India & Nepal - Walking On The Footsteps Of Buddha

India & Nepal - Walking On The Footsteps Of Buddha

Package Duration: 13 Nights and 14 Days
Places Covered: Delhi - Agra - Varanasi - Bodhgaya - Kushinagar - Lumbini – Balrampur - Lucknow - Delhi

Tour Overview

A journey to the amazing countries of India and Nepal which will allow you to walk in the footsteps of Buddha. But before that some background information of Buddha’s life will inspire you to take this magical journey. And along with that you would be visiting some awe-inspiring sites in between:-

The magical, mysterious Taj Mahal; Sarnath, where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after his enlightenment; The Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Buddha attained enlightenment;Rajgir, the site of the first Buddhist Council after the Buddha’s nirvana; Nalanda, believed to be the oldest university in the world; Kushinagar, where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana; Vaishali, a place sacred to Buddhism with historical significance; Lumbini: The birth place of Lord Buddha in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal; Lucknow – “the city of Nawabs”

Life of budhha: Buddha was also called the Tathagata, which means “the one who has come thus,” and Shakyamuni, which means “the sage of the Shakya tribe.” Siddhartha was born in the town of Kapilavastu (located in today’s Nepal). His parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side. At that moment her son was conceived. Brahmins came and interpreted the dream: The child would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic and was named Siddhartha, which means “he whose aim is accomplished.” Siddhartha was about 20, when he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King’s ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahul.

At the age of 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city as he was not allowed to go out of the palace because the King was afraid the Prince would become an ascetic, as predicted by the astrologer. During two trips, Siddhartha saw the “Four Sights” that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness, and death. During his second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an ascetic, with no possessions. That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest where he took off his sword, cut off his hair and beard. He then took off all his princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Chianna to take his possessions back to the King. Wandering through Northeastern India, Siddhartha sought out holy men, and learned about Samsiara (reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. One day, Siddhartha realised that his years of penance only weakened his body, and that he could not continue to meditate properly. When he stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to get out, and it is believed that the trees lowered their branches to help him. At that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted. Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often referred to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find out the answers to life and suffering.

Thereby, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (enlightened one). Buddha went to the city of Sarnath. There he began teaching holy men what he had learned. This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine.”

Siddhartha revealed that he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he had first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism that he had practiced. Neither of these was the true path to Nirvana. The true path was the Middle Way, which keeps aloof from both extremes. At an age of about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda fed buddha with a meal that caused him to become ill. Buddha even then forced himself to travel to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to rest in a grove of shala trees. It is said that as a crowd of followers gathered, the trees sprouted blossoms and showered them on Buddha. Buddha told Ananda, “I am old and my journey is near its end. My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help of leather straps.” Three times, Buddha asked the people if they had any questions, but they all remained silent. Finally Buddha said, “Everything that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation with diligence.” After passing through several states of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana (the cessation of perception and sensation).

Highlights

  • Food tour in Old Delhi
  • Visit to Magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Early Morning boat ride on river Ganges in Varanasi
  • Visit to Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya
  • Visit to the Oldest University in Nalanda
  • Lumbini the birth place of The Budhha
  • Imambaras at Lucknow

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 : Arrive Delhi
Arrive in Delhi today and get transferred in a private vehicle to your hotel where accommodation is held from 1400 hrs. Check-in and spend the rest of the day to explore the bustling national capital. Overnight in the hotel.

Delhi offers a harmonious blend of architecture and history. From remnants of the Mughal empire and British Raj to contemporary India, you can experience it all in the capital. The city is sure to charm you with its eclectic mix of the old and new – from magnificent monuments to bustling Old Delhi markets and stunning high rises.

Day 2 : A day in Delhi
Full day excursion to Old and New Delhi, exploring the medieval and pre-modern faces of the historic capital of India personified by the Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk (closed on Sundays). Take a food walk in the Chandni Chowk market. In Afternoon visit Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. Overnight in the hotel.

Jama Masjid is a mosque in Old Delhi, constructed in 1650–56 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān, a noted patron of Islamic architecture whose most famous work is the Taj Mahal, in Agra.

This vibrant market came to existence when the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, shifted his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad, now Old Delhi, in the mid 17th century. While Chandni Chowk or the moonlit square no longer bears the magnificence of the bygone era, its importance in the annals of Delhi will never be lost.

The food walk in Old Delhi is a great experience to and the best way to see and taste Old Delhi. The dishes one can savor in Old Delhi Food Walk are large, thick and juicy jalebis, glistening with ghee; Aloo chaat crisp fried potato cutlets dunked in a melange of chutneys and smattered with onions and spices ; varieties of stuffed paranthas potato, onion, cottage cheese, cauliflower, radish, dry fruits and many more….

