|My tuk tuk ride began at 4:30am through the dark streets of Varanasi and by way of the Poorva Express train and a taxi ride, I finally made it to the town of Bodhgaya at 2:30 in the afternoon. Like Sarnath, Buddhist pilgrims flock to Bodhgaya. It is where in the 6th century BC a prince, Siddhatta Gotoma attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Bodhgaya is the most important place for a Buddhist pilgrim to visit. I think it's religious significance is like Rome for Catholics, Mecca for Muslims and Varanasi for Hindus.
I started my tour at the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple complex. It's been designated a World Heritage Site. The main temple or stupa towers over the complex of gardens and walkways. Behind the temple is the very spot, under the bodhi tree that the enlightenment occurred. A descendant of the original bodhi tree still stands and is a focal point for visitors. The enlightenment refers to the state and the new dimension to which the man transcended. So, the man Gotoma became Buddha. Buddha means all knowing one, all compassionate one, one who can show the truth to end all suffering.
I visited the Buddha statue inside the temple and walked the grounds. In various areas sit groups of 30 or so people listening to what I presume to be teachings or lectures. In another place I watched people performing some type of repetitive ritual. Standing with folded hands before a flat panel laying on the ground in front of them, they go through a motion similar to a squat thrust. They squat down and place their hands on two cloth pads that are laying on the panel. The cloth pads allow them with feet stationary, to slide their body forward ending prostate on their stomach. The exercise is repeated again and again. What a workout. I can visualize the panel and pads sold on TV as an exercise system.
Bodhgaya like everywhere else in India is so crowded with people. Only here, add bus loads of Japanese, Chinese and people from other countries in the far east. Upon leaving the temple complex I wandered the streets of the Bodhgaya like a cow. I ended up at the edge of town at a very wide riverbed that was almost dry. I watched some boys playing cricket and talked to a group of locals. They said during monsoon season the river completely fills and sometimes floods parts of town. Outside the temple complex are beggars and people who look like Indian Gypsies. There's plenty of street food, transportation options and hawkers are selling anything and everything Buddha.
Not generally a good idea, but I let the rickshaw driver choose my dinner destination. He dropped me off at the Fujiya Green Restaurant. I ordered vegetable momo's which are like the inside of an egg roll wrapped in a dumpling. My other selection turned out to be a bowl of Japanese noodles and broth. I also ordered naan and a coke. On the way back to my room the rickshaw man took me to see the "Big Buddha" It was just about dark and the gates were closed, so I'll have to wait see the "Big Buddha" in the morning.