Footsteps of Buddha
Footsteps of Buddha
TOUR PRICE: 2,900.00
AIRFARE (Kathmandu - Lumbini): $125.00
AIRFARE (Varanasi - Kathmandu): $200.00
Optional supplements - Single room upgrade : $600.00
North India - Nepal "In the Footsteps of Buddha"
What to Expect
Day 00: Sunday September 13th
- Arrive in Kathmandu (Nepal)
- While not an official day of the tour, you should make plans to arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal by this day at the latest. If you let us know your flight details into Kathmandu we will have a representative of our local tourism partner company 'Spiritual Expeditions' meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel.
- This night’s accommodation is not part of the tour costs; however we do recommend that you stay at the same hotel as we have a reasonably early start departure on the first day of the tour the following morning, at 6:30am.
Day 01: Monday September 14th
- We meet today at the Kathmandu Hotel at 6:30am to officially start the tour. We will head to the domestic airport in time to catch the 8:40am Yeti Airlines flight to Lumbini (Bharawa).
- Upon our arrival, we will board the bus and head to the Buddhist archaeological site of Ramagrama, which dates back to 2500 BC. Here we will perform the tour’s opening ceremony.
- Ramagrama contains an important stupa that is part of the Buddhist pilgrimage trail. It is one of 8 places where Buddha’s relics were placed after his cremation. It is the only intact and original stupa that still contains Buddha’s relics; the other 7 places were all opened by King Oshaka some 300 years after Buddha’s death so that he could celebrate Buddha by redistributing his remains among 84,000 temples spread throughout his vast Maurya empire.
- The 7-meter high stupa is still buried under a mound of earth; however, the site is an ideal space for us to make our initial connections with Buddha on this journey.
- After our time here we will head to the hotel in Lumbini, check-in, and have lunch.
- Following lunch we will visit the Maya Devi Temple, which is believed to date back as far as the 6th Century BC. This site is traditionally considered to be the place where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha.
- Located here is the Puskarini or Holy Pond, where Buddha's mother took a ritual pre-birth dip before giving baby Buddha life. Buddha received his first bath in these waters. We will also explore the site's Sacred Gardens.
- According to tradition, previous Buddhas were also born in this area, each achieving ultimate Enlightenment and finally relinquishing their earthly forms.
- We will have the chance to spend time at the Peepul tree, also known as the Bodhi tree, under which Maya Devi is believed to have given birth to Buddha.
- This site also contains one of the remaining Ashokan Pillars. These pillars were erected by the Mauryan King Ashoka to honor Buddha in the 3rd century BC.
- Dinner and overnight at the Lumbini Garden New Crystal Hotel.
Day 02: Tuesday September 15th
- We have an easier day today, starting with a leisurely morning at the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Lumbini.
- A magnificent Buddhist stupa, this monument is designed to provide a focus for people of all races and religions to help unite them in the search for world peace.
- We will have an early lunch and then head to Tilaurakot Palace in Nepalese Kapilavastu.
- Kapilavastu was the ancient capital city of the Shakya Kingdom that covered a huge area, from southern Nepal into northern India. This journey includes visits to both Shakyan Palaces of Kapilavastu.
- The Tilaurakot Palace is a beautiful site where you can still see the remains of the 12-foot thick walls of the city as well as the ancient moat.
- It was from the east gate of this palace where Prince Siddartha Gautama (Buddha), at 29 years of age, departed on his famed journey on the back of his horse, Kanthak.
- We will perform a ceremony at this eastern gate to open ourselves up to the new chapters of our own journey and evolution.
- Taking a short walk to the north of the palace, there are two important stupas. These stupas commemorate King Śuddhodana and Queen Māyādevī -Buddha’s parents.
- Later in the afternoon we will also visit two other sites, one at Kudan and one at Nigalihawa. Kudan is reported to be where King Śuddhodana first reacquainted with Buddha upon returning to his home region after reaching enlightenment. Kudan is also supposedly the birthplace of Krakunchhanda Buddha - the fourth of the seven Buddhas of antiquity.
- At Nigalihawa we will visit an amazing 1000+-year-old black stone Buddha statue depicting the fifth Buddha of antiquity, Kanakamuni. We will also see one of the remaining Oshaka Pillars.
- Dinner and overnight at Lumbini Garden New Crystal Hotel.
Day 03: Wednesday September 16th
- After breakfast we start our drive towards Piparahawa, India. We will reach the Nepal-India border after about an hour's drive. Once we have our our visa and customs clearances we will drive to Piprahawa in India.
