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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.