Siddhartha’s Sojourn

specialSiddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, was raised as a prince for the first part of his life.  He began his spiritual journey after his disobedient act to his father of wandering outside the palace gates where he saw for the first time birth, old age, sickness and even death.  These four stages of life became the foundation of his Buddhist teachings.  Siddhartha’s Sojourn is an odyssey of the spirit, of Siddhartha’s pivotal life moments.  It includes rich ancient history and a chance to view precious life.  Beginning in Nepal, on to Bihar, the Gangetic Plain and ending in Dharamsala. Siddhartha’s Sojourn is an adventure in truth, your chance to walk the steps of the Buddha.

Day 1 – Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu where you will be met and driven to your hotel.  Afternoon sightseeing of Old Kathmandu includes the temples of Durbar Square, the Kumar Palace and the Lotus Gallery in Thamel to see contemporary art of modern Tibetan and Nepali painters.

Day 2 – Kathmandu
After breakfast visit Swayambunath and Boudhanath Stupa, both places of devout Buddhist worship.  See Pashupatinath, and although predominately  Hindu, a dwelling area for yogi’s or those who have dedicated their lives to meditation much like Siddhartha frequented after renouncing the material world.  Afternoon, visit a Tibetan Center to see a carpet weaving factory.

Day 3 – Kathmandu
Today you’ll explore Bhaktapur, one of the three Royal cities, which also includes Kathmandu and Patan.  Bhaktapur is a Newari city known for its medieval woodcarving and metalworking.  Tour Patan’s temples and the Patan Museum to see well preserved religious iconography.

 Day 4 – Kathmandu/Bhairahawa/Lumbini
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bhairahawa where you will be met and driven to Lumbini.   Check into your hotel.  Visit the Maya Devi Temple, the birthplace of Siddhartha and Ashok Pillar.  You can also view many bird species indigenous to the farmlands of Lumbini which has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) having high biodiversity and unique ecosystems in Nepal. Special bird varieties include; Sarus Crane, Lesser Adjutant, Indian Spotted Eagle, Critically Endangered 2 species of Gyps and several birds of prey, such as owls.. Mammals include Nilgai, Asiatic Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat and Grey Mongoose. (A two hour drive westward to Jagdishpur Reservoir is interesting for several water bird species. Many bird species visit this man made reservoir during the winter time.)

Day 5 – Lumbini/ Kapilvastu/Lumbini
Around an hour’s drive northwest from Lumbini lies the interesting archaeological site of Tilaurakot. This has been identified as Kapilvastu, the capital of King Suddhodhana (Prince Siddhartha’s father) where the Buddha as Prince Siddhartha spent the first 29 years of his life before disobeying his father and stepping outside of the Palace gates. 

Day 6 – Lumbini/ /Sravasti
Morning drive to Sravasti and check into your hotel.  Sravasti is located near the Rapti River in northeastern Uttar Pradesh (India) and is said to be have been founded by the mythological King Sravast.  In Buddhist times (6th century BC-6th century AD), Sravasti was capital of the kingdom of Kosala and was important both as a prosperous trading center and for its religious associations. Siddhartha is believed to have spent 24 monsoons in the city. It is said that Siddhartha sat on a lotus with a thousand petals and multiplied his image a million times.   Age-old stupas, majestic monasteries and several temples near the village of Sahet-Mahet are highlights for Buddhist pilgrims.

Day 7 – Sravasti/Kushinagar
This morning visit another important religious site, the Jetavana Monastery, which was erected in a garden outside the walls of the city and presented to Siddhartha by a wealthy banker, Anathapinaka.  (Other important Buddhist monasteries were the Rajakarama and the Purvarama.) An exquisite garden here has the famous ‘Anandabodhi’ tree – an offspring of one said to be planted by Siddhartha’s main disciple Ananda.   Early afternoon drive to Kushinagar.

Day 8 –Kushinagar
Kushinagar is where Siddhartha passed into Maha Paranirvana after walking for days to reach here.  Explore the Maha Parinirvana Stupa, which is built on the place of Buddha’s Maha Paranirvana or passing away and the place of his cremation. Close to the Maha Parinirvana Stupa is located a 1500 year old Buddha-image of the Buddha as he attained Parinirvana. The Mahaparinirvana Stupa is surrounded by ruins of ancient monasteries.

Day 9 – Kushinagar/Vaishali/Bodh Gaya
After breakfast drive to Vaishali.  Siddhartha visited Vaishali on many occasions.  It was a very large city, rich and prosperous, crowded with people and with abundant food. Outside the town, leading up to the Himalaya, was the Mahavana,  a large, natural forest.  Nearby were other forests, such as Gosingalasāla, which were perfect for forest ascetics as Siddhartha. Drive onward to Bodh Gaya and check into your hotel.

 Day 10 – Bodh Gaya
In 500 BC Siddhartha wandering as an ascetic, reached the banks of the Falgu River near the city of Gaya.  There he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree.   After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddhartha attained enlightenment and insight, and the answers that he had sought. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience before proceeding to Sarnath where he gave his first teaching.  Visit the bodhi tree which is said to have grown from a branch off the original one that Siddhartha attained enlightenment under.  There are also many different denominations of Buddhist temples to visit. 

Day 11 – Bodh Gaya/Nalanda/Vulture’s Peak/Rajgir
Drive to Rajgir stopping at Nalanda, where the great ancient Buddhist University once was and Vulture’s Peak, where Siddhartha taught the Prajnaparamita or Heart Sutra.   Check into your hotel.

Day 12– Rajgir/Patna/Varanasi
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Patna and onto Varanasi. Check into your hotel.

Day 13 – Varanasi/Sarnath/Varanasi
Sunrise boat ride on the Ganges and aarti ceremony.  After breakfast drive to Sarnath, Deer Park, where Siddhartha taught his first sermon after attaining enlightened.   Afternoon visit a silk weaving factory and see how the famous Varanasi silk is made.

Day 14 – Varanasi/Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Delhi where you will be met and driven to your hotel.  Tour the sites in Old Delhi such as the Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Jamid Mosque.  Shop in the many stores at Connaught Circle.

Day 15 – Depart Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight or continue on the Dharamsala Extension.
Dharamsala Extension (4 days)

Day 15 – Delhi/Pathankot/Dharamsala
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Pathankot where you will be met and driven to your hotel in Dharamsala.

Day 16 –Dharamsala
Explore McLeod Gang, a suburb of Dharamsala often referred to as “Little Lhasa” because it is the home to Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso  a modern day “Siddhartha”, and the Tibetan Government in Exile.  The Tibetan settlement of Dharamsala began in 1959, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet and the India Prime Minister allowed him and his followers to settle in McLeod Ganj (in Upper Dharmsala), a former colonial British summer picnic spot.  Today there are many temples, monasteries and schools here.  McLeod Ganj has also attracted many foreigners who wish to study Tibetan Buddhism encouraging tourism and commerce in the Tibetan Community. See Namgyal Monastery, the main monastery for monks training and the Tibetan Village School, which teaches lay children.

Day 17 – Dharamsala
Visit the Tibetan Library.  In 1970, The Dalai Lama opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and other important resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world and is under a new director, Geshe Lahkdor, the old translator of the Dalai Lama. 

Day 18 – Depart Dharamsala/Pathankot/Delhi
Drive to Pathankot for your departure flight to Delhi and onward.

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