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About Me


My name is Deepak Anand. I am a Buddhist pilgrimage explorative interpreter and enthusiast based in Bodhgaya - the place of enlightenment of the Buddha. A chance meeting with Dr.Ravindra Panth, Director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University, Nalanda) in year 2006 aroused my interest in learning about the Buddha and his association with the region of Bihar in India. As I started reading about the life of the Buddha and exploring Buddhist heritage sites in Bihar, I realized that although Buddhism originated in India, it got completely lost in this region around 12th CE. What was more incredible to learn was how a handful of British explorers in 19th CE, by translating and interpreting the travelogues of ancient Chinese pilgrims Faxian (5th CE) and Xuanzang (7th CE), discovered the Indian origin of Buddhism and traced the most sacred, ‘In the footsteps of the Buddha’ pilgrimage. My curiosity led me to explore and document the Buddhist pilgrimage described in the accounts of Faxian and Xuanzang. I published my explorations, interpretations and findings on the Buddhist pilgrimage on my blogs, exhibitions, books and brochures.
The revitalisation of the Buddhist pilgrimage in India is comparatively recent. It started in 19th CE and though much has been done towards identification, excavation and promotion of Buddhist pilgrimage places, a lot more is required for its sustainable revitalisation, and making it into ‘Living Heritage’. After a decade of facilitating awareness generation on Buddhist pilgrimage places, I realized it is time to work hands-on for contributing towards transforming the Buddhist heritage, which is being treated as archaeological heritage presently, into Living Heritage. Guiding and taking pilgrims to the prominent and lesser known Buddhist places would revitalize ancient traditions associated with these sites as mentioned in Buddhist literatures and also allow us to facilitate interaction of the pilgrims with the host community who are mostly ignorant about the great heritage located in their villages.
Join me in seeing, learning, experiencing and indulging in the ancient Buddhist heritage like never before. Let us together try to revive, revitalize, and promote the sacred ancient Buddhist pilgrimage.


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For interpretative Buddhist pilgrimage explorative tour, research assistance for magazines and documentaries, and any other queries regarding my work, write to me at neevda@gmail.com

Buddhist Pilgrimage and its Significance


The earliest Buddhist reference to pilgrimage comes from the Buddha himself in his last discourse before his great demise and is preserved in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. His chief attendant Ananda expressed concern that the community of Buddha’s followers would find it a challenging to persistin their faith in the absence of the Buddha. The Buddha thus advised them to visit and hold in reverence the four places associated with the important events of his life; Lumbini, where he was born; Bodhgaya, where he attained Enlightenment; Sarnatha, where he preached the First Sermon and Kushinagara where he attained Mahaparinirvana (great demise). Around three centuries after the Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana, Emperor Ashoka (3rd BCE) designated Rajagriha, Vaisali, Sankasya and Sravasti as four additional places associated with the miracles performed by Buddha as significant for Buddhists. As mentioned in the travelogues of Chinese pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang, in subsequent centuries, the Buddhist pilgrimage was extended to many other places associated with Buddha and his important disciples-- Sariputta, MahaMoggallana, MahaKassapa and Ananda.
The Buddha did not insist that his followers must go on pilgrimage but proclaimed that by showing reverence for the holy shrines, followers could purify their thought, speech and action. This means that a Buddhist, by virtue of undertaking pilgrimage to the sacred places associated with the life of the Buddha is inevitably blessed with Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action. So we can see that visiting the places of pilgrimage with the correct mental attitude can help in strengthening our practice of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha went so far as mentioning that even dying faithfully on a pilgrimage led to a good rebirth. Thus, even though pilgrimage is not necessary for the followers, it is an undertaking worth dying for.

