Monday 23rd January, 2012: (Tour Day 3)
Thankfully I did sleep quite well. After breakfast we checked out and left at 08:00 for the 85 km bus trip to Rajgir. Before leaving Bodhgaya we went past many Tibetan refugee spots set up to assist them survive in India. Due to poor road conditions, including railway crossings and single-lane bridges, the trip took 2 1/2 hours.
Rajgir is an amazing place. Rather than take the skyway, we took the many, many steps leading up to Vulture's Peak (Griddhkuta), which also includes some smaller caves and scenic views over the surrounding hills. The Peak was one place the Buddha meditated and delivered some of his famous sermons. Later we passed Bimbimsara's Jail (where the King was imprisoned and later killed at his son’s hand), the hill (Vaibhar Hill) where the first Buddhist Council was held (sometime between 543 and 483 BCE) shortly after Buddha’s death to compile the teachings, and walked through Venuvan (bamboo grove) where the first monastery was built, thus allowing the monks to settle in one place, and where the Buddha spent three rainy seasons delivering many important discourses. The original monastery is yet to be excavated due to a dispute, and only the pond remains of the earliest features.
We returned to the hotel for lunch and to freshen up. I noticed a nice statue downstairs.
Another 1 1/2 hours or so on the bus took us to the remains of Nalanda University. It was founded in the 4th century C.E. and thrived until the 12th century when it was ransacked by the invading Turks, who killed hundreds of students and teachers, torched the huge library (over 9 million volumes) and destroyed most of the buildings. It rests in a wonderful 35-acre park, and includes Sariputta's Stupa which is now a World Heritage Site. Nalanda was one of the world’s first residential universities, and there is now a new one not far away. The Buddha visited the area several times, and here Sâriputta uttered his “lion’s roar” of faith in the Buddha.
After refreshments at the same hotel we took a bone-jarring three hour bus ride back to Gaya train station. Around 22:00 we finally ate dinner, and just after midnight the train departed for Varanasi.