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Footsteps of Buddha
 

Buddhist Heritage Tour

Tour Duration : 16 Nights / 17 Days
Places Covered: Aurangabad - Ellora Caves -Ajanta Caves - Jalgaon - Bhopal - Sanchi Stupa- Agra - Varanasi - Bodhgaya - Patna - Kushinagar - Sravasti - Lumbini - Kathmandu - Out

Footsteps of Buddha Tour is a serene journey spread over a fortnight, allowing pilgrims and tourists to explore the country where Buddhism flourished and left its impression in different states of India. During this tour, a pilgrim gets to venture into seven world heritage sites, each one uniquely contributing to the heritage of India. They are Elephanta Caves in Mumbai, Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Group of monuments at Sanchi near Bhopal, Taj Mahal in Agra, Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya in India and Lumbini Ashokan Pillar in Nepal. Above, all this tour provides a peek into the illustrious heritage of Buddha and Buddhism in different ways and forms.
Day 1, Arrive Mumbai (Previously known as Bombay)

On arrival in Mumbai International airport, meet Buddhist Train representative who will assist your transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.
Day 2, Mumbai

Morning after breakfast, visit Elephanta Caves, 9 km southwest of Mumbai boat harbour. Belonging to the 8th century BC, these ancient caves represent the intricate carvings on the rock cut caves of the island. After returning from the island, begin Mumbai city tour with a visit to the 'Gateway of India' overlooking the Harbour, 'Marine Drive', 'Churchgate Railway Station', 'Colaba Causeway' - the commercial heart of Bombay & home to the largest fish market of Mumbai city and the Dhobi Ghat, the unique and colourful outdoor 'laundry'.

Enjoy the drive towards the Malabar Hill, a hillock in the south Mumbai to visit the beautiful 'Hanging Gardens' and the Kamla Nehru Park. From the park, tourists can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of Mumbai and the Arabian Sea abridged and condensed. Later visit Kanheri Caves, a tribute to the Buddhist essence etched on the basaltic rock cut monuments of the complex. These caved, carved during 1st to 10th century, represent the viharas meant for living, studying, and meditating.

In the evening, visit Mani Bhawan, a small museum dedicated to the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi, and enjoy some shopping at the bustling Crawford Market.

Overnight at hotel.
Day 3, Mumbai - Aurangabad

In the early morning check out Mumbai and get ready to be transported to Aurangabad, the gateway to the ancient religious artistry etched on the ancient rock caves. Board the train # 7617 Tapovan Express dep. Mumbai at 06:10 hrs arr. Aurangabad at 13:30 hrs. Check into hotel. In afternoon continue the Aurangabad city tour by experiencing the majestic Mughal essence of the city through Bibi-Ka-Muqbara (Poor Man's Taj and tomb of Rabia ud Daurani, Aurangzeb's wife), Aurangabad Caves (12 artificial rock cut Buddhist caves) and Daulatabad Fort.

Overnight at hotel.

Day 4, Aurangabad - Excursion to Ellora Caves

In the morning, visit Ellora Caves located 30 km from Aurangabad. Recognized as world heritage site, these caves represent the finest rock cut cave temples belonging to the 10th-11th century BC. The caves symbolize the harmony and tolerance among the different religions of India. The 34 caves of Ellora complex are dedicated to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The most remarkable amongst the structures here is the magnificent Kailasa Temple. It is believed that the structure was carved entirely out of a monolith and involved more than 100 years for completion. (Ellora Caves closed on all Tuesdays). Drive back to Hotel. Evening is free for leisure.

Overnight at hotel.
Day 5, Aurangabad - Ajanta Caves - Jalgaon - Bhopal

After breakfast, venture into one of the most ancient caves in India, Ajanta Caves after a 2 ½ hr drive from Aurangabad. Recognized as a world heritage site, this magnificent rock cut cave complex featuring 30 caves are entirely Buddhist in character. Carved between 2nd-7th century period, these caves showcase the unique combination of three art forms, namely architecture, sculpture and painting. The caves here showcase a mix of belief from Hinayana Buddhist to Mahayana Buddhism. Tourists can find the Buddhist Stupas along side the idols of Lord Buddha here in great abundance.

Post this enchanting excursion, continue Footsteps of Buddha Tour by boarding the connecting train from Jalgaon Railway Station # 2627 Karnataka Express dep. 16:50 hrs. arr. 23:45 hrs to reach Bhopal, the gateway city for Sanchi Buddhist Monuments. Upon arrival in Bhopal, transfer to hotel for overnight train stay. (Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays)

(Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays)
Day 6, Bhopal - Agra

Next morning, begin the sightseeing tour of Sanchi Stupa (46 km away from Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh). Located on a hill in Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh, this world heritage site is known as the home for famous Buddhist monuments belonging to the 3rd-12th century era. A number of Buddhist monuments including stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars adorn this Buddhist heritage site of the region. The oldest stone structure at Sanchi is the Great Stupa which was originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka. The simple hemispherical stupa crowned by Chatra or Parasol enshrines the relics of Lord Buddha in its nucleus. The toranas surrounding the stupas also deserve special mention during the visit to Sanchi. These adorning figures represent love, peace, trust, and courage. After the sightseeing at Sanchi is over, board the connecting train # 2001 Bhopal Shtabadi Express dep. Bhopal at 14:50 hrs to reach Agra at 20:35 hrs.