- The little village of Piprahawa is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Lord Buddha is said to have spent a major part of his first 29 years of life in this region. This place is also known as the Indian part of the historic city of Kapilavastu. It is considered to be the ruins of King Suddhodhana's summer palace as well as the ruins of a Monastery known as Ganwaria.
- Archaeological excavations have dated parts of this place back to 5th Century BC. This stupa is accepted as the site where the Sakyas constructed the relic shrine with their 1/8th portion of Buddha’s relics.
- Here’s a little note about the 1/8th part of Buddha's relics: After Buddha was cremated the ashes were divided among his disciples. Originally his ashes were to go only to Buddha’s family clan, the Sakya clan. However, disciples of seven other royal families demanded body relics as well. To avoid fighting, a monk divided the relics into eight portions that were enshrined and worshiped in stupas by the royals of eight countries. Here are where the eight portions went:
1. To Ajatasattu, King of Magadha
2. To the Licchavis of Vesali
3. To the Sakyas of Kapilavastu
4. To the Bulis of Allakappa
5. To the Koliyas of Ramagrama
6. To the brahmin of Vethadipa
7. To the Mallas of Pava
8. To the Mallas of Kusinara.
- Dinner and overnight at the Royal Retreat hotel in Kapilvastu.
Day 04: Thursday September 17th
- We leave the hotel at 8:00am and drive across some of North India’s colorful farmland into Sravasti, which is said to have been founded by the Vedic-period King Shravasta.
- Once we arrive in Sravasti, we will check into the hotel and have lunch, then start exploring the area.
- Lord Gautama Buddha must have enjoyed Sravasti as he spent 24 chaturmases and well over a quarter of his life in this region.
- A chaturmas is a holy period of four months (July-Oct) and is reserved for penance, austerities, fasting, bathing in holy rivers and religious observances for all. Devotees resolve to observe some form of vow, be it of silence or abstaining from a favourite food item, or having only a single meal in a day.
- Sravasti is also where Buddha recollected the Jatakas: the stories of his previous births.
- We will begin our exploration at the Jetvana Monastery that contains the Ananda Bodhi Tree. This tree is thought to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya that Buddha meditated under for 48 days.
- The Jetvana Monastery covers a large area and contains many temples, buildings and stupas in a stunning garden setting. Here we will do some meditation at one of the monastery’s main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations, Gandhakuti (Buddha’s dwelling), as well as the remains of two other ancient buildings, each known by their religious names, Kosambakuti and Anandakuti.
- Next we will visit the monument known as Pakki Kuti, which are the excavated remains of Angulimala’s Stupa. Augulimala was a ruthless killer who was redeemed by his conversion to Buddhism. He is seen as an example of the redemptive power of the Buddha’s teachings and the universal human potential for spiritual progress, regardless of one’s background. The building was also used as the “Hall of Law” in honor of Lord Buddha by King Prasenjit.
- We will then visit one of the most important structures in Maheth known as Kachchi Kuti. This shrine is said to be dedicated to Sudatta, popularly known as Anathapindika. Anathapindika was the main lay disciple of Gautama Buddha. He was extremely wealthy and a patron of the Buddha. He honored the Buddha by laying out 1.8 million gold pieces in the grove and building the very first Buddhist monastery. Anathapindika upon death is said to have entered the heaven of the Bodhisattvas. He was known as the “foremost disciple in generosity” as well as character.
- Overnight at the Lotus Nikko hotel in Sravasti.
Day 05: Friday September 18th:
- After breakfast, we drive to Khushinagar, the ancient capital of the Mallas. Mallas is not only one of the four major holy sites for modern Buddhists but also one of the four most holy sites as declared by Buddha himself.
- Once we arrive in Kushinagar we will have lunch and check into the hotel. We will then head to the ancient city ruins.
- Lord Buddha chose to be at Kushinagar when his earthly journey passed into Mahaparinirvana, or ‘Final Nirvana’. Here we can connect with the 6-meter long reclining statue of Buddha in the temple commemorating his death. The red sandstone statue depicts Buddha lying on his right side, head to the north and facing west, representing the image of Buddha’s last few moments of his life before attaining Nirvana.
- Afterwards we will visit three important stupas also commemorating aspects of Buddha’s death. The first is the Mutkabandha Stupa that is believed to have been built to preserve and commemorate the 1/8th set of Buddha’s relics that had been given to the Mallas of Kusinagara.
- Next we will go to the Ramabhar Stupa. This stupa is more than 50-feet high and marks the actual spot where Buddha was cremated. It was in this place where all those assembled at the time spent seven days honoring Buddha. In Buddha’s time the river ran next to this spot; now, it’s a few-hundred yards away.
