On Buddha’s Trail

Sarnath – Bodhgaya Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

Varanasi—the very name has an ancient aura about it. Located on the banks of the sacred Ganga (Ganges), teeming with Hindu shrines and temples, and sanctified by the countless daily rituals performed on the ghats, stone platforms where the city meets Ganga’s waters, Varanasi is a manifestation of belief in city form. But less than ten kilometers from this timeless city is Sarnath, the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon. The only thing it has in common with Varanasi is its sanctity. There is none of the kerfuffle and fervor of the ghats, no houses, no daily rituals. The place has the stillness of a monastic community, where silence is the best offering as well as reward.   
 
Bodhgaya, the site of arguably the most famous transformation in history, is where every Buddhist pilgrim hopes to go at least once. As far as standing on hallowed ground goes, it doesn’t get any better than standing near the bodhi tree, which is believed to be the offspring of original tree under which the Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. Modern day pilgrims and visitors can experience moments of bliss, if not enlightenment, in the many meditation centers.

     

    Day 01 Fly to Varanasi from Kathmandu

    Assistance at the airport upon arrival and transfer to hotel. In the evening a visit to the ghats (platforms) beside Ganga (Ganges River) to witness the famous aarti ceremony. 
     
    Evening Aarti
     
    The ghats of Varanasi are the venue of all the various spectacles associated with Hinduism. At any time, it is peopled with astrologers, mantra-chanting priests and their clients, barbers shaving heads, people stripping down for a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges and, if you’re near the cremation ghats, funeral pyres devouring the deceased. But as darkness falls on the ghats, people take their seats beside the dais where priests perform the ancient Hindu ritual of aarti. To the accompaniment of bhajans (devotional songs) and the rhythmic clapping of the devotees, the priests perform elaborate movements with large lamp holders in which burn several oil lamps. Senses often fall captive to the sinuous movements of the lamps and their glow on the surface of the Ganges.
     
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 02 Boat ride and sunrise viewing from the Ganges. Drive to Sarnath.

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning boat ride on the Ganges to view sunrise and morning rituals on the ghats. Drive to Sarnath. Guided tour of the main attractions of Sarnath. 
     
    Boat Ride
     
    To start a day in Varanasi beside the Ganges is to follow the routine people of Varanasi have observed for time immemorial. The common sight of the rising sun bathing the waters in gold and red here becomes special because of the river’s status in the Hindu world. A boat ride on the Ganges is a great way to get a feel of the river Hindus call Ganga Ma, “Mother Ganga.”
     
    Sarnath
     
    Sarnath, located only 10 kilometers from the throbbing Varanasi, seems ever ready to host another great philosopher’s speech. Its large gardens filled with bird and scurrying squirrel press upon the visitors the gift of tranquility. Here, silence needs no prompting. The historical and spiritual significance of the fact that the Buddha delivered his first sermon somewhere in this expanse of gardens makes you more attentive to the surroundings. The senses are equally engaged by the hulking remain of the 34-meter-high Dhamekh Stupa. Although the present edifice dates back to 500 AD, excavations of the site have yielded bricks dating back to 200 BC. The ruins of a large monastery and the partial Ashokan pillar all hark back to the heyday of Buddhism in the area.  
      
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 03 Drive to Bodhgaya

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning drive to Bodhgaya (duration: 5 hours). At Bodhgaya, visit the major sites associated with Buddha’s life.
     
    Bodhgaya
     
    Bodhgaya: where a young man who had renounced life as a prince undertook severe austerities, meditated for weeks, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Whether one thinks of the Buddha as a philosopher or as a god, Bodhgaya marks the site of a most wonderful transformation. Surviving as an indirect link to this event in the Buddha’s life is the bo tree growing in the premises of the Mahabodhi Temple. The tree is believed to be the offspring of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The spread of the Buddha’s teachings around the world is reflected in the Tibetan, Burmese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Bhutanese and Nepali monasteries standing nearby.   
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 04 Drive to Varanasi, and departure by air

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning drive to Varanasi. At Varanasi, transfer to airport for departure.
     
    Option: You can extend your tour by a day, which will be spent visiting historical sites in Bodhgaya.
     
    Breakfast at hotel. Full-day sight-seeing of Rajgir and Nalanda University ruins. 
     
    Rajgir
     
    Rajgir is yet another of those places in India that are both historically as well as religiously important. Historically, Rajgir is the ancient capital of the Magadha Empire, a status that it lost when Ajatasatru moved his capital to Pataliputra (Patna) in the 5th century BC. Rajgir is of religious significance because the Buddha lived here for 12 years and also because after his death the first Buddhist council was held here. It is also a pilgrimage site for Jains because Mahavira stayed for a while here. Hindus are drawn to the place for its mention in the Mahabharata.
     
    Nalanda
     
    Awe and a sense of less will likely be felt in equal measure standing before the ruins of the Nalanda University, a center of Buddhist learning that housed 10,000 monks and students in the 7th century AD. Built in the 5th century BC, Nalanda was arguably the greatest university in the Sub-continent until its destruction at the hands of marauding Afghans in the 12th century AD. Now, a few artifacts displayed in the archaeological museum are all that remain of the university’s glorious past.
     
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 05 Drive to Varanasi, and departure by air

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning drive to Varanasi. At Varanasi, transfer to airport for departure.

    Download PDF Sarnath – Bodhgaya Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    The best time to visit?

    From late October to March.

    Attire

    Mornings and evenings start getting chilly November onwards and get really cold from December right up to February. Warm clothes needed for visits in the November to February period. Avoid dresses that reveal too much of your body.
     

    What to do when inside temples and monasteries?

    Most places that forbid entry to foreigners carry signboards stating this, so look for them. Although religious buildings are sites of historical and artistic appeal, they are above all places of worship. Do not act in any way – excessive photography, talking loudly, wearing shoes into prayer rooms – that impinges on the activities of the priests or devotees.
     

    Necessary Items

    Sunscreen, insect repellent, hats and sunglasses. Pack medicines for stomach illnesses.

    Download PDF Sarnath – Bodhgaya Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    Package Includes

    • Transport, pick-up, and drop
    • Sight-seeing and activities in Varanasi, Sarnath and Bodhgaya
    • Hotel accommodation (with B&B)
    • Entrance fee for: sites in Varanasi, Sarnath and Bodhgaya

    Package Excludes

    • Lunch and dinner
    • Airport tax for international flight during departure
    • Visa fee at the International Airport
    • Laundry
    • Personal expenses
    Download PDF Sarnath – Bodhgaya Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    Adult (12yrs+) Child (02-11yrs) Infant (below 2yrs)**

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    ** Infant tickets will be issued at the check-in counter before your flight at 10% of adult fare rate

    Download PDF Sarnath – Bodhgaya Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)