HOLIEST CENTER’S OF BUDDHISM
Tucked away in the far flung corners of eastern Uttar Pradesh are located
some of the holiest centres of Buddhism — a religion that gave mankind the
gospel of peace and love. The message of the Buddha went straight into the
hearts of millions due to its simplicity and frank acceptance of the realities
To rising sun, the deep echo of ringing bells and the soul stirring hants of holy rhymes. Escape from the daily rush of city crowds and discover some peace of mind.
The Buddhist pilgrimages in eastern Uttar Pradesh — namely Sarnath, Sravasti, Sankisa and Kushinagar — are fascinating because they open up chapters of religion, art and philosophy.
In this very land of north India, the Buddha walked and talked to his disciples several millennia ago. After obtaining enlightenment Buddha travelled around and taught a way of life to a society that was getting stratified into classes. Many derived solace from his teachings and among his large following was the mighty Hindu emperor Ashoka, who took on himself the task of spreading Buddha’s message to a larger audience.
Today, there are over 500 million Buddhists all over the world especially in the far east and south east Asian countries. While the south Asians are
followers of the Hinayana sect of Buddhism, the followers of the second sect Mahayana are mostly in Japan, Korea, Tibet, China and Mongolia. Though the sects and beliefs within Buddhism are many, they all look upon these sites in north India with great reverence.
Even otherwise, beyond the pale of religious sentiments, these ancient Buddhist sites have evoked much curiosity and interest. A large number of European and Indian archaeologists, historians, antiquarians and art lovers have studied relics found in excavations. While much has been unearthed and understood, a lot still remains to be explained — lost, as it is, in the mists of time.
It is, however, certain that these excavations have only unearthed rather recent remnants. There are many undiscovered strata of greater antiquity preserved in them, which lovers of art and students of history await with interest.
At the centre stage of Buddhist architecture is the stupa. Stupas, which are symbolic of Buddha, are burial mounds. The base of these stupas, with fine carvings, often depict life as expressed in the Buddhist stories known as the Jatakas. Bas reliefs and sculptures exhibit the high levels of artistic ability of Indian artisans. But these, by no means, are the only wonders that Buddhist India has to offer. Numerous other archaeological marvels were created in the period when Buddhism flourished in India.
These sites, so far hidden in isolation, have become more easily accessible to tourists and devotees over the years due to improved roads and better accommodation facilities. The improved infrastructure has come in handy in meeting the growing demand of Indian and foreign tourists, while many travel companies like Inpac and Lotus have started offering specialised tours of the Buddhist circuit every year, accompanied with expert guides.
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