- Nearby is the Anniruddhawa Stupa, which celebrates the place where Buddha’s relics were split amongst the 8 kingdoms that revered Buddha at this time. This stupa has a beautiful Bodhi tree growing on it and has a very serene energy about it.
- The final connection for the day is the Matha Kuar temple that was part of a large monastery surrounding the entire Parinirvana site. This temple contains a 3-meter high blue stone carving of Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. This statue dates back to well over 1,000 years ago and has an incredibly powerful energy.
- Overnight at the Lotus Nikko hotel in Kushinagar.
Day 06: Saturday September 19th
- Today is the longest driving day of the tour. We cover quite a bit of distance so we can spend more free time tomorrow around the Rajgir and Nalanda areas. We will have early breakfast and drive towards Vaishali.
- Enroute we will visit the Kesaria Stupa, which at 150 feet, is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world and dates to about 200 AD. The local people call this stupa “Devala,” which means “The house of God.” This stupa is only partially excavated but has a striking appearance with an interesting six-levels design. The stupa was built by Licchavis (one of Buddha’s followers) to commemorate the end of Lord Buddha’s life.
- We will then head to Vaishali and have lunch before we tour the ancient city.
- Vaishali is an important destination in the Buddhist circuit because this is where Buddha announced his approaching Nirvana to his disciples and gave his last sermon here. Emperor Ashoka erected a beautiful - and one of the best preserved - Ashokan Pillars here, with a single Asiatic lion capital to mark this event.
- Note: In about 300 BCE, King Ashoka erected hundreds of these pillars across India at important Buddhist sites to celebrate and commemorate Buddha or Ashaka’s visit to Buddha’s sites. Now only 19 survive, and only 6 with the original animal capitals.
- Here we will visit the remains of the Kutagarasala Vihara monastery. This is where Buddha most frequently stayed while visiting the area. We will also spend time at the Ananda stupa, named after Buddha’s main disciple, as well as the Coronation Tank, and the stupa built to contain the Licchavis 1/8th share of Buddha’s relics.
- For our next stop, we will head to Rajgir to book into the hotel and enjoy dinner.
- Overnight at Rajgir Residency hotel in Rajgir.
Day 07: Sunday September 20th
- After breakfast we will have a short drive to Nalanda.
- Nalanda was a great Buddhist center for study from about the 5th century. The monastic university was said have had over 1,500 teaching monks and about 8,500 students. Students came from as far away as China, Korea, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to learn a great variety of Buddhist teachings.
- Many of the great Buddhist scholars of the times either studied or taught at Nalanda across these years. Many texts currently used in monasteries around the world are based on the works of the Nalanda scholars as they explored the depth of Buddha’s teachings.
- The great library here was said to have housed hundreds of thousands of volumes and included subjects such as grammar, logic, literature, astrology and medicine.
- The school and great libraries were unfortunately sacked and burnt in the year 1223.The remains are still extensive and include eight of the teaching houses, five of the major temples and the "Great Stupa" with steps, terraces and many other intact stupas.
- Then we drive back to Rajgir and have lunch.
- In the afternoon we will visit the famous Buddhist Monastery called Gridhra-kuta, the "Hill of Vultures". This is a stunning climb up a small mountain to a peak overlooking the valley. The temple sits right on the peak and has a great energy about it. This temple was one of Buddha's favorite places and is where he delivered many of his famous important sermons. It was also here that Buddha converted King Bimbisara to his new faith.
- Overnight at Rajgir Residency hotel in Rajgir.
Day 08: Monday September 21st
- This morning we go to the Barabar Hill and Nangarjuni caves. These are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, dating from around 3rd Century BC. They are said to have gifts left for the Buddhist monks and Ajivikas from King Ashoka and his son, Dasaratha Maurya.
- There are seven caves in total and most of them consist of two chambers, carved entirely into a solid granite rock. They have highly-polished internal surfaces which create an amazing echo effect. The outer chamber was meant for worshippers to congregate in and is shaped like a large rectangular hall; the inner chamber is smaller and circular with a domed ceiling designed for worship. This inner chamber probably had a small stupa-like structure, at some point, though they are now empty.
- The extra face of some of the caves have extravagant façades, where the granite has been carved in fine detail to an exact replica of the wood and thatch kutis that the ancient Buddhist monks used to live in.
- Much of what you see here looks like it has been cut out of the rock using a giant laser.