Transfer to hotel in Agra for overnight stay.
Day 7, Agra - Varanasi

Begin morning with the illustrated sightseeing of magnificent Taj Mahal, wrapped in the early morning rich hues. Made up entirely of white marble, Taj Mahal is a requiem in stone and a zenith of Indian architecture. Its outer walls decorated with exquisite Pietra Dura stone inlay work whereas the inner mausoleum facsimile is lined by the gold filigree mesh grill. Post lunch begin a tour of another splendid Mughal architecture, Agra Fort where five Mughal Emperors lived and ruled the empire from. Built of red sandstone and marble, this citadel is flanked by fabulous courtyards, fountains and lakes. In evening, transfer to the Railway station to board overnight train to Varanasi.

(Taj Mahal is closed on all Fridays)
Day 8, In Varanasi

Arrive Varanasi in the morning and transfer to hotel. After breakfast and change, visit Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon, turned the wheel of law and began Buddhism. Here, visitors can find two stupas Dhamekh and Chaukhandi stupa commemorating the same incident.

In the noon time, proceed for the Varanasi city tour including visiting various temples. Begin exploring Varanasi via The Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Bharat Mata Temple houses instead of gods and goddesses, a huge relief map in marble of the whole of Indian subcontinent as a dedication to Indian motherland. The Tulsi Manas Temple, built in 1964, is dedicated to Lord Rama. In the evening, view the enchanting "Aarti" ceremony on the Ghats.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 9, Varanasi / Bodhgaya (242 Km / 3 hr 40 mins)

In the morning, take a Boat cruise on the River Ganges and observe the way of life of pilgrims by the Ghats. Later in the Footsteps of Buddha tour, drive to Bodhgaya (242 km). This is the epicenter of Buddhism and the place of Lord Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree 2500 years back.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 10, In Bodhgaya

After breakfast, embark on Bodhgaya city tour via visiting Mahabodhi Temple showcasing various phases of Lord Buddha's enlightenment, showing different aspects of his meditation and gratitude in the temple complex. Later visit Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum to see a small collection of Buddhist sculpture from the 1st to 11th century A.D. Jagannath Temple, a Hindu shrine has a four armed statue of Shiva in black stone.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 11, Bodhgaya / Patna (110 Km - 4.5 hr)

After breakfast, check out Bodhgaya and begin drive to Patna. Enroute visit, Gridhakuta Hill and Bimbisara Jail in Rajgir, closely associated with Lord Buddha's life. Continue the Footsteps of Buddha tour to Nalanda (14 km from Rajgir) to witness the oldest university in the world which used to be the international centre for Buddhist studies. Currently, the site is in the ruins.

Arrive Patna and enjoy lunch. Post lunch, begin the Patna city tour by visiting Har Mandir Sahib - also known as Patna Sahib consecrating the place where the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was born in 1776. Golghar, the granary of British times is a large dome-like structure from where tourists can have a fine view of the Ganga and the city surroundings. Patna Museum has a rich collection of Mauryan and Footsteps of Lord Buddha sculptures, terracotta and other interesting items of antiquity.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 12, Patna / Kushinagar (253 Km - 04 hr)

Morning check out Patna and begin a four hr drive to Kushinagar. On arrival, check in at hotel. Later visit the Rambhar Stupa marking Lord Buddha's cremation ground. Our second stop in the Footsteps of Buddha tour is Mahaparinirvana Temple which houses the reclining figure of ailing Lord Buddha.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 13, Kushinagar / Saravasti (Balrampur) - (216 Km - 05 hr)

Morning drive to Balrampur, 17 km close to Sravasti. On arrival, check in at hotel. In afternoon, visit Sahet-Mahet, the Buddhist heritage site where Lord Buddha spent 24 rainy retreats.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 14, Saravasti / Lumbini (197 Km - 5 hr 45 min)

Morning check out Balrampur and begin the drive to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Arrive Lumbini and check in at hotel. Lumbini is the place where Buddha was born 2500 years ago. Rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 15, Lumbini / Kathmandu (By flight)

Begin the day with the visit to the sacred sites of Lumbini including Mayadevi Temple, Ashokan Pillar and Mayadevi Pond. Contemplate some time in the serenity of Lumbini. At 15:45 hrs, transfer to airport to board flight for Kathmandu. Arrive Kathmandu at 16:20 hrs and transfer to hotel. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal is surrounded by green hills and mountains with snow-capped peaks against its northern and eastern background, providing beautiful tour experience in the valley.

Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 16, In Kathmandu

After breakfast, embark on the Kathmandu city tour via visiting Pashupatinath Temple, the most sacred of the Hindu temples in Nepal dedicated to lord Shiva built in 1696. Continue the sightseeing tour of the Patan, a city of architecture and fine arts sometimes known as "Town with a Thousand Golden Roofs". Visit Tibetan Handicraft center at Jawalakhel to watch carpet weaving.

Post lunch continue the sightseeing tour via a visit to Swayambhunath, the oldest Buddhist shrine. From the east of Swayambhunath, one can see the entire Kathmandu valley spread out below.

A short drive from here will take tourists to Boudhanath, the world's largest stupa which offers a sight of great reverence to the Buddhist. Continue to Kathmandu Durbar Square, the temple of the Living Goddess and the old Royal Palace. Finally, visit Kasthamandap, a temple built from a single tree from which the Kathmandu derives its name.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 17, Kathmandu / Out

Transfer to Kathmandu airport to board the connecting flight for onward destination.
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