Pilgrimage Legacy of Master Xuanzang


Master Xuanzang (also spelt as Hsüan Tsang) was a Chinese monk and scholar who lived in the 7th century. He is known in history as the young monk who travelled from China to India to study Buddhism at the Nalanda Mahavihara (University) and undertook pilgrimage to sacred places associated with the Buddha. He spent seventeen years (629-645CE) in this pursuit, and after returning to China, dedicated his remaining years to translating Buddhist scriptures brought from India into the Chinese language and spreading Buddhism in China. Xuanzang also compiled his 17 years of travel experiences and exploration of new lands into a travelogue titled Ta Tang HsiYüChi’(Records of the Western Lands of the Great Tang Period). His travel accounts played very important role in the rediscovery of the Indian origin of Buddhism and revitalizing the ‘In the footsteps of the Buddha’ pilgrimage. Literary and archaeological evidence suggests that from 10th CE onwards, the elaborate ‘Footsteps of the Buddha’ pilgrimage and the monastic system in the Indian subcontinent came under threat due to invasion by Turkic rulers. The new socio-political circumstances created in the Indian subcontinent were not conducive to the sustenance of Buddhism, and therefore, Buddhism started gradually declining. By the early 13th CE, Buddhism came to anend in the Indian subcontinent.
Until the beginning of 19th CE, the World was ignorant about the Indian origin of Buddhism. All the tangible and intangible traditions related to the Buddha were lost. The vast ancient remains consisting of caves around Mumbai, stone idols all across Indian subcontinent, earthen mounds and ancient remains puzzled the British rulers of India. The ancient remains were thought to be of some foreign origin. Some events in 19th CE like the deciphering of Ashokan Brahmi script by James Princep in 1837, the English translation of Sri Lankan Buddhist texts Mahavamsa by George Tournour in 1837 and translation of two sets of Tibetan Buddhist texts Kanjur by Brian Hodgson helped in establishing the Indian origin of Buddhism. A lot of relevant information came from the travelogues of 5th CE, Chinese monk-scholar Faxian (Fahien). Although  British explorers found several in consistency in Faxian’s work, his work established beyond doubt the existence of one ‘In the Footsteps of the Buddha’ pilgrimage , which he himself had undertaken. The translations of Xuanzang’s travelogues first appeared in 1853 brought to light a plethora of information on places associated with the Buddha and his prominent disciples, prominent monasteries, kings and kingdoms, and so on. The detailed and near accurate works of Xuanzang provided the much needed push for reconstructing the Buddhist history of India. Alexander Cunningham, the pioneer among the British explorer, who was religiously following the travelogues of Xuanzang for exploring, excavating and identifying ancient Buddhist heritage sites found it necessary to institutionalize the whole work of exploration, excavation and restoration of heritage sites. It was Cunningham’s persistent efforts that led to the formation of Archaeological Survey of India in 1861. It was little wonder that works of Xuanzang were the basis of it. Since then, Xuanzang’s travelogues became the basis of exploring and identifying sacred sites associated with the ‘Footsteps of the Buddha’ pilgrimage and network of monasteries in India and many Central Asian countries.,
Many monk-scholars from different time periods have left their accounts of pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist sites in the Indian subcontinent. However, the ‘Journey to the West’, by Xuanzang, stands out among all of them. Xuanzang’s work is also one of the five classics of Chinese literature. Exploration and identification of Buddhist heritage sites is still going on, on the basis of Xuanzang’s work.


Explore Pligrimage

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    Aerial View of Ancient Uruvela Area
    In quest of the Truth, Prince Siddhartha (6th BCE) left Kapilvasthu in the middle of the night and reached Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha empire at that time. After a brief stay at Rajagriha (now Rajgir), he promised king Bimbisara before he left that he would return once he realized the Truth. Seeking places of solitude in which to practice spirituality, Siddhartha moved to the vicinity of the village Bakrour, formerly the village of Senanigama, a part of Uruvela, at that time. Siddhartha practiced austerities for 6 years in this vicinity. Xuanzang paid pilgrimage to an image of the Emaciated Buddha at the place where Siddhartha took austerities for 6 years.

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    Sujata Stupa
    Early in the morning on Veshakha Purnima, seeing the emaciated Siddhartha (the Buddha) sitting under the banyan tree, Sujata offered Siddhartha kheer (rice-gruel) in a golden bowl all the while thinking that he was a tree spirit who had granted her wish to bear a son. Experiencing the extreme penance not worthy of spiritual attainment, Siddhartha accepted the bowl and consequently resolved to follow the Middle Path. The act of Sujata offering kheer to Siddhartha is considered to be a turning point in his journey to enlightenment.

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    Pragbodhi Hill
    Six years of austerities lead Siddhartha to the realization of taking the Middle Path. Siddhartha embarked again upon the meditative path in order to achieve enlightenment. He left the immediate vicinity of Senanigama, the village of Sujata, in search of a new place to make a fresh beginning. In this way, he arrived at a hill which is now called Dungeswari Hill. Xuanzang mentioned this hill as Pragbodhi Mountain, meaning the mountain leading to perfect enlightenment. When Siddhartha climbed to the top of this hill, the earth shook, warning Siddhartha that this is not the right place to find the Truth. .

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    Shadow Cave
    Siddhartha, while descending from the hill, found a cave and as he sat down cross-legged, there was another earthquake. Deva (divine being) urged him to go further west to the Pipala tree, perfect for Vajra Samadhi (admantine absorption). As Siddhartha prepared to leave, the dragon of the cave urged him to remain. Siddhartha, to appease the dragon, left his shadow in the cave and departed.

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    'Ashokan Stupas’, Pragbodhi Hill
    Xuanzang mentions that Emperor Ashoka indicated each spot up and down this mountain that Siddhartha had walked by erecting distinguished posts and stupas. Xuanzang stated how on the day of breaking up the season of vassa (a rainy season retreat), religious laymen from different countries ascended this mountain, made offerings, stayed for one night and then returned.

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    Mahabodhi Temple
    Bodhisattva Siddhartha took a seat under the Pipala tree facing east with a solemn vow: he would not arise from this spot until he attained perfect Enlightenment. Tradition says that as Siddhartha sat in deep meditation, mara, lord of Illusion, perceiving that his power was about to be broken, rushed to distract Siddhartha from his purpose. Finally shouted mara, ‘even if you find out the truth, who do you think will ever believe you? What right do you have to claim the throne of Enlightenment?’ Siddhartha touched the ground with his hand and replied, ‘The earth will bear witness, to all my past action of purity.’ At the break of dawn Siddhartha, the Bodhisattava attained Perfect Enlightenment and became the Buddha. .

