Day 18 October 20th 2014
Rajgir, India to Bodhgaya, India
Long ride today from Rajgir to Bodhgaya, India (about 7-8 hours). Midway through the drive, we stopped at Nalanda University historic site. The University was active in the fifth to twelfth century. Over 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students resided at the site. When walking around the ruins you could see the square footage footprint of a room at the university. Honestly I think the rooms were only big enough for two single sized beds, and that’s all the space students/ teachers were given to live in!
We stopped and had lunch near the grounds. We ended up having a lot of leftovers so we gave them to some children on the streets before we went to the ruins. I’ve never seen human beings look so determined to get something in my life. Our bus driver began to hand out the food and all of a sudden these innocent looking children turned into vultures. It was kind of scary.
From Nalanda we drove the rest of the way to Bodhgaya. The geography of Rajgir was amazing, all of a sudden it changed from flat grasses to mini mountains (more like foot hills but with more rock then grasses). The hills of Rajgir were lovely. I think the most memorable moment today was David and Gena singing songs on the bus with us all jumping in as a bright red sun set began to settle over the lands.
Before getting to our hotel, we visited the grounds of Bodh Gaya. It was dark as we entered the site, you could see stars and the faint glow of the temple getting larger as we made our way to the entrance. All of a sudden we turned a corner and there it was, Mahabodhi Temple, light with ground lighting, enhanced with the deep sound of chanting monks. To add to the spectacular atmosphere of the site, there were millions of grass hoppers all around. I believe they were at the site to find enlightenment as well.
Bod Gaya is the site where Buddha became enlightened and I’d say from all the sites we have seen, this site is by far the most humble and spiritual. We spend a few moments looking around then settled into meditation. It was a lovely evening of peace and serenity…. Well until we left the site. Whenever you enter a Buddhist temple, you must remove your shoes as the gates entrance. Leaving the site, everyone grabbed their shoes and as I proceeded to look for mine I quickly realized they were gone. We looked for them for a half hour when we concluded they were in fact taken, hopefully by some soul who needed them more than I did. Now if you know me well, you know I HATE walking on the floor with bare feet… any floor, you’ll be hard pressed to find me even in my own home without socks on, so walking bare foot on the streets of India was not an appealing idea. Thankfully Metteyya selflessly offered his shoes to me. I wanted to cry at how gracious this offer was. That evening I walked back to the car in a monk’s shoes.
One last stop before the hotel; time to get some Indian rupees! Half the group went to get some money exchanged while Gena, Kim and I stayed in the car. David got out of van with the rest of the group but mistakenly thought we were at the hotel already. He ended up waiting on the side of the road wondering where everyone was for 5-10 minutes before we knocked on the bus window, startled him and told him were not there yet!
Oh and while waiting for the group to return, out bus drivers phone went off and it said “excuse me darling but there is a message for you”. We all brock out in laughter and thought it would be hilarious if when the driver returned, to say “excuse me darling but there is a message for you” all together. When he got back we said it and he looked at the phone and then went red, such a hilarious way to end such an eventful day.