Under the bodhi tree

 

Many months ago I started reading a book that turned out to effectively be Buddha’s biography.  It was pretty dry reading “and then he…and then he…and then he…” none the less I found it really interesting.  At about the same time I was forming a plan for this trip and thought “wouldn’t it be cool to visit Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment?” and here we are.

Unfinished temple, is going to be most spectacular when done.

Unfinished temple, is going to be most spectacular when done.

After many big cities Bodhgaya is quite a bit more relaxed.  It is not very big and there are rice paddies about 50m from our hotel.  There are, as you might expect lots of Buddhists coming to visit Mahabodhi Temple, the site of the wondrous event and the location of a descendant of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha was sitting.

Mahbodhi Temple in the location where Buddha attained enlightenment.  Likely the most holy place for Buddhists.

Mahabodhi Temple in the location where Buddha attained enlightenment. Likely the most holy place for Buddhists.

Many countries have built monasteries and temples here; Vietnam, Japan, China Bhutan to name a few and while they may not be intentionally trying to outdo each other (are Buddhists competitive?) there are some spectacular buildings, all within walking distance.  There are also many, many monks and nuns walking, riding bicycles, motor bikes and autos.

30 metre high Buddha built by the Japanese

30 metre high Buddha built by the Japanese

The Mahabodhi Temple is a very peaceful place with lots of people praying and meditating.  Some walk, some sit, some prostrate themselves.  We sat for about an hour just watching people around the tree which seems to be the focus for pilgrims.

Meditating monk passing bodhi tree at Mahbodhi Temple

Meditating monk passing bodhi tree at Mahabodhi Temple.  I love this photo.  We sat for a long time and this guy was walking slowly around and around the temple, occasionally he would pick up a little train of 3 or 4 followers then they would drop off and he would keep going.  We made eye contact a couple of times and he had a lovely gentle smile.  I also love that to the left of him is people sitting meditating, to the right of him is people walking, western clothes.  For me the photo is a story that I am not sure conveys well if you weren’t there.

There is another focus and that is catching the occasional leaf that flutters to the ground.  I had spotted a couple and each time was beaten to them by someone else.  It wouldn’t be good form to elbow an elderly nun out of the way over a leaf.  Eventually I told a monk I was after one and when he saw one hit the ground he grabbed it and gave it to me.  I have a plan for framing it when we get back.  Sitting again I saw another come down and this time I was quickest and now had my second leaf, but I had beaten an older monk to it so I gave it to him and the look of excitement on his face was worth it.

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Not the same monk ;o)

Neither of us has been 100% well here, Sheila especially so, so on our last day, after she faded badly out in the streets we came back to the hotel where she slept much of the afternoon and I borrowed a bicycle to head into town.  Using the road in India at all is quite an interesting exercise, riding a bike when you haven’t been on one for a few years what could possibly go wrong?

In fact nothing went wrong, but unlike me, I did forget the golden rule for getting services of any sort;  Negotiate a price first.  The seat on the bike was a little high so I stopped at a “bike repair shop” i.e. a spot by the road where someone fixed bikes, and asked the guy to lower the seat about 2cm.  At home a 3 minute job like this, mechanic would just say “don’t worry about any money” but this is India so I reckon it would be a Rs5 or Rs10 job.  Like I said, I didn’t fix a price up front and the guy wanted Rs50!  OK, this is only $1 but that’s beside the point, I had been well and truly cheated and despite him not speaking English, he got my message very clearly and one of the blokes standing around who could speak a little English also passed on my displeasure.  I ought to add that the blokes standing around had wry smiles on their faces that I read as “you got done mate, it wasn’t fair, but what did you expect?”.  But the bike was more comfortable.

[EDIT] Days later again finally some decent wifi.  Jump to photos to fill out the story.

Sheila under the bodhi tree

Sheila under the bodhi tree

 

The main Buddah idol inside the Mahabodhi temple

The main Buddah idol inside the Mahabodhi temple

 

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I was on my bike and noticed all the banners and bunting hiding the street seller stalls. Kept riding, somehow I was unwittingly through barricades and right alongside the Governor of Bihar’s car. No one panicked but they did move me back pretty quick ;o). Then they removed the decorations and the non-existent stalls that the Governor surely knew about anyway magically reappeared.

Cow dung pats used for cooking drying on a wall.  This is a really common sight.  I am sure the cooking fires are a major contributor to the poor quality of Indian air.

This is a really common sight, cow dung pats used for cooking drying on a wall.  I am sure the cooking fires are a major contributor to the poor quality of Indian air.

Tergar Monastry - there a loads of monastries in bodhgaya

Tergar Monastry – there a loads of monastries in bodhgaya

Dragon staircase at the unfinished temple above.

Dragon staircase at the unfinished temple above.

 

 

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