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    Brahmayoni Hill
    Two months after his enlightenment, on the full-moon day of asalha (June-July), the Buddha preached the Dharmacakraparatana Sutra (the First Turning of the Wheel) at Sarnatha and after that returned to Uruvela with the objective of transforming Uruvela kasyapa. Following the transformation of kasyapa brothers, the Buddha and the newly ordained jatila-s (matted-hair) left Uruvela and reached Gayasisa hill (Brahmayoni). Since Jatila-s were fire worshipers, the Buddha used a metaphor of fire in his sermon so that the Dharma (Dhamma) reached his audience more easily. Buddha’s sermons came to be preserved as the Aditta-Pariyaya Sutra (Fire Sermon). To commemorate this event, King Ashoka built a 100ft stupa at the top of the Hill. .

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    Japanese Temple, Jethian
    Before leaving Rajagriha in search of the truth, Siddhartha promised King Bimbisara to share his experience once he attained enlightenment. Keeping his promise the Buddha, along with the Sangha, left Gayasisa (Brahmayoni) for Rajagriha. Walking 25 miles north-east along the hills they reached a beautiful bamboo forest, Latthivana (Jethian) and stayed at Supratiṣthita Chaitya .

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    Jethian-Rajgir Buddha Trail
    King Bimbisara gathered news of the Buddha’s presence at Latthivana. King Bimbisara along with his retinue of ministers and a myriad of followers from the town of Rajagriha came to greet this enlightened one at Latthivana, about 7 miles west, along the Rajagriha hills. The Buddha and the Sangha, escorted by King Bimbisara and myriads of people from Rajagriha then took this route through Jethian-Rajgir Valley to reach Rajagriha, where the King Bimbisara offered the Buddha and the Sangha his favorite pleasure garden, the Veluvana (bamboo grove).

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    Asura Cave
    Xuanzang wrote about a wide road constructed by King Bimbisara leading to Asura Cave where the Buddha once dwelled and preached Dharma for three months. Xuanzang has also described how King Bimbisara cut out a passage through the rock, opened up the valleys, leveled the precipices and built up a wall of stones to reach the place where the Buddha was present.

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    Buddhavana
    While making carika (sublime wandering) through this beautiful Jethian valley, a rock shelter in the middle of the mountain (later called Buddhavana Mountain) was where the Buddha chose to take shelter for a night as mentioned by Xuanzang. The sacred cave amid earthly surroundings is not only a tangible reminder of the Buddha but also a place to reflect on the sublime wandering of the Buddha ‘for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, and out of compassion for the world.’ .

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    Tapovana
    Xuanzang took a sacred journey to the two hot water streams of Tapovana that were formed and blessed by the Buddha. The Buddha, according to Xuanzang, bathed here and thereafter, people from all around flocked here to bathe and get rid of chronic disease. Even now, one can see people from far off places gather here to take a holy dip in these sacred springs .

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    Cyclopean Wall, Rajagriha
    Rajagriha (Rajgir) was for centuries the capital of the Magadha Empire. As per the ancient Indian scriptures Purana, more than 35 kings ruled from here before king Bimbisara in the 6th century BCE. This valley of kings is surrounded by a 40 to 48 kilometer long Cyclopean Wall an ancient fortification of dressed stones running over the crest of all the hills. Xuanzang mentions this wall were the external walls of the town .

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    Veluvana, Rajagriha
    On his maiden visit to Rajagriha after his enlightenment, King Bimbisara welcomed the whole Sangha (monastic order) with generous donations of alms and asked the Buddha to accept for the Sangha his favorite pleasure garden the Veluvana (bamboo grove). This was the very first piece of land accepted by the Buddha for refuge. It is said that it was the first and only monastery where earth expressed its gratitude to be serving under the Buddha’s feet as it trembled during the dedication ceremony.

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    Exchange of Robes place, Silao
    As per the Pali tradition Buddha exchanged robes with the Mahakassapa when they met for the first time. Pali literature mentions that this historic meeting and event of the exchange of robes between the Buddha and Mahakassapa took place somewhere on the road between Nalanda and Rajgir. An inscription on a broken statue discovered at Silao (on the road between Nalanda and Rajgir) mentions the historic meeting, suggesting that Silao and its surroundings to be the place of this historic event. .

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    First Council Place, Rajagriha
    Mahakassapa, first head of the Sangha after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, found Rajagriha to be a most appropriate place to compile the teachings of the Buddha. As per Xuanzang, six months after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha the first Buddhist Council was held here. Several arhat-s for months recited and compiled the words of the Buddha which is now popularly known as Tripitaka (three baskets of Buddhist scriptures). The logistical support for the First Buddhist Council was provided by King Ajatshatru under the guidance of Mahakassapa. .

