Vaishali,World's First Republic & Archaeological Site

Vaishali, considered to be World’s First Republic and currently an Archaeological site, is situated in the district with same name, Vaishali, in Bihar state of India.

VaishaliThe relic Stupa at Vaishali, where ashes of Buddha are believed to be kept. Photo Source : Creative commons Licensed under CC BY 2.5.

In 6th century B.C., representatives were elected for the assembly in Vaishali. It is believed to be World’s first Republic. Archaeologists have unearthed a huge mound with a seating capacity of 700 people, which is believed to be World’s first legislative building. There is a Coronation tank called “Abhiskek Pushkarn”. It is believed that all elected representatives were anointed here before they swear-in as members of assembly.

Lord Gautam Buddha visited Vaishali quite frequently and lord Gautama Huddha’s last sermon was at a place called Kolhua, which is very close to Vaishali. In third century B.C., the Great Mauryan emperor Ashoka, erected an Ashoka Pillar here, to commemorate this. The second great Buddhist council was held in Vaishali, hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana (which means ‘death’) of the Gautham Buddha. Two stupas (mound-like hemispherical structure containing ashes of Gautham Buddha and his cousin and monk Ananda) were erected at Vaishali to commemorate this event. Buddha’s ashes are believed to have been kept here. A portion of Buddha’s ashes are also kept at Patna Museum.

There is a grand Buddhist monastery on the outskirts of Vaishali, where Lord Buddha often discoursed.

Lord Mahavir of Jainism was born at Kundalpur (on the outskirts of Vaishali at 4 kilometers distance) around 2550 years ago. Lord Mahavir lived here till he attained the age of 22. Thus Vaishali has emerged as a famous pilgrimage center for the Buddhists and Jains.

There is a museum at Vaishali which contains some of the archaeological remains received from Vaishali. Close to the museum is the stupa where the the stone casket relic of ashes of Gautham Buddha are believed to be kept.

Bawan Pokhar Temple is one among the different tourist sites in Vaishali, which is an old temple, built during the Pala period, on the northern banks of Bawan Pokhar.

How do I go to Vaishali?

Patna is the nearest airport to Vaishali at around 70 kilometers distance. Hajipur Railway station is the nearest one at 35 kilometers distance, while Muzaffarpur Railway station is at around 40 kilometers distance. Vaishali is connected to all these cities by roads.

Dharamsala

McLeod Ganj at Dharamsala; Central Tibetan Administration HQ and Home to Dalai Lama

Dharamsala or Dharamshala is a small town where the Central Tibetan Administration Headquarters is situated. It is situated in Himachal Pradesh state, India.


McLeod Ganj and the snowy peaks near Dharamsala

McLeod Ganj town, Central Tibetan Administration Headquarters and Hill station in Dharamsala – Image Courtesy : Wikimedia

Dharamsala is beautiful hill station at an average altitude of 1,457 meters  or 4780 feet above sea level, with snow-capped Himalayas as the backdrop. It is is at a distance of 18 kilometers from Kangra, the district head quarters.

History About Central Tibetan Administration

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, established Dharamshala as his residence and the headquarters of the ‘Central Tibetan Administration’, the Tibetan government in Exile, after his exile from Tibet, following the 1959 Tibetan uprising. The headquarters was initially at Mussoorie and was shifted to Dharamsala in 1960. The 14th Dalai Lama and thousands and thousands of his Tibetan Buddhist followers in exile were allowed to establish their base in Dharamsala by India. To teach their children about teachings of Buddha and to impart them with their Language, culture, religion, history, etc, his holiness the Dalai Lama established schools in the region. HH Dalai Lama (HH denotes His Holiness) also helped those in exile in agricultural settlement.

Central Tibetan Administration in McLeodGanj is situated just above Dharamsala town. McLeod Ganj is the most famous tourist destination at Dharamsala. It is also known as “Little Lhasa“. Lhasa is the administrative capital of Tibet.

Other than the schools on Buddhist teachings, they also undertake development projects for the welfare of Tibetan’s health, cultural and economic development. Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was established in the year 1959 and Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies was established as the primary university for Tibetan higher education in India. Many of the monasteries and nunneries were re-founded by the Dalai Lama.

Places to visit in Dharamshala

Dalali Lama’s Residence inside Tsuglagkhang Complex at McLeod Ganj

Tsuglagkhang Complex contains the residence of  the 14th Dalai Lama and a Tibetan Museum.

There is a massive statue of Lord Buddha inside the complex, along with other statues.

Kora is the act of walking around the Tsuglagkhang  complex in clock-wise direction. It offers splendid view of the temple.

The complex is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Namgyal Gompa alias Dalai Lama’s Temple (Dalai Lama’s residence)

Namgyal Gompa alias Dalai Lama’s Temple is the official residence (Photang) of the His Holiness Dalai Lama.

Anybody can go inside Namgyal Gompa (monastery), irrespective of religion. Only condition is you need to keep silence. This monastery is the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama. It is also known as Namgyal Tantric College.

If you are lucky, you may come across Dalai Lama, during public teachings. Its free of cost. If you want to listen to the Teachings of Dalai Lama in person, you need to  register months in advance. He teachings here are in Tibetan language.