- We will spend the morning exploring, chanting and meditating in the caves and then enjoy a boxed lunch before heading towards Bodhgaya.
- Bodhgaya is the place where Siddhartha meditated for 48 days under a "Bodhi tree." He was enlightened on the 49th day and became Buddha, the Enlightened One!
- On arrival in Bodhgaya, we will check-in at the hotel, and depending on time, we will check out a couple of local Buddhist temples.
- Dinner and overnight at Bodhgaya Regency hotel in Bodhgaya.
Day 09: Tuesday September 22nd
- After breakfast, we will visit the Mahabodhi temple complex. The main temple here is said to date back to about the 5th-6th century. This magnificent place was built on the same spot where King Ashaka’s monastery and shrine was built in 250BCE. This was to commemorate the sacred location where Gautama Buddha sat and meditated under the Bodhi tree to become enlightened.
- Just next to the temple is a Bodhi tree that, according to tradition, is a direct descendant of the tree that Buddha meditated under. Here we will get the chance to, like Buddha, meditate in the presence of this ancient tree.
- In Buddhism this is the holiest of the holy of sites, the equivalent of Mecca to Muslims or Jerusalem to Christians. Apparently, King Ashaka built a diamond throne to mark the exact spot of Buddha’s enlightenment.
- After connecting with the Bodhi tree we will follow in the steps of Buddha and visit each of the places that he, too, visited for a week’s time after reaching his enlightenment.
- We are going to spend the entire day in this complex, as there is much to connect with, and you will have the afternoon free to follow your own inspired pathway.
- We will meet up again at the hotel for dinner.
- Dinner and Overnight at Bodhgaya Regency hotel in Bodhgaya.
Day 10: Wednesday September 23rd:
- After breakfast, we drive to Varanasi.
- Varanasi derives its name from the two streams: Varuna in the north, and Assi in the south. It is situated on the banks of River Ganges, which is believed to have the power to wash away all of one's sins.
- On arrival, we’ll check-in at the hotel and rest for lunch.
- In the afternoon we will go to Sarnath. Sarnath is the auspicious place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon in the deer park after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya. This sermon was given to the five men that had followed him on his path to enlightenment. It is now called the ‘Four Noble Truths.”
- The ‘Four Noble Truths’ are commonly condensed as:
- The truth of Dukkha
- The truth of the origin of Dukkha
- The truth of the cessation of Dukka
- The truth of the path, the way to liberation from Dukka
The word Dukkha is Pali and roughly translates as: “suffering”, “stress”, “anxiety” or even “un-satisfactoriness”.
- We will meditate and connect to the “Four Noble Truths” in our own ways and see how they can help us grow and evolve.
- While here, we will also have a chance to visit the Sarnath museum that contains some of the greatest treasures of Indian Buddhist works of art recovered from the Sarnath area. These include Oshaka’s mighty four-bodied lion capital as well as one of the most beautiful Buddha sculptures I’ve ever seen, “The Teaching Buddha”.
- Following our journeys here, we will have a quick dinner at the hotel before boarding a boat for a trip on the Ganges to witness the evening Aarti ceremony at the Ghats.
- Overnight at the Ramada hotel in Varanasi.
Day 11: Thursday September 24th
- Today, early in the morning we experience the life of this ancient city.
- Our first adventure is by boat, where we will see the beauty of the rising sun on the sacred Ganges.
- As the sun rises we will experience, or participate in, the early morning rituals performed by the Hindus. Every morning thousands of Hindus bathe in this holy river, in order to be liberated from the circle of rebirth. They offer sweets, flowers and holy water to the Sun God.
- After the boat ride, we will then return to the hotel for breakfast. After replenishing our bodies, we head to the airport to catch our 12:30 flight to Kathmandu.
- On arrival, we’ll check-in at the hotel.
- In the afternoon we will visit Swayambhunath temple. This temple is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal, dating back to the beginning of the 5th century. It is also known as the Monkey Temple due to the large numbers of ‘holy monkeys’ living in the northwest parts of the temple.
- The site is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus, and is considered to be one of the most sacred among the Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal.
- Overnight at the Shankar hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 12: Friday September 25th
- This morning we will visit Boudanath. This stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal and also one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
- The stupa is a major prayer point where merchants on the ancient trade route from Tibet rested and offered their blessings for many centuries. This stupa site predates the city of Kathmandu.
- The stupa is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha - the 6th of the Seven Buddhas of antiquity.
- In the afternoon we will go to Namo Buddha, which is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal.
- Here we will do our closing ceremony of the tour.
- Dinner and overnight at Shankar Hotel in Kathmandu.