I left Delhi feeling the need for a bit of calm and zen; not two words that readily come to mind when thinking about India. Visiting some of the famous Buddhist sites seemed like a good place to start. I still have such beautiful memories of trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas and the calming effect of the Tibetan prayer flags, prayer stones and solitary stupas.
Of course, India is not Nepal, and whilst Bodhgaya is noticeably more peaceful than other parts of India, it is still filled with all the familiar sounds and smells of India. Pushing and shoving to enter the main Mahabodhi temple was the norm, a rather uncomfortable experience for me, particularly when its an orange clothed monk that is doing the pushing. Nonetheless it was a beautiful place covered in orange garlands and surrounded by restful gardens.
The Mahabodhi temple rests where Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and attained spiritual enlightenment. Whilst the original Bodhi tree was removed, a sapling from it was rescued and has been planted in the temple grounds.
Behind the tree are hundreds of mats with worshipers sitting peacefully and meditating. It is a calming place.
The whole town of Bodhgaya seems to be Buddhist. On almost every corner there are monasteries, each from a different place, which gives the town a lovely South East Asian feel. From Japan to China to Tibet to Bhutan to Thailand… each country with a significant Buddhist community is represented here. I haven’t seen such international diversity anywhere else in India, and it certainly made me feel at home given the South East Asian influence I am used to in Australia.
My favourite place in Bodhgaya though was the Great Buddha Statue. Down a back street it stood quiet and tall but not imposing, meditating in the sun as people walked around it in amazement.