Humanyun’s Tomb was built in 1565 A.D. nine years after the death of Humayun, by his senior widow Bega Begam. Inside the walled enclosure the most notable features are the garden squares (chaharbagh) with pathways water channels, centrally located well proportional mausoleum topped by double dome.

Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony

Day 3 : Drive to Agra, en-route Sikandra
After breakfast drive to Agra, en – route stop for visiting the Sikandra. A drive of about 4 hours, arrive and check – in at the hotel. In the afternoon proceed to visit the Moonlight Garden. Overnight at the hotel.

Sikandra is a grandiose complex famous for being the home of the tomb of Akbar the Great, the greatest Mughal leader. This glorious monument showcases a harmonious fusion of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jain art and architecture. Marvel at a collection of lavish red sandstone and marble gateways, chambers and minarets. Enjoy a moment of peace and serenity while wandering along the pathways of a tree-shaded garden. Emperor Akbar started work on Sikandra and his own mausoleum in the early 1600s and it was completed by his son, Jehangir. Akbar’s dream was to create a blend of religious themes befitting of his well-known tolerance of spiritual beliefs. The complex takes its name from Sikandra Lodi, the former Sultan of Delhi who established the district in which it stands.

Known to exist since prehistoric times, Agra came into full flower during the 16th and 17th centuries as one of the four capitals of Mughal dynasty. It was in Agra that the artistic excellence of the Mughals reached its zenith at a time that coincided with the political high water mark of their vast and expanding empire.

The Mehtab Bagh or the moonlight garden, was the last of the eleven Mughal-built gardens along the Yamuna river opposite to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. Built during the period 1631- 1635 A.D., Mehtab Bagh literally means “a moonlit pleasure garden”.

Day 4 : Train to Varanasi (on board train)
After breakfast proceed to visit the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays) , Agra Fort and Itmad Ud Daulah. In The evening drive to Tundla Railway Station for train Poorva Express leaving at 2020 hrs for Mughal Sarai (Varanasi). Onboard the train.

The Taj Mahal is an enormous mausoleum complex commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife. Constructed over a 20-year period on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, the famed complex is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences.

Agra Fort was begun by Akbar between 1565 and 1573. It is situated on the west bank of the Yamuna River, about 2km upstream from the Taj Mahal.  Akbar built the fort of sandstone; his grandson Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, constructed palaces of white marble within the fort itself.

Do you know that the Taj Mahal was not the first or only monument in marble in Agra? Baby Taj or Itimad-ud-Daulah is a tomb that was built by mother of Shah Jahan. It has a very delicate architectural beauty. The marble lattice structures in this monument are the highlight. You can find exotic Persian styled gardens around the tomb.

Day 5 : Arrive in Varanasi
Arrive in Mughal Sarai Railway Station, transfer to Varanasi city. After wash and change leave for a day-trip to Sarnath (Sarnath museum is closed on all Fridays), a religious Buddhist site. In the afternoon city tour of Varanasi covering - Alamgir Mosque or Beni Madhav Ka Darera, Dasaswamedh Ghat and The Bharat Mata Temple. Evening we will visit the banks of Ganges for Ganga Aarti. Overnight stay in the Hotel

Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his message of the middle way to nirvana after he achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya, and gave his famous first sermon here. In the 3rd century BC, Emperor Ashoka had magnificent stupas and monasteries erected here, as well as an engraved pillar. When Chinese traveller Xuan Zang dropped by in AD 640, Sarnath boasted a 100m-high stupa and 1500 monks living in large monasteries. However, soon after, Buddhism went into decline and, when Muslim invaders sacked the city in the late 12th century, Sarnath disappeared altogether. It was ‘rediscovered’ by British archaeologists in 1835.

Assi Ghat is where pilgrims pay homage to Lord Shiva by worshipping a huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. This ghat is a lively space, rippling in chaos and commotion and one that vividly captures the ancientness of Kashi.

Ganga Aarti is a ceremony to thank and praise the river". A group of young saints dressed up with silky saffron and white robes conduct this ceremony. Each pandit or saint takes up a specific spot in the Ghat and start the ritual by offering flowers to the river. The ritual includes many oil lamps like snake hood lamp which are waved in a synced motion. Conch shells are blown during the ceremony too. Yak tail fans and peacock feather fans are also waved during the ceremony. The priests end the ceremony by pouring a bowl of water into the river.

Day 6 : Drive to Bodhgaya
In the early morning, enjoy boat ride across the river Ganges. Visit the numerous temples alongside river Ganga and get a closer view of Hinduism being in Varanasi. Observe the daily life of the natives. Take a walk in the narrow street of Varanasi (Old Varanasi). After visits eave for Bodhgaya by surface, a journey of about 8hrs. Arrive and check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Sunrise boat ride on Ganga in Varanasi is a memorable experience and not to be missed. It gives a glimpse of morning life along the ghats in Varanasi. If you are lucky you can see stunning views of sun rising in the eastern horizon.