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    Hot Water Springs, Rajagriha
    At the time of the Buddha, these hot water springs and beautiful surroundings were included in the monastic site of Tapodarama (hot water monastery). Having medicinal value, these hot water springs as Buddhist sources describe helped heal the Buddha. Once when the Buddha was sick, Jivaka the royal physician who also took care of the Buddha told the Buddha it was necessary to bathe in this warm spring water to completely rid the body of disease. The Buddha followed the advice of Jivaka and bathed in these warm springs.

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    Vulture’s Peak, Rajagriha
    During his visits to Rajagriha, Buddha used to stay at Veluvana and after having his only meal for the day, he would pace the path up to Griddhakuta (Vulture’s Peak). Buddha was drawn to the solitude of Griddhakuta. The most important event associated with Griddhakuta Hill is when the Buddha after his Enlightenment set forth the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. As mentioned in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra; the Buddha began his final footsteps to attain Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagaraa from Griddhakuta.

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    Ashokan Stupa
    Xuanzang mentions that this stupa was built by King Ashoka. Xuanzang also mentions how the king erected a pillar with an elephant capital east of this stupa. The pillar is now missing without any trace. In 1905-06, Archeologist Sir John Marshall was the first investigator to have excavated this site. The excavation suggested that the stupa’s antiquity went as far back as the Mauryan period, which gave further credence to the popular belief of it being built by King Ashoka. .

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    Blessings Stupa
    Xuanzang mentions that this stupa on the hill north of Vulture’s peak is to mark the place from where the Buddha blessed Magadha Empire.

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    Ancient Nalanda University
    According to Xuanzang, Buddha led the life of Bodhisattva in one of his previous births, and reigned as king of Nalanda. Out of compassion and pity for the people, he would always relieve them from their sufferings. Hence, the place Nalanda came to acquire its name, which meant ‘Insatiable in Offering.’ The site of the ancient Nalanda University was originally an Amra garden (mango grove). Xuanzang mentioned that five hundred merchants had bought the site and offered it to the Buddha. The Buddha used to stay there during his sojourn to Nalanda..

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    Purnavarman Temple, Nalanda
    Despite the ruined condition of the structures excavated at Nalanda, it was possible to identify the remains as the ancient Nalanda University because they could be easily matched with Xuanzang’s descriptions. However, there was speculation about the 80 feet tall image of the Buddha, which Xuanzang described as towering over the tops of all the temples in Nalanda. According to Xuanzang, the image was commissioned by King Purnavarman and was covered by a pavilion in six stages. An excavation in 1974-82 revealed the feet of a statute of the Buddha on a lotus pedestal. The size of the feet of the statue suggested that the sculpture must be about 80 feet tall.

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    Temple No-3, Nalanda
    The excavated Temple No-3 is the focal point of the Ancient Nalanda Remains as it stands today. Descriptions from Hwui-Lun (7th CE Korean monk-scholar) and Xuanzang suggest that the Temple Number 3 is the site of the Mulgandhakuti, the place where the Buddha spent his Vassa (a rainy season retreat). The archeological evidence suggests it to be one of the earliest structures in the campus containing seven layers of reconstruction. A brick inscription recording Pratitya Samutpada Sutra (dependent origination) from 516-517 CE was discovered from the fifth layer (fifth reconstruction).

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    Indrasailaguha, Parwati
    The sacred cave on the south side of the Hill is mentioned as Indrasailaguha (Indasalaguha) in Buddhist literature. The Buddha often meditated in this cave. Once when the Buddha was staying here, Lord Sakka (Indra) visited him and asked him questions. Xuanzang told how Lord Sakka asked the Buddha about matters relating to the forty-two doubts he had and how Lord Sakka recorded this in stone. The dialogue between the Buddha and Lord Sakka is now preserved as the Sakkapanha Sutta (the questions of Sakka).

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    Barabar Hill
    Xuanzang mentions about a ‘remarkable rock’ on the western peak of Barabar Hill where the Buddha spent a whole night sitting in Samadhi (deep meditation). Deva-s constructed a 10 ft stupa composed of gold, silver and precious stones on this ‘remarkable rock’ to mark the event. Over time, theses precious metals and stones became stone according to Xuanzang. On the top of the hill one can still this extraordinary stupa. And to the East of this (Barki Barabar) was the mountain (Barabar hill, Mahadeo temple) where the Buddha stood to obtain a view of Magadha. A stupa was later constructed at the spot. .

  • slide3

    Rock Cut Caves, Barabar
    Two centuries after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, King Ashoka and his descendents created seven rock-cut cave temples in the Barabar group of hills. An inscription on one of the cave temple mentions that Ashoka in 12th regnal year offered the Nigŏha-kubha (banyan tree cave) to Ajivikas (an ascetic sect that emerged in about the same time as Buddhism).

