Situated on the pristine banks of river Ganga, Patna has a history which traces its tail back over two centuries. Once the seat of power of many a powerful dynasties, Patna still reverberates with its ancient name 'Pataliputra', a signature of the rich cultural heritage of this riverine state. Today, Patna is undergoing tremendous change in the commercial as well as tourism sector with many new shopping complexes coming up and newer facilities developing rapidly. Often referred to as the gateway to the golden Buddha circuit in India, Patna also opens channels to many an architectural wonders of the medieval period. Scale up the 29 m high beehive-shaped Gol Mahal (Round Palace) to get magnificent views of river Ganga and Patna city swelling on its shimmering sands. Visit the Khuda Baksh Oriental Library housing rare manuscripts and other ancient artifacts for an insight knowledge about the ancient and medieval culture of East India. One can also see a impressive collection of Hindu and Buddhist terracotta handicrafts, stone and bronze sculpters of gods and goddesses. Don't miss to see the Agam Kuan (unfathomable well), believed to have covert passageways to Delhi and Agra.
Bodhgaya - A Heart of Enlightment
If you are looking for a sheer euphoria of your soul, Bodhgaya is the right place to hit. It is here the Lord achieved Enlightment under the Bodhi tree and got the name 'Buddha', meaning omniscient and the 'all compassionate one'. As the place of the Buddha's enlightment, Bodhgaya, nestling on the banks of river Niranjana, is the spiritual home of Buddhists from all over the world. Sit under the Bodhi tree and meditate for a few minutes. Let your weary soul relax in the light of Buddhism under the stems that have now found their place in the world heritage site list. With an enlightened spirit, enter into the Mahabodhi Mahavihara complex. In the inside, you will see a 2 m high image of Buddha in 'Bhumisparsha mudra' (seated cross-legged with one hand touching the earth) carved in black stone and adorned in gold. The 80 ft high statue of Buddha of the town together with the 152 m high statue of Maitreiya in the outskirts, however, are a must see for every visitor. Bodhgaya today is a bustling place and you can visit numerous monasteries and meditation centres run by Tibetan, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese communities that offer short-term courses on meditation and yoga.
Nalanda University - The Ancient School of Knowledge
Roosting at 90 km (55 miles) southeast of the capital city of Patna, Nalanda is believed to be one among the ancient schools of knowledge that carved an enlightened niche during the 5th-12th century span. It derived its name from 'Na-alam-da', meaning 'insatiable in giving', one of the names by which Lord Buddha was known. Put your steps in the Nalanda Museum - maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) - across the road from the university site. You will be amazed to see such a huge collection of exquisite bronze sculpters of Pala dynasty dating back to 9th-10th centuries, and other remains that were excavated nearby. See the intricate works of art and the sublimity in the expressions created with human hands. One can also see nine storeys, once occupied by students and teachers at Nalanda, recently excavated at a stone's throw. Spread over 15 hectares are the ruins of six temples, 11 monasteries, the Sariputra Stupa built by Ashoka embellished with superb bas relief and fresco work are still to be seen amongst the ruins.
Madhubani Paintings - Creating Magic With Colours
Literally, the meaning of Madhubani paintings is simple. It is an impressive work of art practised in the interiors of Mithila region in Bihar that has found a pad in the international market. If you dive deep in this exquisite play of colours, you will discover an arduous craftsmenship by the rural women of this virgin patch of land, offering a vibrant aroma of the folk life. The tradition which dates back to the aegis of Lord Rama, was originally used to decorate the freshly plastered mud wall of huts, but now has found its demeanour in paper, cloth and canvas. Visit the unexplored rural corners of Madhubani, and you will be amazed to see even three dimensional imageries created on paper, springed to life with herbal colours! Plan a holiday vacation during the festivals or religious occassions to experience a closer view of the magic. You can also pick up several beautiful specimens of religious themes to doll up your house or to make your loved ones happy straight from the artisan's house or government emporia that dot the cities.
Buddhist Circuit - Trail of Enlightment
Bihar, with its shifting interests, has witnesses a lot of religious domains. It bracketed the moment when Lord Buddha attained enlightment and founded Buddhism. Today the Buddhist shrines are concentrated mainly in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which are easily accessible because of excellent road conditions and hospitality, that is offered by every Indian home. Start your religious itinerary from Vaishali (55 km from Patna), the place where Buddha delivered his last sermon before reaching Kushinagar, connoting his impending departure from the modern world. Don't miss the huge lion pillar built by Emperor Ashoka to commemorate the demise.
Turn the wheels of your car towards Rajgir (100 km from Patna), a site of great sanctity and significance for Buddhists. It is here that the teachings of Buddha were recorded in writing for the first time. Put your steps in the many monuments of historical and archaeological significance that still sing the glory of the bygone era. Ajatshatru's Fort is one place you should not miss. Here you can see an impressive structure of 'Parinirvana' (the great cessation); buddha lying with his right hand resting under his head to commemorate the final salvation of the great founder of Buddhist creed. Travel 18 km from Rajgir to reach Nalanda, the most renowned university in ancient India. You will be amazed to see the intricate works of art and the sublimity in the expressions created with human hands in exquisite bronze sculpters. End your divine itinerary at Sarnath, the holy place where Buddha preached his first sermon called the 'Dharmachakra Pravartana' in the deer park, that now contains impressive ruins, a couple of monasteries and the beautifully polished Lion Capital of Ashoka. Today the actual site of the Buddha's teachings at Sarnath and the several ruins in the area have been enclosed in a pleasant park. Enter the imposing building beside the park and you will be enticed to see a wide array of sublime figures in stone, including the one of the Lord dating back to 5th century.