We all know that Bihar (Magadha) was the ancient capital of the Indian peninsula.
We also all know that currently Bihar is the capital of the caste system (the greatest achievement of the Commie government in West Bengal has been the destruction of that system)
We all know Bihar is the capital of cheating in exams.
But did you all know that Bihar is also the capital of chaddis?
Chaddis are apparently a perfectly acceptable external dress for people over there.
And so the first vision that came to me once I checked into my hotelroom in Bodhgaya and stared out of the window was two men wearing chaddis lovingly soaping each other up, getting ready for the day.
What a vision, what start eh?
But why was I in Bodh Gaya?
The Mahabodhi Temple complex of course – an UNESCO World Heritage site, the penultimate on my list – just Khajuraho left.
And all of those within just 5 years.
That’s for another time.
The only problem with Bodh Gaya is the absence of railways, you have to go to Gaya by train and then travel by road. Now the problem with trains is their loos. There are three things that unify Indians – the cricket team, the addiction towards cutting down tress and the need to make the toilets wet.
Because of my back, I can’t use the squat toilets and most Indians don’t know how to use the commodes and make an epic mess.
So, I don’t use train loos at all. And I ensure that by the simple means of fasting. When I am travelling from point A to B, its fine, but when its to point C, as the case is with Bodh Gaya, I become as hungry as a bear in spring.
So with hunger doing acrobatics in my stomach, I reached the hotel/guest house and found out that they are only for lodging, no food.
And then there was the vision of the chaddis.
The first part of my journey was definitely not good.
The second part was much better.
It involved the historic Mahabodhi temple complex and the even more historic Bodhi tree.
It involved history
It involved pigs and ducks and ducklings
It involved security personnel being thoroughly impressed by my tattoos
It involved me circling the temple, as all devout Buddhists are supposed to, and turn all the prayer wheels while chanting Om mani padme humanity.
And it involved a group of Japanese monks giving me the thumbs up for my beard (before you ask, they actually indicated it with their hands and gave the thumbs up) – I was the only person in Bodh Gaya with a beard, that too something this majestic.
On the flip side, it involved lots of barefeet walking – and that can lead to only one thing – semi twisted ankle.
But it also involved the Mahabodhi Temple monks giving me an orange. Symbolically, its an orange direct from Buddha.
Dunno if that changes my luck in this life or next, but the orange was sweet.
Because of the ankle, I had to retire hurt for that day, especially since next day promised to be a long one.
I had to wake up at 5 fricking 30 in the morning to complete my ablutions and be ready by 630. The car came and the journey started.
It was a glorious journey.
It was a journey through fields of crops, villages that haven’t changed for hundreds of years, back breaking bone rattling roads, hordes of chaddi clad Biharis, gangs of chicken crossing the road, Cycoplean walls, cows wearing sweaters and as a bonus through the village of the Mountain Man himself!!!
It was journey that was supposed to end at Rajgir, but once I reached there, I was literally shooed away by Nitish Kumar’s security guards (he was there to inaugurate some Rajgir Mahotsav)
So I went to Pawapuri Jain temple.
Its a temple in the middle of a lake; the temple is not that great, the lake has become dirty (may look great if all the lotuses bloom at the same time -my “secular” friends should not go there though, all those blooming lotuses will definitely give them aneurysms)
But there were two new things that I got to see by going there
Wee baby peacocks
Mechanized sugarcane juice maker
From there I went to Nalanda, and the ruins of that ancient glorious university. If you know of Indian history, you know of Nalanda university.
Only a small part of that magnificent campus has been excavated and is open to visitors. But even that is totally worth it.
It was all going extremely hunky dory when all of a sudden
“Hossain bhai, uitha ashen, oita somadhi” (Mr. Hussian, come up from there, that’s a tomb)
A wild bunch of Bangladeshis!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh the HUMANITY
Part of a delegation from Bangladesh here to meet Nitish or something, accompanied by a whole bunch of our police.