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    Ashokan Pillar Site, Kolhua, Vaishali
    A band of monkeys dug a tank at Vaisali, Markata Hrada (monkey-tank), for the Buddha’s use, the remains of which were revealed by excavations. One of the four miracles of the Buddha was the miracle of the monkey offering honey to the Buddha, which is associated with this place. As the story goes, a monkey took the alms-bowl from the Buddha and then climbed up a tree to gather honey. Once the bowl was filled with the sweet nectar, the monkey then offered the honey to the Buddha. As mentioned by Xuanzang, King Ashoka marked the place by erecting a pillar with lion capital.

  • slide3

    Relic Stupa, Vaishali
    The Licchavis built a relic stupa over their share of the Drona relics (body relics of the Buddha) obtained at Kushinagaraa when the division was made after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha. Xuanzang, who visited this place pointed out how Emperor Ashoka removed nine-tenths of all of the relics previously divided among the kings and enshrined them in 84,000 stupas across the land. Based on Xuanzang’s description, the place was excavated to discover a relic casket which contained ashes, one punch-marked coin, two glass beads, one conch and one thin small piece of gold.

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    Remains of the Palace, Vaishali
    At the time of the Buddha, Vaisali was the capital of Licchavis, a part of the Vajji Republic. Vajji was one of the 16 Mahajanapadas (great realm) that existed at the time, the importance of which was that this was the first time the world saw a republic instead of a sovereign state. The affairs of the state were managed by groups of representatives and many times even the Buddha praised their political responsibility. Raja Bishal-Ka Gaḍh (remains of palace of king Bishal) was identified by Sir Alexander Cunningham as being the royal precinct based on Xuanzang’s description.

  • slide3

    Kesariya Stupa
    As per the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and mentioned in Xuanzang’s travelogue, the Buddha left Vaisali for Kushinagaraa, where he would attain his Mahaparinirvana. On his last journey, the Buddha was followed by a large group of Licchavi-sons. When his followers did not honour his request for them to return home, the Buddha created a river with steep banks and a turbulent current to prevent the Licchavi-sons from continuing to follow him. Having been stopped, the Buddha took pity on the distress of the Licchavis and gave them his alms-bowl as a memento. Subsequently, a stupa was constructed at this site to mark this event.

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    Nandangarh Stupa
    The stupa has connection with Jataka where the Buddha in a previous life lived as a Bodhisattava named Mahadeva who was a Chakarvartin king. Xuanzang mentions that during one of his stays here, the Buddha for sake of a large assembly of Bodhisattava, Deva-s and men recited an explanatory Jataka of himself. In the Jataka the Buddha explains how in one of his previous life, practicing as a Bodhisattava, he was a Chakravartin King named Mahadeva who ruled from here. Observing mark of decay hence impermanency in him Bodhisattava king Mahadeva resolved to leave/abdicate the throne and became a hermit.

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    Burial Mounds, Nandangarh
    Xuanzang has mentioned that this city (Nandangarh) is very old and deserted, is also supported with lots of ancient remains unique to this place reported from Nandangarh. A cluster of more than 25 ‘earthen barrows’ of varying size ranging from 15ft to 55ft were reported in the Nandangarh. Excavation suggests that these earthen structures has something to with Vedic customs, are pre-mauryan (3rd BCE) and were built by some powerful people. Based on many Buddhist votive tablets found at one of the barrows indicated it was visited by Buddhist pilgrims till as late as 7th century CE.

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    Raghopur Island
    The descriptions by Xuanzang indicate that the place of the parinirvana of Ananda is the river island opposite Chechar. Fatehpur village on the river island of Raghopur opposite Chechar has some very ancient bricks discovered in recent times suggesting it to be the probable place of Ananda’s parinirvana. Xuanzang mention that the King of Magadha and the King of Vaisali both wanted for Ananda to attain parinirvana in their territory. To persuade him, both kings with their retinue arrived simultaneously on the banks of River Ganges. Ananda, not wishing to incur the displeasure of either party, entered into the state of parinirvana in the middle of the river and his body went up in flames. .

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    Madurapur Stupa
    Xuanzang visited the stupa on the northern bank built by the king of Vaisali. An 80ft mound at Madurapur (near Chechar) spreads across more than two acres of land and is situated very close to the northern bank of the Ganges. In all probability, this mound is the stupa built by the King of Vaisali to mark the miraculous parinirvana of Ananda

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    Gurpa
    About twenty years after the assembly of the first council, Mahakassapa entrusted his duties to Ananda, and handed over the Buddha’s alms-bowl to him as a symbol of continuing the faithful preservation of the Dharma. Mahakassapa went on his way and arrived at Kukkutapadagiri. Kukkutapada Mountain is shaped like the three toes of a cock’s foot as it is topped by three small mountains. Xuanzang mention that, kassapa did not attain parinirvana; he dwells in the Kukkutapadagiri Mountain, wrapt in samadhi (a state of meditative consciousness), awaiting the arrival of Matriyea Buddha.

