Patna via Rajgir and Nalanda
Patna Travel Blog› entry 12 of 18 › view all entries
Today's destination was
After a fulfilling breakfast - yes, after three days I'd finally seemed to have regained some appetite -
At we joined the long queue of Indians waiting for the chair lift to take them up the Ratnagiri Hill in Rajgir. The queue moved incredibly slow and at a certain moment it even completely stopped all motion. After joking about it for an hour it became really annoying after 90 minutes. Strange enough we could see people getting in the chair lift, but the queue didn't move an inch. Finally we discovered what the problem was. The Indians would have one family member stand in the queue and when it was nearly his or her turn, the rest would join in! One woman that was standing directly in front of us, who had been going berserk at a group jumping queue, had some twenty family members join her minutes later.
Halfway up the steep hill we reached Griddhukata (Vulture's Peak) where the remains of a small monastery could be found, as well as the spot where the Buddha had held many preaches for his disciples (among which the Lotus sutra). On top of the hill lay one of those big Japanese Shanti stupa's (Vishwashanti Stupa), not much unlike the one I'd seen in Leh. This one also showed the Buddha in four stages of his life: birth (Lumbini), enlightenment (Bodhgaya), preaching (Sarnath) and death (Kushinagar), giving a nice 'management summary' of our journey of this week.
The nearby Japanese monastery was quite similar to the one in Bodhgaya, but the views from the hill were nice. Since the queue for the downward chairlift was much shorter we opted for this instead of the steep way. At , three hours after he'd left us at the end of the queue, we finally joined
A short half hour drive brought us to our second stop of the day. Nalanda had been another place the Buddha had visited many times but is even more famous for the university that was founded here in the fifth century. An important Buddhist centre, Nalanda was one of the first residential universities in the world and is believed to have housed 10.000 students and 2.000 teachers. Besides various schools of Buddhism (most prominently Vajrajana and Mahayana), students also studied astronomy, metaphysics, medicine and philosophy here. Legend has it that the Nalanda libraries were so extensive; they burned for three months when the Afghans destroyed the university in the 12th century. This, according to some, was one of the causes for the decline of Buddhism in
We took an hour to walk around among the extensive excavated ruins, consisting of more than 10 monasteries and half as many temples (among which the big Sariputta stupa), all surrounded by well maintained gardens. When we'd seen enough of the crumbling redbrick buildings we had a late lunch with soup and chapatti’s at a nearby restaurant and joined
It took another three hours to drive to
The hotel itself turned out to be the most luxurious place we stayed in so far. It seemed to be frequented by Indian businessmen, so you can imagine the look of horror on the face of the hotel's manager when I walked into the lobby. I certainly looked much more like a low caste untouchable than a businessman. The manager himself had more of the attitude of a fascist leader, oozing superiority and authority, than a hospital host. You guessed it, just my type of guy (not).
After dropping our luggage in the room we had a beer in the small bar of the hotel. We'd asked