Friday, September 9, 2011

In the Shade of Enlightenment

Anusha Parthasarathy (
BODHGAYA, India - The moment our car turned into a narrow, rocky path off NH 2 and I began to hang on for dear life, I knew we had arrived in Bodhgaya ["enlightenment grove"].

[Buddha Gaya is a Buddhist town in Bihar where Siddhartha gained enlightenment].

Here, Presidential Suites are affordable to the common man and barring the occasional ATM there are only small neighborhood shops. There is sparse vehicle traffic. But the large numbers of cow and horse carts and cycle rickshaws, which stalk you till you take a ride, make up for it.

Bodhgaya is ironically small. It is home to colossal statues, picturesque monasteries, a rich religious past, and an ancient tree. But the most important thing to take note of is where you walk. Pavement is scarce, and you need trekking gear to tackle the generous globs of dung and garbage and potholes.

But Bodhgaya still charms with its friendly people and cows that walk up and eat vada out of your hand.

It doesn't take much time to look around the entire town, since there are only four or five streets that you can walk into. You could complete an entire tour in less than three hours.

Accommodation is only average. But the smallest of restaurants boast of "Amrican Chopsew" and "American breakfast" and "multi-cuisine." I pick two of the most popular religious places in Bodhgaya to visit first, the 80-foot Buddha statue and the Mahabodhi ["Great Enlightenment"] Temple. More