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    Mahamoggallana Stupa
    Mahamoggallana was the second Chief Disciple of the Buddha. Xuanzang paid pilgrimage to the Ashokan stupa marking the birth and death of Mahamoggallana at the village Kulika which, according to him, was a part of Nalanda University. In 2007, the Archaeological Survey of India conducted an excavation of this 10 m high mound measuring 105 x 100 m. The excavation revealed the mound to be a stupa site from the time of the Buddha with successive reconstructions in later periods. All the findings suggest that this stupa, located at Juafardih, is the stupa marking the birth and death of Mahamoggallana as mentioned by Xuanzang.

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    Chaukhandi Stupa , Sarnatha
    After his enlightenment at Uravela (now Bodhgaya), the Buddha arrived at Rishipattana (now Sarnatha outside Varanashi) seeking his five former companions (known as Pancavaggiya monks). Chaukhandi Stupa (square edifice) marks the place where the Buddha met his five former companions. The Chaukhandi Stupa is thought originally to have been built as a terraced temple during the Gupta period (4th -6th CE).

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    Sarnatha
    Two months after his enlightenment on the full-moon day of asalha (June-July), the Buddha preached the Dharmacakraparvartana Sutra to his five former companions, setting in motion the ‘Wheel of Dharma.’ This event is referred to as Dharmachakraparvatana (the turning of the wheel of the Dharma) and also marks the founding of the Saṅgha (the community of monks). Two centuries after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, Emperor Ashoka (3rd BCE) erected monolithic Pillar and stupa (Dhamek Stupa) to mark the Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma. Dhamek Stupa is a massive cylindrical structure measuring 28m in diameter and 43,6m in height. The name of Dhamek is most probably only an abbreviation of the Sanskrit Dharmmopadesaka, the ‘Teacher of Dharma.’ .

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    Lat Bhairava, Sarnatha
    Xuanzang mentions about the presence of an Ashokan stupa and pillar on the west side of River Barna (now Varna) on the way from Varanasi to the Deer Park (Sarnatha). Research suggests that Lat Bhairava situated on the west banks of River Varna as the place mentioned by Xuanzang. Xuanzang does not talk about the significance of the place but the stupa and pillar erected by Asoka lie on the traditional route connecting Varanasi and Deer Park. But, probably, the Buddha on his way to Deer Park may have walked this traditional track. Also, recent studies suggest that this could be the place where the Buddha received Yasa, the son of a rich merchant from Varanasi who wished to join the Sangha and practice the Dharma closely with the Buddha..

  • slide3

    Kushinagara
    Three months before he reached the age of eighty, the Buddha renounced his will to live at Vashali. Travelling in stages via Pava where he ate his last meal, offered by Cunda, he reached the final resting-place at the Sala grove by the bank of the Hirannavati River in Kushinagar. There, on the full-moon day of Vesak, the Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. The present Temple was built by the Indian Government in 1956 as part of the Commemoration of the 2500th year of Mahaparinirvana. The old temple was too small to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims visiting it. Inside this temple, one can see the famous Reclining Buddha image lying on its right side with the head to the north .

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    Ramabhar Stupa, Kushinagara
    The stupa marks the place where the Buddha was cremated. After paying homage to the body of the Buddha for six days, the Mallas carried it to the Makuta-bandhana, the traditional place for crowning their chieftains, where they cremated it. After the cremation Brahmin Drona divided the body relics of the Buddha among the royals of eight kingdoms.

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    Piprahwa Relic Stupa
    Excavation of this stupa mound in 1898 and 1975 yielded inscribed casket mentioning the content of the caskets to be the sakyan’s share of the Body relics of the Buddha. Following his Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagara in 5th century BCE, the Buddha was cremated and his ashes were divided among the royals of eight kingdoms which were then preserved as Holy Relics in eight sarira stupas constructed over the Buddha’s Relics.  The Sakyans of the Kapilavastu were one of the eight claimants.

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    Lumbini
    Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 6th BCE in the famous gardens of Lumbini. The area just in front of the Ashokan column was formerly the site of the old Maya Devi shrine. In 249 BC, the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, visited Lumbini as part of his pilgrimage to the sacred Buddhist places and worshipped in person the sacred spot where the Buddha was born. To commemorate his visit, he built a stone pillar, which bears an inscription in Brahmi script. South of the Ashokan pillar is the famous sacred pond – Puskarni, believed to be the same pond in which Maya Devi washed herself before giving birth to the Bodhisattva (the Buddha).

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    Tilaurkot
    Archaeological remains of Tilaura Kot have been identified with the Palace City mentioned by Xuanzang. Excavations of these ruins have exposed mounds of old stupas and monasteries. The remains are surrounded by a moat and the walls of the city are made of bricks. The fortified area of the site is 518 m running north-south and 396 m from east to west, roughly 20.5 hectares.

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    Jetwana, Sravaspi
    Sravasti was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Kosala ruled by King Pasenadi, a lay disciple and great admirer of the Buddha. The Buddha spent as many as 25 rains-retreats at Sravasti. It was here that the millionaire Sudatta, also known as Anathapindika or ‘Feeder of the Poor’, donated the famous Jetavana. The Buddha performed the ‘Twin Miracle’, in order to dispel the heretics at Sravasti. One can see the remains of the Gandha-kuti (Perfumed Chamber) built by Anathapindika for the Buddha’s use and the Ananda Bodhi tree in the Jetwana site. Ananda Bodhi tree is located near the entrance of Jetavana. It was planted at the request of Anathapindika so that the laity would have an object to worship during the Buddha’s absence.