These boats are slow moving ones with oars. Each boat has a boat man and his assistant. They move very slowly and help you to see stunning sun rise over the horizon with Ganga in the foreground, the panoramic views of ghats and the morning life on ghats closely.

The crucible of Buddhism, Bodhgaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree 2600 years ago and became Buddha (the 'Awakened One'). In terms of blessedness, this tiny temple town is to Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Unsurprisingly, it attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year, who come for prayer, study and meditation.

Day 7 : In Bodhgaya
After breakfast proceed for visit of Mahabodhi Temple and Bodhi tree. Rest of the day to explore the town on your own. Overnight at the hotel.

The magnificent Unesco World Heritage–listed Mahabodhi Temple, marking the hallowed ground where Buddha attained enlightenment and formulated his philosophy of life, forms the spiritual heart of Bodhgaya. Built in the 6th century AD atop the site of a temple erected by Emperor Ashoka almost 800 years earlier, it was razed by foreign invaders in the 11th century, and subsequently underwent several major restorations. Topped by a 50m pyramidal spire, the inner sanctum of the ornate structure houses a 10th-century, 2m-high gilded image of a seated Buddha. Amazingly, four of the original sculpted stone railings surrounding the temple, dating from the Sunga period (184–72 BC), have survived amid the replicas. Others are now housed inside the archaeological museum.

Pilgrims and visitors from all walks of life and religions come to worship or just soak up the atmosphere of this sacred place. An enthralling way to start or finish the day is to stroll around the inside of the perimeter of the temple compound (in an auspicious clockwise pattern) and watch a sea of maroon and yellow dip and rise, while Tibetan monks perform endless prostrations on their prayer boards. There’s a less atmospheric Meditation Park for those seeking extra solitude within the temple grounds.

Undoubtedly, the most sacred fig tree ever to grace the Earth was the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment. Buddha was said to have stared unblinkingly at the tree in an awed gesture of gratitude and wonder after his enlightenment. Today, pilgrims and tourists alike flock here to pray and meditate at the most important of Buddhism’s four holiest sites.

Known as Sri Maha Bodhi, the original tree was paid special attention by Ashoka, a mighty Indian emperor who ruled most of the subcontinent from 269 to 232 BC, a century or two after Buddha’s believed death. His wife, Tissarakkhā, wasn’t such a fan of the tree and in a fit of jealousy and rage, caused the original Bodhi Tree’s death by poisonous thorns shortly after becoming queen. Thankfully, before its death, one of the tree’s saplings was carried off to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta (Ashoka’s daughter), where it continues to flourish. A cutting was later carried back to Bodhgaya and planted where the original once stood. The red sandstone slab between the tree and the adjacent Mahabodhi Temple was placed by Ashoka to mark the spot of Buddha’s enlightenment – it’s referred to as the Vajrasan (Diamond Throne).

Day 8 : Arrive to Patna, en-route Rajgir & Nalanda
After breakfast leave for Patna by surface, en-route visit the Rajgir and Nalanda. A journey of about 8hrs. Arrive in Patna, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Rajgir is the ancient capital of Magadha kings. The Buddha often visited Rajagriha to retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery, preaching and meditating on the Gridhakuta Hill. The disciples of the Buddha built many structures here. Rajgir is also sacred to Jains as Lord Mahavira studied and meditated here. The first Buddhist Council was held here after the Buddha’s nirvana.

Nalanda is believed to be the oldest university in the world. Founded in the 5th century BC, it became a renowned centre of Buddhist and Jain learning. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveller, spent several years here in the 7th century AD. Nalanda Archaeological Museum has a magnificent collection of Pali and Mauryan statues, bronze and manuscripts.

Nalanda Mahavihara an institute for the study of Pali literature houses rare Buddhist manuscripts. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th – 12th centuries. The Chinese scholar and traveller Hiuen Tsang stayed here in the 7th century, and has left an elaborate description of the excellence, and purity of monastic life practised here. About 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world, lived and studied in this international university.

Day 9 : Drive to Kushinagar, en-route Vaishali
After breakfast leave for Kushinagar by surface, en-route visit the Vaishali. A journey of about 8hrs Arrive in Kushinagar, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Vaishali: After dwelling at Kapilvastu the Buddha left for Vaisali, an ancient site that has been identified with modern Basarh in Bihar. Vaisali is also known as Vaisala. The blessed one was staying at the Great hall in Mahavana (Large Grove). For Buddhists Vaisali is a sacred place.

One of the four main pilgrimage sites marking Buddha’s life – the others being Lumbini (Nepal), Bodhgaya and Sarnath – Kushinagar is where Buddha died. There are several peaceful, modern temples where you can stay, chat with monks or simply contemplate your place in the world, and there are three main historical sights, including the simple but wonderfully serene stupa where Buddha is said to have been cremated.