When asked “apnara kotha theke?” (where are you from) the reply was “We are from Bangladesh” because speaking Bengali when asked a question in Bengali is too mainstream for Bangladeshis
They spent the whole time trampling all over the ruins – the ASI guards were too scared about interjecting because of the police presence – and taking gazillions of photos to show their wives and girlfriends.
I was so disgusted by the behaviour, I left the place and went to have lunch.
It was a Bihar Tourism canteen and it offered some truly exotic food like
A government canteen people, a government canteen.
Post lunch it was time to check out the nearby ASI Archaeological Museum and then once again attempt Rajgir.
But wait, my eyes caught sight of an advertisement for Hiuen Tsang memorial.
You remember Hieun Tsang?
That intrepid explorer who all those centuries ago made a list and decided to visit all the places on that list?
People like Fa Hien (Faxian), Hieun Tsang (Xuanzang), Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, Megasthenes, Sven Hedin, Ferdinand Magellan, Leif Erikson etc are my heroes.
There was literally no chance in hell I was going to miss his memorial.
And its a splendid memorial.
Happy and sated, I started back for Rajgir.
This time there was great success – Nitish had buggered off.
And so I loitered around
Bimbisar’s jail – nothing to see
Muniar Math – nothing to see
And the piece de resistance – Japanese Santi Stupa.
The stupa is on top on Giddhapahar or Vulture’s Peak. There are only 2 ways to get up, either trek up around 800-900 stairs or a ropeway.
Being allergic to physical exercise, I naturally opted for the ropeway. Climbing up hills is definitely not a smart activity for someone with my condition, plus I had kinda twisted my ankle the previous day.
So ropeway it was.
One of the worst mistakes of my life!!!!
Its just a chair, open to the elements!!!! You have to just say your prayer to whoever your choice of deity is – in my case its Viva la Pasta (I am a Pastafarian) and jump into the chair – it never stops – and once it reaches the top, jump out.
I was scared shitless. The only times I was this scared in recent memory was when I lost my passport in Paris, when I was parasailing in Panchmarhi and when Jyotika Khullar threatened to beat me up.
All aboard the nope train, there was no chance I was taking that back down.
The Stupa up top is quite nice – same as the one in Darjeeling – with the Japanese temple beside it. The views are spectacular, the monkeys fabulous
Having decided to walk back down, I had to cut shot my enjoyment of the frolicking monkeys and start on my epic downward quest.
More than 800 steps, twisted ankle, loose pants and no shoes (I need special shoes because of a feet problem, but this time I did not take my shoes like a dumbass because I had figured that it would be too much of a hassle and a thievery issue taking them off to enter each and every temple and monastery)
But I still did it baybee.
To quote the Nature Boy Ric Flair, Woooo
Even mother nature was impressed by my determination and endeavor and rewarded me.
Tired, exhausted, in pain but with a grin as wide as the Cheshire Chief Minister of Bengal, I returned to Bodh Gaya.
Next day morning saw me taking copious quantities of pain killers, staring at my swollen ankle and crying “Oh the pain, Oh the humanity” on loop.
I could get out only by afternoon once the pain had subsided.
Get out to huan magar where?
I had heard rumours about a colossal statue of the great man himself. I had to see that.
So the gigantic endarkened poster bot of hopelessness went to see the gigantic enlightened posterboy of hope.
Next up the ASI museum, with its crown jewel some ancient railings made of Sandstone. The railings were built by the Sunga dynasty rulers. They used to encompass the Mahabodhi temple.
And then started the monastery hopping.
Dalai Lama sect
Each monastery has the distinct style of architecture of the state or country of origin. For a connoisseur of architecture like me, the whole thing was mucho awesome.
Overall, it was a fabulous journey.
But wait, this is my life, there has to be a twist in the tale.
Train from Gay scheduled at 1020 PM
Train arrives at 450AM, because Indian railways
Whole night sitting in a waiting room at Gaya staion fighting a jihad waged by mosquitoes – my life is full of adventures
And oh before I end, I have to reward my “secular” “liberal” “tolerant” friends
Even Buddha was a Sanghi, eh?
See, the way to true enlightenment and moksha is only through NaMO.