Friday, May 20, 2016

Bodhgaya where Buddha attained enlightenment

From the last few years I have been visiting more of Buddhist monasteries. I have a huge list of Buddha related places I have visited. But I always wanted to visit two Places which are significant for Buddha. Bodhgaya where he enlightened and Lumbini where he was born. I got a chance to visit Bodhgaya recently.
Bodhgaya is a small town 70 kms from Patna in the state of Bihar in India. Probably this place has taken a shape of a town after the rise of shops,  hotels and restaurants around Bodhgaya temple complex. This is a pilgrimage center for Buddhists. This is believed to be the place of Buddha’s enlightenment under Bodhi tree.
I reached there in the evening. Temple complex was bustling with people. It was more of international crowd. I avoided the guides who were offering to show 6 sites in the complex and opted to explore myself. The path ahead took me to security check. Here security is very strict they don’t even allow to take any bag. Only camera can be taken after paying for Camera fee.
Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya
The first view is of the temple which is the tallest structure in entire Bodhgaya. It is visible from all the corners of the town. It has taken its current shape over the years. The structure looked pretty new may be few decades. However, I was told the temple was built in Gupta period and had gone through several restorations.

I was looking for Bodhi tree around. There are many but was sure they were not  ‘ The Bodhi tree’ as there was no crowd. I followed the people walking with devotion. It lead to inside of the temple. Gold coated Buddha’s statue was the focus of the temple. The design of people tree leaf on the ceiling of the statue was very nice. The yellow robe with the leaf design is for sale in all the shops to offer to Buddha. Apart from the statue there is nothing much inside. There was stairs leading to upper floor but it was closed.

After coming out of the temple I followed another set of devotees around the temple. I was excited to see the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Isn’t it something I have been reading from the childhood and was even looking forward to sit under the tree to feel the vibes.
Mabodhi tree, Bodhgaya
All around the temple there are small idols on the wall showing different  forms of Buddha. Exactly behind the temple is the Bodhi tree, not the original but apparently 5th generation of the tree. The vajrasan or the place where Buddha mediated and attained enlightenment 2600 years ago is completely surrounded all around by railing. On one side there is temple wall curbing the growth of the tree. I felt suffocating looking at the tree as there was  no space for tree to breath. It is leaned towards one side spreading its shelter to the devotees in mediation. The devotees around the tree were largely international. There were many small groups in white clothes and monks in saffron/red robes chanting in different languages and there were masters teaching in different languages. I could make out Japanese, Thailand and a small group of Indians. Under the tree little away from the groups were monks  busy in prostration on a wooden plank which is a typical view in any Buddhist place. I sat there for some time to feel the place. It was a nice evening with good vibes around. But the thought about the tree didn’t go away from my mind. Mahabodhi temple society should have done something else to make the tree breath properly.

The whole temple complex is very vast with nice garden. Marigold flowers will add vibrant colors to the garden as it is the main flower used for worship apart from lotus.
Around the temple there are other important places which are considered as important from the point of Buddha’s enlightenment journey. In front of the main temple is the the board mentioning vatavriksh where Buddha meditated after enlightenment.
 There is a nice pond called muchalind sarovar .  In the centre is Buddha statue under the hood of the snake. Apparently, the snake Muchalind saved Buddha from unprecedented rain when Buddha was in meditation.
There is one more signboard   at the right of the entrance to the temple stating ‘ After enlightenment  the lord Buddha spent two weeks in meditation gazing unwinkingly at the Bodhi tree’.
There are many stupas inside the park. There is a meditation park as well. Stupas are decorated with water cups and marigold on top of that. The whole park is charged with meditative mood. For me it felt just like any other hindu temple complex with less noise. After one complete circumambulation of the  park I left the compelx but couldn’t take out Bodhi tree out of my mind.
Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya, Bihar

- Temple is open from 5 am to 9 pm
- Don't get confused with many pupil trees around the temple. It is right behind the main temple
- Bags are not allowed inside. Ensure to leave your belongings in the hotel or car.
- INR 100 will be charged to carry your camera at the entrance of the gate

Other related links you might want to read -
6 Buddha images from the world 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

5 things I learned during my recent backpacking

I came back from the solo backpacking around Spain and Portugal last week. Every time I try  to add new threshold to my travel. I always go for comfort travel if not luxury. This time I wanted to stay in hostels and move from place to place like a backpacker. Here are some of my finding and learning from this travel.