In May 2011, Dalai lama his holiness has retired from political responsibilities. These responsibilities were transferred to the Central Tibetan Administration.

You can see the some of the monks debating in groups, normally in the afternoons. There are around 200 monks at this gompa.

There are a lot of prayer bells (in the shape of barrels) all around this Buddhist temple or gompa . You need to turn it clockwise, to get the effect of reciting that prayer. Don’t stop prayer, when the wheel is turning.

Tibetan Museum

There is also a Tibetan museum inside Tsuglagkhang complex.

The Tibetan museum shows photos and videos of Chinese invasion of Tibet. At 3 p.m, there is a documentary. This Museum is closed on Mondays.

Dal Lake Near McLeod Ganj

Dal Lake near McLeod Ganj is considered as a sacred lake by many. It is believed that bathing in this lake washes one of his or her sins.Hence it is known as Poor man’s Kailash. (Pilgrims of several religions in India believe that going to Mount Kailash on foot will bring good fortune.)

View Point

View point is at around two or three kilometers from the above mentioned Dal lake.

St. John in the Wilderness Church

St. John in the Wilderness Church or St. John Church, is one of the oldest churches, on the way to McLeod Ganj. It was built in 1852. It is a CNI (Church of North India) church.

The massive Kangra earthquake of 1905 destroyed the church bell tower. (This earthquake killed an estimated 19,800 people.) A new bell was cast in 1915 , which was brought from England and was installed outside the church.

Graveyard of Lord Elgin, who served as the Governor-General & Viceroy of India, can be seen here.

Dharamsala Cricket Stadium

Dharamsala Cricket Stadium is the world’s top most high altitude cricket stadium.

Kangra Fort

Kangra Fort is believed to be the oldest dated fort in India. It is the largest fort in the Himalayas, for sure. It is at around 20 kilometers from Dharamsala, at Kangra. It is on the outskirts of Dharamsala.

Dharamsala Volunteering Work

Opportunities for volunteering work among Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala is available. Lha Charitable Trust is the pioneers in this field, working among the Tibetan refugees at Dharamsala, from 1997 on-wards. Skilled and unskilled individuals can work here as a volunteer, directly with Lha Charitable Trust.

How Do I Go To Central Tibetan Administration HQ and Hill Station Town of Dharamsala?

There are frequent night buses from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, etc, to Dharamsala.

Dharamsala-Kangra Airport at Gaggal (IOTA code is DHM) serves as the link between Dharamsala and the rest of the world for air travelers The airport is also called Gaggal Airport.

The nearest rail head on the broad gauge railway network (and nearest major rail-head) of Indian railways is Pathankot.  The nearest rail head is ‘Chamunda Marg’, on a narrow gauge railway line, in Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh state.

How Do I Go To Dharamsala from Delhi?

Manju Ka Tila, a Tibtan colony in Delhi, is one of the starting point of buses to Dharamsala. There are many Air conditioned Volvo buses from here.

Bedi Travels is one of the top rated buses to Dharamsala from Delhi. They also operate buses to other places in Himachal Pradesh.

The Divine Hima, a Botique luxary Hotel

The Divine Hima is a luxury boutique hotel with a cafe and an art gallery at Dharamshala. They have some of the best wines, too. The room tariff for 3 nights and 4 days (package), on a twin sharing basis, is Rs 59000. The Divine Hima is situated a little away the town. But is worth the salt.

Bodh Gaya, Gautama Buddha’s Enlightenment Site

Bodh Gaya, Gautama Buddha's Enlightenment SiteMahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya

Bodh Gaya, Gautama Buddha’s Enlightenment Site is at Gaya district of Bihar state, India.

Bodh Gaya is the place where, it is believed that the Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment and hence is one among the four sacred pilgrimage centers for Buddhists.

Bodhgaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India.

Prince Gautama Siddhartha, 26 centuries ago, reached Phalgu near Gaya and sat under a Bodhi tree and meditated . After 3 days and 3 nights of meditation, he is said to have attained Enlightenment and the name ‘Budda’ was adopted. Decedent of the original Bodhi tree is still there at the site.

Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader for the Tibetans,  visits this place quite frequently during year ends. October to March is the main pilgrimage season.

Maha Bodhi Temple is at a distance of 110 kilometers from Patna. Emperor Ashoka, after 250 years of Buddha’s Enlightenment,  is said have visited Bodhgaya and founded this temple.

How Do I Go to Bodh Gaya, Gautama Buddha’s Enlightenment Site?

Bodh Gaya International Airport is at 13 kilometers distance.

Bodh Gaya is at 12 kilometers from Gaya city and NH 83 connects Bodh Gaya with Gaya City.

‘Gaya Junction’, at 12 kilometers distance, is the nearest railway station. Patna, the capital of Bihar state, is at a distance of 110 kilometers, which is well connected to all parts of the country by train services.

Accommodation at Bodh Gaya

If you are looking for cheap and decent accommodation at Bodh Gaya, Tara Guest House is an ideal one costing as low as Rs 800/- plus tax and Rs 900/- plus tax. Charity backpackers, Tikabigha, Bodh Gaya is another cheap option. They have rooms costing Rs 350 per day on-wards. Room rates are subject to change and please check the actual current rates, before booking.