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    Mahet, Sravaspi
    Mahet is identified with the ancient city of Sravasti. The remains are spread in over 162 hectares. Mahet has remains of the Sudatta stupa. This stupa was built on the foundations of the house of Sudatta, popularly known as Anathapindika. Near the Sudatta stupa is a mass of bricks with a tunnel in the middle, identified as the Angulimala stupa seen by the Xuanzang. According to Xuanzang, the stupa marks the site where Angulimala was cremated.

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    Pubbarama, Sravaspi
    According to Buddhist sources, Visakha, who was a lay follower of the Buddha and also considered to be the chief among the female lay disciples, offered a large monastery to the Buddha and Sangha for their stay and practice. The Buddha would often stay here and he gave many discourses at the Pubbarama monastery. It is said that out of the twenty five rainy seasons that the Buddha spent at Sravasti, six were in the Pubbarama. Ancient remains at the village Kandbhari suggests that the village is settled over the remains of the Pubbarama monastery. .

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    Sankashya
    It was here that the Buddha performed the miracle of the ‘Descent from the Heavens, accompanied by Indra and Brahma’. According to Buddhist literature, in his forty-first year the Buddha went up from Sravasti to the Tushita Heaven and passed the rainy season retreat teaching Abhidharma to his mother Mayadevi, who had died seven days after Buddha's birth and been reborn as a male god in Tushita. Three months later, at the time of his descent from the retreat, a great assembly of kings and people of the eight kingdoms gathered. As the Buddha descended, a flight of gold stairs appeared, which he climbed down. He was accompanied by Brahma on the right and by Indra holding a jeweled umbrella on the left. 





Select Projects

Guiding
I have had the privilege of facilitating the visit of Venerable Ashin Nyanissara (Sitagu Sayadaw) to the Mahamoggallana Stupa, Juafardih in April, 2010 and December, 2014. The stupa is related to the parinirvana of Mahamoggallana, the prominent disciple of the Buddha. You may see the story on the link below.   Visit of Venerable Ashin Nyanissara in 2010    ||   Visit of Venerable Ashin Nyanissara in 2014

Guiding
His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa and 150 Nuns of Druk Amitabha Mountain (Shey Naro Photang Ladak) visited Nalanda from 4th to 8th December, 2015 as part of their 3rd Cycle Dhammayatra (Dhamma pilgrimage) from Kathmandu to New Delhi. I had privilege to facilitate visit of His Holiness and his group to sacred Buddhist sites of Jethian valley, Nalanda and Rajgir. You may see the story on the link below.   Visit of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa

Guiding
I had privilege to show remains of ancient Nalanda University and sacred sites of Rajgir to Venerable Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and his followers in January, 2011.

Guiding
Showing Indrasailguha (Parwati)- the site where the Buddha had dialogue with lord Indra to Shri Nitish Kumar, Honorable Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri R C P Singh, Member of Parliament, and officials on 22nd January, 2012. Based on the inputs by local people and me, hon’ble CM directed officials to develop basic amenities at Parwati for the Buddhist pilgrims   With Chief Minister at Parwati

Guiding
Showing Jethian- the place where the King Bimbisara received the Buddha-- to Shri Nitish Kumar, Honorable Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri R C P Singh, Member of Parliament and other officials. The host community gave a very warm welcome to Chief Minister. Based on this visit, the Chief Minister planned and executed the revitalisation of the ancient Buddha trail connecting Jethian and Rajgriha (Rajgir). With Chief Minister at Jethian

Guiding
On our way to Sapataparni Guha-- the site of the First Buddhist Council-- with Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri R C P Singh, Member of Parliament, and officials. (28th December, 2010)

Guiding
At the remains of ancient Nalanda University with Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri R C P Singh, Member of Parliament, and officials. Chief Minister’s persistent efforts led to the recognition of ancient remains of Nalanda University as a UNESCO World heritage site in 2017. (27th December, 2010) .

Guiding
At Ashokan Pillar Site of Vaishali- the place where Buddha performed the miracle of monkey offering honey to him-- with Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar and officials in January, 2011

Guiding
At Buddhavana (Ayer-Pathri)—the place where the Buddha spent a night in a rock shelter-- with Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri R C P Singh, Member of Parliament, and officials on 6th February, 2013. Chief Minister directed the forest officials to beautify the site and develop an access path to the site.

Guiding
At the Chechar temple with Shri Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, Ministers and officials in 2013 sharing the story of the parinirvana of Venerable Ananda which happened on the river island opposite to Chechar. Chief Minister directed officials to plan a project linking the river island of Raghopur, the place where venerable Ananda attained parinirvana with Chechar. You may read the story on the link below.    With the Chief Minister at Chechar

Guiding
Showing the sites of Nalanda, Rajgir, Parwati, Jethian and Buddhavana to Venerable Thomas Dhammadipa and his followers in 2013.