Hostel stay – It was the first time I stayed in hostels. Travelling solo and staying in hotels is expensive. With so many apprehensions of me getting used to  hostels I booked hostels for most of my travel. For those who doesn’t know about hostels, these are common budget accommodations in Europe having 6-10 beds in each room. There will be lockers for each one of them to secure their belongings. Hostels are good places to get to know other travellers across the globe. On my first day I did feel like why the hell I ended up here to share the room with strangers. Imagine one wash room for 6 people! As my days moved I learnt to live there. After all I would go out for rest of the day and would return  to bed only at night. It was not as bad as I imagined it to be. At the same time I can’t live like that for all of 15 days of travel. May be next time I will choose a combination of hostel and hotel, with a space for privacy for at least few days.

Slow travelling - I like slow travelling. Going to a place and be stationed there exploring around is what I want and do in many of my travels. But with my limited 15 days of leave and the excitement to travel through couple of countries I was rushing from one city to other. Most of my focus was on how to catch the train and how to reach the hostel. Need to give a lot of thoughts on how can I travel slow with the limitations of having full time job for my next travels. No doubt I love microscopic, snail pace travel than telescopic travels. That’s the way to absorb the mood, weather, ethnicity, architecture of the place and I like the feel of pain when we leave the place behind after you spend few days there.

Cities and countryside  - I love cities. The vibrant city life attracts me. This time I travelled through 5 cities of Europe. But when I travel I would also like to experience the countryside which will be free of hustle bustle providing a lot of time for introspection. It’s not that I avoid cities totally. But in my next travel I may limit to one city spending maximum time in the countryside.

Barcelona view
Camera - I carried my DSLR. I believe in exploring through walking. Ambling for 10-15 kilometers with a day pack which is heavy because of camera is not so easy. Every time keeping the camera inside the hostel locker  is too much for me to handle. I can’t compromise my traveler self for a photographer self. So if I backpack and stay in hostels probably I leave my DSLR at home and carry only point and shoot camera which is not a burden and will allow me to experience recklessly
Packing for Europe weather -  When I checked the weather forecast it was showing 18-20 degree Celsius in all the places I was planning to visit. I thought it wouldn’t be bad and didn’t carry any thick jacket but packed some thermals and fleece. I don’t like jackets spoiling all the colorful clothes we wear. But for my luck weather was very bad except in Barcelona. It was raining in Portugal even in the driest places and the temperature went down. I didn’t want to buy a Jacket to add up to the already brimming wardrobe or to my backpack. Any extra weight on backpack means weight on my back. I survived wearing multiple layers and buying wind sheeter for rain. A good jacket is a must for Europe travel even if need to compromise on other clothes to accommodate space in the backpack

Are you a backpacker ? What's your experience ?
Other links from this travel

Friday, April 29, 2016

Barcelona harbour - Skywatch Friday

Barcelona  is a city of full life. During my recent travel it was raining everywhere and sky was always cloudy. Barcelona didn't disappoint me. While biking the city the harbor view caught my eyes. White yachts in the background of clear blue sky was a view to watch for.

Barcelona harbor

For more skywatch go to Friday Skywatch

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Livraria Lello, Porto, World's one of the most beautiful bookshops

After buying a ticket as I entered the bookshop with simple façade,  least I expected to see the grandeur inside the book shop. Carvings adorned every corner of the book shop. Exquisitely carved ceilings, beautifully decorated walls, pillars and well organized books welcomed me. Oh! This was nothing. There in the centre was a staircase with stunning curvaceous design. It’s completely carved and its bright crimson steps brightens the wooden staircase. Undoubtedly staircase is the show stopper of the book shop.

Staircase of Lello bookshop, the show stopper

Lello book shop
While climbing up the staircase I noticed the incredible design of  the staircase with intricately carved ceilings and wooden balusters. From the first floor I could see  the skylight ceiling with stained glass. In the center it reads ‘ decus in labore’ Later I understand the translation as ‘ dignity in work’ which was the monogram of  founders of the book shop.