Day 10 : Drive to Lumbini
After an early breakfast visit the Mahaparinirvana Temple and the stupa behind temple . After visits leave for Lumbini, a journey of about 4hrs. Arrive in Lumbini, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Mahaparinirvana Temple: The highlight of this modest temple, rebuilt in 1927 and set among extensive lawns and ancient excavated ruins with a circumambulatory path, is its serene 5th-century reclining Buddha, unearthed in 1876. Six metres long, it depicts Buddha on his ancient death-bed and is one of the world’s most moving Buddhist icons. At sunset, monks cover the statue to the shoulders with a long saffron-coloured silk sheet, as though putting Buddha to bed for the night.

Behind the temple is an ancient 19m-tall stupa, and in the surrounding park is a large bell erected by the Dalai Lama.

Day 11 : Drive to Balrampur
After an early breakfast explore the Lumbini town – the place where Budhha was born . After visits leave for Balrampur, a journey of about 3hrs. Arrive in Balrampur, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Lumbini: The birth place of Lord Buddha. Lumbini is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. The holy site is being developed with international support as the supreme Buddhist pilgrimage and a symbol of world peace. The shrines and monasteries that many countries have built or are still building reflect the architectural traditions of those countries, and thus giving Lumbini an international feel with a message of universal love and brotherhood.

Day 12 : Drive to Lucknow
After breakfast visit the former hunting lodge of Maharaja of Balrampur and visit of the local village of the tribal people. After visits leave for Lucknow, a journey of about 4hrs. Arrive in Lucknow, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Lucknow is sprinkled with exceptional British Raj–era buildings, boasting two superb mausoleums and famed throughout India for its food, the capital of Uttar Pradesh is something of a sleeper: plenty worth seeing, but often overlooked by travellers. Central Lucknow features wide boulevards, outsized monuments and several parks and gardens, but feels a bit worn out, creating an atmosphere of tired grandiosity. Locals tend to be welcoming, and you'll experience little of the hassle of more touristy towns.

Day 13 : A day in Lucknow
After breakfast proceed for sightseeing of Lucknow. We start the tour from La Martiniere, Sadat Ali and Begum Tombs, The Residency, Asafi Imambara (Bara Imambara), Rumi Darwaza, Clock Tower, Residency and Chota Imambara. Overnight at the hotel.

La Martiniere was constructed in 1794 by a French soldier – Claude Martin. The architecture of this building is a complete mixture of Indo-European school of architecture. It held a place of pride in the heart of Claude Martin because he is said to have constructed it in memory of his love – Constance and named it Constantia. Before dying he expressed his last wish which was that his mortal remains should be laid to rest in the basement of this building.

Sadat Ali & Begum Tombs house the graves of Nawab Sadat Ali Khan and his wife stand majestically opposite Hazrat Mahal Park (Earlier called Victoria Park). The architecture is a fine example of Indo-Syrian style with arches, pillars and Awadhi patterns.

An all-out siege of the Residency in 1857 that continued for nearly five months took the life of 2197 defenders including British and the Indians. What were left of this majestic building are the broken walls with marks of bullets and cannon balls. This is the most gruesome tale of the British era in India that has lived to tell its story to the generations to come with its roofless walls and the epitaphs on the graves in the cemetery.

Asafi Imambara, built in 1775 by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, at the time a famine had broken out in and around the city of Lucknow. It is said that the people of Lucknow would not accept alms, thus the Nawab began the construction of this Imambara Complex, which would provide employment to the masses and they could work for a living. This Nawab was known for his generosity. The Asafi (Bara) Imambara is a complex consisting of the hall, a Mosque, gardens and a water well (Baoli).

The history attaches the design of the Rumi Darwaza gateway with portal of Constantinople. Built in 1784 Rumi Darwaza or the Turkish Gate is a perfect combination of Hindu-Muslim architecture. Each brick placed in the structure of Rumi Darwaza moans the gloomy past of famine stricken people and hails Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula for providing the relief.

Hussainabad (Chota) Imambara was built by Nawab Mohd Ali Shah (1837-1840). It is ornate in design with exquisite chandeliers, gilt-edged mirrors and colourful stucco work which adorns the interiors. Fine calligraphy on the exteriors of the building make it a truly exceptional monument. Venetian, English, Chinese and Japanese chandeliers, Belgian mirrors and miniature paintings are some of the interesting artifacts one gets to see inside the Husainabad Imambara.

After your tour of these monuments, you  will get a chance to stroll through one of the city’s oldest markets/bazaars, either Chowk or Hazratganj, depending when which market place is open.

Day 14 : Train to Delhi and final departure
After breakfast relax at the hotel. In the afternoon you will be met and transferred to the Railway Station for train to Delhi leaving at 1535 hrs and arriving at 2215hrs. Arrive and transfer to the International Airport for flight back home.

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