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On the Footsteps of the Buddha

Gautama Buddha, born a prince over 2500 years ago, set out to discover how to overcome suffering and bring happiness to the individual, family and society. Before he died, the Buddha suggested that it would be of great benefit to make a pilgrimage to the places associated with his life. Travel in the Buddha’s Footsteps, visiting the sites of the Buddha’s birth, childhood, enlightenment, and death. This is an opportunity to develop an understanding of the aspects of Indian life that have not changed for millennia, and experience rural life in villages and homes. This transforming journey is set at a slow pace, exploring the Buddha as a human being, to understand his dramatic life and his significance.  

Day 1: Depart for Delhi

Day 2: Delhi
Arrive Delhi and be transferred to your hotel.

Day 3: Delhi - Patna (B, L, D)
Fly to Patna, an ancient northern Indian city, founded 490 BC as a small fort (Pataligrama) near the River Ganges within the kingdom of Magadha janapada. It became the capital for both the Mauryan dynasty under Chandragupta and, later, of the Imperial Guptas. Pataliputra reached the pinnacle of prosperity when it was the capital of the great Mauryan Emperors, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great. The city prospered under the Mauryas and a Greek ambassador Megasthenes resided there and left a detailed account of its splendour. The city also became a flourishing Buddhist centre boasting a number of important monasteries. It remained the capital of the Gupta dynasty (3rd-6th century) and the Pala Dynasty (8th-12th century). The city was largely in ruins when visited by the famous Chinese monk Hsüan-tsang in 7th century, and suffered further damage at the hands of Muslim raiders in the 12th century. Afterwards Sher Shah Suri made Pataliputra his capital and changed the name to modern Patna. In the afternoon drive to Vaishali, located 40 miles away and famous for its Buddhist stupas, the Asoka Column and the Bawan Pokhar Temple.

Day 4: Patna - Rajgir (B, L, D)
Drive to Rajgir, once capital of the Magadha Empire and location of the first Buddhist Council. Visit the site of the Buddha’s first monastery, Vulture Peak, Jivaka’s mango Grove, the jail where King Bhimbisara was imprisoned by his son and continue to the Satadhara (seven hot springs).

Day 5: Rajgir - Nalanda - Bodhgaya (B, L, D)
Drive to Nalanda. Founded in the 5th century, Nalanda was one of the world’s greatest universities. See the Great Stupa and the Archaeolgical Museum. Continue south to Bodhgaya, the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment for a 3-night stay.

Day 6: Bodhgaya (B, L, D)
Spend the day in contemplation, in and around the Mahabodhi Temple; and listening to stories of Buddha. Visit some of the best outlying temples erected by Buddhists from all parts of the world.

Day 7: Bodhgaya (B, L, D)
Take a gently day walk across the countryside to a cave in the Dungasiri Mountains where the ascetic Gautama practiced austerities.

Day 8: Bodhgaya - Varanasi (B, L, D)
Drive to Varanasi. Varanasi, “eternal city,” has been a center of learning for over 2,000 years, and is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of India. A city of lingams dedicated to the Lord God Shiva, Varanasi is known as an “auspicious” place to die and a super-highway to heaven. Lining the river are numerous burning ghats and bathing ghats. In addition to the ghats, numerous temples dedicated to numerous gods dot the city streets. Later, you can begin to explore the area around your hotel and visit a sari factory.

Day 9: Varanasi (B, L, D)
Before dawn, you will take a morning boat ride on the Ganges to see the early morning prayers along the ghats. When you disembark, you can do some sightseeing visiting some of the temples on the shore, wandering the narrow streets of Vishwanatha Khanda, the Old City at the heart of Varanasi. The area will be buzzing with the activity of pilgrims, and stalls selling offerings to the faithful. In the afternoon, you will pay a visit to the holy ruined city of Sarnath. Here in Sarnath, Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Few major Buddhist cities escaped the building frenzy of Ashoka, and Sarnath is no exception. Right near the Dhamekh Stupa are the remains of Ashoka’s pillar, with his name engraved in the stone. The stupa is believed to mark the spot where Buddha preached his sermon at Deer Park. Sarnath also has a small but very interesting museum, with some prized sculptures dating back to the Gupta period.

Day 10: Varanasi - Kushinagar (B, L, D)
Start early to drive north to Kasia, the ancient Kushinagara, where the Buddha uttered his final words in 479 BC. Visit the Nirvana Stupa, the magnificient stone reclining Buddha and the site of his cremation. The late afternoon sunlight gives the place a very nice atmosphere that is rarely sightseen by other Western visitors.

Day 11: Kushinagar - Lumbini (B, L, D)
Drive across the India - Nepal Border to the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. Visit the sacred garden in Lumbini, the Temple of Maya Devi of the Buddha’s mother.

Day 12: Lumbini - Kapilavastu - Sravasti (B, L, D)
Drive to Kapilavastu, the kingdom of Prince Siddhartha’s father, King Suddhodhana who tried in vain to protect his son from suffering. Continue on to Sravasti where the Buddha spent three to four months each year on retreat. Spend some time in the beautiful Jeta Grove where the Buddha gave some of his most important teachings.

Day 13: Sravasti - Lucknow - Delhi (B, L, D)
Drive to Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh State, where you catch a short flight to Delhi, arriving Delhi late in the late afternoon.

Day 14: Delhi - USA (B)
Board your return flight.

Trip date:
October 16 - 29, 2016

Tour Price:
including flights:  $ 4640 per person
excluding flights: $ 3090 per person

Landcost includes:
First class accommodation
Internal flights, All tours with English speaking guides
Meals as listed in the program
(B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Air conditioned vehicle for ground transportation
Monument entrance fees as per program
Baggage handling, hotel taxes and service charges

Landcost does not include:
International airfare
Visa fees for the countries visited
All personal insurances
Gratuities and items of personal nature

Our Hotels (or similar):
Delhi: Ashok Country Resort ****
Patna: Maurya ****
Rajgir: Indo Hokke ***
Bodhgaya: Royal Residency ***
Varanasi: Taj Gateway ****
Kushinagar: Royal Residency ***
Lumbini: Lumbini Hokke ***
Sravasti: Lotus Nikko ***