View from the first floor

Stained glass with monogram dignity in work
Livraria lello is the child of two Portuguese brothers who were interested in art and literature and was designed with the support of the architect Xavier Esteves in the year 1906.

On the first floor some were indulged in reading. They say that J K Rowling while living in Porto often was visiting this place and was the muse for her books. This book shop also has inspired many other writers as well.
External façade is in neo gothic style having the painting of two people symbolizing science and anthropology.

Lello bookshop façade design
Livraria Lello is located in the  center of the city very close to Porto’s iconic structure Clergies tower. Lello book shop has its place as one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops in BBC and Lonely planet’s list.
Book lovers,  don’t forget to visit this place!! Have you been to any other charming bookshop. Would like to hear from you.
Travel notes
- There is a ticket counter in front of the shop. 3Euros per person. On purchase of a book 3Euros will be waived off. I felt it is reasonable considering this is a private property
- Opening hours 10 am to 7.30 pm
- This book shop has English books as well along with Portuguese books

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Babia, the vegetarian crocodile in Ananthapur temple, Kasargod

Have you ever heard about the  vegetarian crocodile ? ! Have you ever thought that a crocodile can be a pet too ?!! You need to meet Babia, the crocodile to believe this.

We were coming back from Kasaragod towards Mangalore, when we saw the board 'Ananthapura 5.5 kms ' pointing towards right. When we drove towards the direction I didn’t expect anything much but a typical Kerala style temple. Travelling with the  little one doesn’t allow much to explore. All the time goes in attending to their needs. Anyways having my little one with me I was not in exploring mode as well.

When we reached the temple it was an odd hour of the day for any temple to be open for  visitors. We were told by the priest that the temple will be opened by 5.30 pm. We thought that is too much of time to wait and decided to satisfy ourselves by taking a walk through the temple corridor.

This temple of Ananthapadmanabha is  spectacular. It is located in the middle of the  kalyani ( temple pond) . Being  away from the town the temple complex is  very serene. This temple is supposed to be the origin of Trivdendrum’s Padmanabha temple. Water around the temple is green. We could see lot of fishes. We were about to return then the priest suggested us to see the crocodile.

Being from south India, I have seen fishes living inside the temple ponds. But never heard of a crocodile within a temple complex. Intrigued, we enquired more about it.

This crocodile is believed to be living in the temple pond from the last 76 years. It is considered and worshipped as temple’s protector. He lives on temple prasadam they feed every day after the pooja and hasn’t harmed anyone till now. He doesn’t even eat the fishes in the pond!!

Story doesn’t end here. He crawls up to another pond which is above the temple pond and about 300-400 meters away. Often he shuttles between these two ponds. When we visited, he had moved to other pond couple of days back. We walked up to the other pond which was also green and had lotus leaves all over. We tried to spot him for about 20 minutes. But no luck. By the time someone from the temple came and asked us, 'did you able to spot him? ' Looking at our disappointed face, he asked us to wait and started to call ‘sweetly’ as if he is calling some one dear. ‘Babia…. Please come up … They want to see you..  Please come up Babia .. ‘ 

Whoa!! Babia the crocodile came up. He didn’t fully come up though. But we could see his face under the water. He looked very calm. We were told that his body is 8 ft long but all that we could see was only his stout. After watching him for a while we started from the place amused and wondering how could he live on vegetarian food !! Sometimes there is no answers for such questions !!
Isn’t it interesting?? Ahh! My India is incredible with such mysteries!!! It is always a treasure trove. Travels, always unveils such unknown stories. If you are travelling towards North Kerala don’t forget to meet Babia.
Travel notes
- Anantapur lake temple is 5 kms away from Kumbla on the way from Mangalore to Kasargod
- Temple timing - 5.30 to 12.30 pm and 5.30 to 7.30 pm
- Plan this place  along with Kasargod

View from front - Ananthapura lake temple

Corridor connecting the temple in the middle of the pond

Rear view of the Ananthapura lake temple, Kasaragod, Kerala

Another pond 400 mts away from the temple pond

Babia, the crocodile .. Picture is not so clear as he was inside the water