital cities with unbroken history of many centuries as imperial metropolis.
A very fertile arched stretch of land along the bank of the Ganga, the history and heritage of modern day Patna go back well over two millennia. Like Delhi, Patna too had been the regal seat of governance for successive kingdoms since ancient times. And to this day, it is the capital city of the state. As each ruler ascended in power and established dynastic glory, he gave his capital a new name. Thus the ancient Kusumpura metamorphosed through Pushpapura, Pataliputra, Azeemabad and now into Patna, a continuous history ranging from 6th century BC to present times – a record claimed by few cities in the world. It was Ajatshatru the Magadha king who first built a small fort in Pataligram on the bank of the Ganga in 6th century BC, which later blossomed into the ancient glory still to be seen in the neighbouring archaeological sites at Kumrahar. Bhiknapahari, Agamkuan, Bulandi Bagh and Kankar Bagh. Pataliputra dominated the political fortunes of the whole of north India between 6th century BC and 5th century AD, a fact established by archaeological excavations. After a temporary eclipse, in 16th century Sher Shah Suri returned the city to its former glory and established the present Patna. After the decline of the Mughals, the British too found Patna a convenient regional capital and built a modern extension to this ancient city and called it Bankipore. It was in Gandhi Maidan in this area that Mahatma Gandhi held his prayer meetings.

Vaishali

Vaishali today is a small village surrounded by banana and mango groves and rice fields. But excavations in the area have brought to light an impressive historical past. The epic Ramayana tells the story of the heroic King Vishal who ruled here. Historians maintain that one of the world's first democratic republics with an elected assembly of representatives flourished here in the 6th century B.C. in the time of the Vajjis and the Lichhavis. And while Pataliputra, capital of the Mauryas and the Guptas, held political sway over the Gangetic plain, Vaishali was a rich centre for trade and industry.
Historically important, Vaishali, on the left bank of the Gandak river, is spiritually supreme: Lord Buddha visited this place frequently and at Kolhua, close by, preached his last sermon. To commemorate the event, Emperor Ashoka, in the third century B.C. erected one of his famous lion pillars here. A hundred years after the mahaparinirvana of the Buddha - Vaishali hosted the second great Buddhist council. Two stupas were erected to commemorate this event.

Jainism, too, has its origins in Vaishali, for in 527 B.C., Lord Mahavir was born on the outskirts of the city, and lived in Vaishali till he was 22. Vaishali is then twice blessed and remains an important pilgrim centre for both Buddhists and Jains, attracting also historians foraging for the past.

Baidyanath Dham (Deoghar)
Baidyanath Dham situated in the Santhal Parganas of Bihar, is a very important piligram Centre. It's famous for the Hindus for the temple of Shiva-Baidyanath and the place is a popular holiday Centre.

Gaya
Bihar has some of the most sacred Buddhist and Hindu shrines. Gaya is one of the most important pilgrimage places for the Hindus. It is believed that a Hindu will reach heaven if his last rites are offered under the celebrated ’Akshayabat’ or immortal banyan tree, standing in the yard of Vishnupad temple. Believed to be built on the footsteps of Vishnu, the grand temple was renovated by Ahalyabai, queen of Indore.

 
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