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Published: February 28th 2015
A couple of disappointments firstly after travelling all the way to Similpal national park I discovered on arrival that foreigners now need a special permit that would take four days to arrange anx I cant sit around on my arse that long. It seems a few years ago some Italian idiots went where they werent supposed to and were kidnapped by Moaists. TheI discovered ghat there were some stunning old temples in Bhubneswar that I missed.
The next morning we drove for nine excruciating hours almost getting killed on more than one occasion before arriving with the dusk in Buddhism's holiest city Bodhgaya. The lord Buddha achieved enlightenment here sometime around the fourth century BC. Later I went into town for a feed good pizza and some banana choc cheese cake.
Nalanda University operated from the fifth century until its destruction at the hand of muslim invaders in the 12th and was the world's first residential school and had ten thousand students at its peak. The drive there was unpleasant their two many people in Bihar and as result the place is filthy and the roads horrendously congested, it took two hours to travel less than a hundred kilometres.
It was worth it though, part of the university was excavated by the British, perhaps one tenth of the whole site, the Indians have made no attempt to dig up any more, but they at least make an effort to look after it which is not always the case in this country.
There are eleven monasteries and five temples the largest and most impressive being enlarged multiple times over the centuries. After departing the university we stopped at a couple of minor sites on the drive back to Bodhgaya.
I had Mani drop me off in the centre of town and visit a number of monasteries including the Japanese, Butanese, Chinese and Nepali before having a look at the giant Buddha statue. I then attempted to visit the World Heritage listed Mahabohdi Temple but I couldnt get as mobile phones are not allowed since the complex was bombed by islamic terrorists a few years ago.
Up early and down to the temple the security was quiet tight and I was frisked twice; it was strange to see members of so many different sects in one place many engaged in devotions. The main temple building was nothing
to write home about as the star of the show was the massive Bodhi tree descended from the original tree Buddha sat under when achieving enlightenment.
We continued on to the Buddhist centre at Sarnath which has some fine ruins ant another giant Buddha statue. A few kilometres down the road is Varanasi one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism, and for the most part it is horribly chaotic place. I thought I was becoming desensitised in regard to India's ugliness but since passing through Bihar and now entering Utter Pradesh (UP) and encountering the hidious architecture, rotting infrastructure, poverty and filth I find myself becoming angry and depressed.
In the evening I walked among the ghats a long the river they are interesting no doubt about that, though they smell of piss and are over run with touts and drug dealers in the evening. There are huge numbers of foreigners here all dressed in their hippy clothes, Mani even pointed out a European sadu between guffaws.
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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Amazing beautiful artwork.