Publication
His Holiness Dalai Lama and Shri Nitish kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar releasing set of three booklets developed by me on the Buddhist Heritage of Bihar for circulation among the delegates of the International Sangha Conference, 5-7 January, 2013, Patna.

Publication
His Excellency Shri Ram Nath Kovind, Governor of Bihar releasing my co-authored book, ‘The Pilgrimage Legacy of Xuanzang’ published by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University) on 31st May, 2016 at Raj Bhawan, Patna.

Publication
His Excellency Shri Ram Nath Kovind, Governor of Bihar, Shri Mahesh Sharma, Hon Minister of Culture, GoI, Prof Lokesh Chandra Ji and others releasing my co-authored book, ‘A Journey through Bihar to Vihara’ published by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara on 9th April, 2016 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Publication
A Journey through Bihar to Vihara’, an exhibition developed by me on display at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara in 2011. The exhibition was also displayed at International Sangha Conference (5-7th January, 2013, Patna) and international conference on Buddhist Heritage of Odisha (1-3rd February, 2013 at Udayagiri).

Exhibition
‘Cetiya Carika-The Dhamma Pilgrimage’, an exhibition co-authored by me was inaugurated by Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, on the occasion of ‘Global Hindu-Buddhism Initiative’ (5th September, 2015, Bodhgaya).

Exhibition
Showing exhibition, ‘A Journey through Bihar to Vihara’ to the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at Bodh Gaya on 27thr October, 2014.

Exhibition
Explaining my exhibition, ‘Echoes of the Footsteps of the Buddha’ to Ms. Kumari Shelja, Minister of Tourism, Government of India at International Buddhist Conclave (6-7th February, 2010, Nalanda).

Exhibition
Explaining my exhibition ‘Travels of Master Xuanzang’ to His Excellency Mr. Le Yucheng, the Ambassador of China to India and his delegation on 10th November, 2015, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda.

Exhibition
The Pilgrimage Legacy of Xuanzang’, an exhibition co-curated by me is permanently displayed at Xuanzang Memorial, Nalanda.

Exhibition
Explaining my exhibition ‘The Pilgrimage Legacy of Xuanzang’ to noted filmmaker and lyricist Shri Gulzar on 24th February 2016 at Xuanzang Memorial, Nalanda. .

Exhibition
Explaining my exhibition, ‘A journey through Bihar to Vihara’ to His Excellency Shri Ram Nath Kovind, Governor of Bihar and Shri Mahesh Sharma Minister of Art and Culture, Government of India on 16th February 2016 at Xuanzang Memorial, Nalanda

Publication
Revitalising ancient Buddhist Heritage in Bihar: Following the Sublime Wandering of the Buddha’ a story by Ken Rodgers, Managing Editor, Kyoto Journal was published in 78th Issue of Kyoto journal in year 2012. The story covers initiatives made by our team at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara towards revitalizing the Buddhist heritage of Bihar. (Screenshot of the Index page of the journal)

Publication
‘In the footsteps of the Buddha’ a story on Buddhist pilgrimage by Ms. Maria Carpio featured in the French edition of National Geographic Magazine in the December 2012 issue. Efforts made by our team at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara towards revitalization of Buddhist heritage has been noticed around the world through this story. 

Documentary Film
With film directors Prakash Jha and Alankrita Srivastava at the screening of ‘Sunehare Dastaan Bihar Ki Bhoomi Se’, a documentary made by Alankrita Srivastava on the culture, heritage, and history of Bihar on the occasion of the Centenary celebration of Bihar Foundation Day (Bihar Diwas) in March 2012. I am pleased to find a place in this documentary.

Online Exhibition
Three exhibitions documenting the pilgrimage of Xuanzang, co-authored by me, are published on Google Cultural Institute.




My Blogs, Website and online Publications


  Travel accounts of 7th CE Chinese monk Xuanzang is the basis of the revitalisation of the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage in India. I have used GIS mapping for re-interpreting the travelogues of Xuanzang and Faxian and documented my exploration and finds in my blog  Nalanda-Insatiable in Offering

  Most of the Buddhist heritage in Bihar lies in its villages but the host community living with it is ignorant about its significance. My blog Nalanda- on the Move has numerous stories about our efforts to facilitate sustainable Community-Heritage-Pilgrim interface.

  Hundreds of villages in Bihar contain ancient sculptures dating from its Buddhist past. Many of these sculptures have been illegally removed and exhibited in museums abroad with misleading provenances or put up for sale in auction houses. The rest of the sculptures are lying scattered in the villages with little awareness about their historical importance and almost no effort taken for protecting them against theft and trafficking. We have developed a website named The Live Museum of Magadha which showcases all the sculptures so far documented. This website is intended to be a platform for sharing information about these and other undocumented sculptures.

  Three exhibits depicting travels of Xuanzang and his legacy co-authored by me has been published on   Google Cultural Institute . The exhibits has several maps depicting the travels of Xuanzang from Chang’an to Nalanda and beyond.


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