Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ellora Caves



Ellora Caves are situated in Maharashtra, at a distance of approximately 30 km from the city of Aurangabad. Founded in the period between 5th century and 10th century AD, these caves were declared as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, a number of years back. They are believed to have been built by the rulers of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and serve as the epitome of rock-cut architecture in India. The total number of caves at Ellora is 34 and they represent the three different religions of the world - Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.


Ellora Caves were carved out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills and comprise of temples as well as monasteries. There are total twelve Buddhist Caves at Ellora (numbered 1 to 12), while the Hindu Caves number seventeen (13 to 29). On the other hand, the Jain Caves excavated at the site are only five in number (numbered 30 to 34). The co-existence of Hindi, Jain and Buddhist Caves, at the same site, serves as a proof of the fact that religious harmony prevailed during that period.


The earliest excavation carried out at the site of Ellora Caves revealed the Cave number twenty nine, known as Dhumar Lena. Then, there is the magnificent Kailasa Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, situated inside cave 16. The temple holds the distinction of being the single largest monolithic structure in the whole world and makes one of the major attractions of the Ellora Caves. Whenever you go to Aurangabad, make sure to visit these splendid caves and explore the country's rich legacy. 


There are thirty four caves at Ellora, in total. Out of these, twelve belong to Mahayana sect of Buddhism, seventeen belong to Hinduism and five belong to Jainism. Given below is information on all the major and important caves at Ellora.

Buddhist Caves
The Buddhist Caves seen at Ellora belong to the time when its Mahayana sect was flourishing. The caves that have been numbered one to twelve belong to this religion and were constructed between 550 AD and 750 AD. The Buddhist caves of Ellora basically comprise of viharas (monasteries). They are nothing but, large buildings carved into the face of the mountain. The viharas are multi-storied and include rooms like living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, etc. There are some viharas that were used as shrines by their dwellers 

They have been adorned with exquisitely carved images of Lord Buddha, Bodhisattvas and some saints. Out of these, the most important ones comprise of cave number 10, 11 and 12. Cave 10 is a Chaitya Hall, based on the Chaitya architecture of India. It is popularly known as 'Vishwakarma Cave' or 'Carpenter's Cave' and has a 15 foot idol of Lord Buddha, in a preaching pose. Cave 11 as well as 12 is a three-story structure. The former is known as 'Do Tal', while the latter is known as 'Teen Tal'.

Hindu Caves (Kailasa Temple)
There are total seventeen caves at Ellora that belong Hindu religion. They are numbered from thirteen to twenty-nine and date back to somewhere between 600 AD and 875 AD. The intricacy with which these caves have been built is so great that it must have taken generations of hard work and labor to complete them. Of all the Hindu caves in Ellora, the most significant one is cave 16, which comprises of the 'Kailasa' or 'Kailasanatha' Temple. It was carved out of a single piece of rock.

Believed to be the largest monolithic structure in the whole world, the temple has been carved in such a way, so as to represent Mount Kailash - the abode of Lord Shiva. The entrance of the temple has been provided by a two-storied gateway. As we enter the gateway, a U-shaped courtyard - bordered by columned galleries - greets us. The galleries are three-stories high and stand interspersed with massive sculpted panels and alcoves, which are adorned with huge sculptures of various deities.

Initially, these galleries were connected to the central temple, with the help of flying bridges of stone. The courtyard of the Kailasa Temple comprises of two structures. In the path leading to the sanctum sanctorum, where the Shivalinga is enshrined, one finds the image of Nandi Bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. There is also a Nandi Mandap inside the temple that, along with the main Shiva temple, reaches a height of almost 7 m. The lower stories of the mandap are adorned with illustrative carvings.

At the base of the temple, one can see elaborate carvings that create the feel that elephants are holding the structure aloft. The Shiva Temple has been built as per the South Indian style of architecture, representing a pyramid to some an extent. The temple is made of living stone and has exquisitely carved niches, pilasters and windows, along with images of deities, mithunas (sensual male and female figures) and other figures. Deities on the left of the shrine are mostly Shaivaite and those on the right are mostly Vaishnavaite.

In the courtyard of the Kailasa Temple, you can see a huge sculpture of Ravana, who is shown attempting to lift Mount Kailasa. The construction of this shrine required 200,000 tonnes of rock, and took around 100 years to be fully complete. There are a number of other notable caves belonging to the Hindu religion at Ellora. These include Dashavatara Cave (Cave 15), which depicts the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Then, there is the Ramesvara Cave (Cave 21) and Dhumar Lena Cave (Cave 29).

Jain Caves
There are five Jain caves in Ellora, numbered 30 to 34. They are believed to have been built somewhere around 800 AD to 1000 AD and reflect certain elements of the philosophy and tradition of Jainism. These caves are neither too large, nor too ostentatious. Infact, one gets a sense of asceticism by looking at the Jain caves. However, they do have remarkably comprehensive art works. Some of these caves have remains of, what were once, rich paintings.

Of all the Jain caves at Ellora, the most impressive is cave 32, a shrine known as 'Indra Sabha'. The floor of this cave has been ornamented with a very beautiful carving of the lotus flower. There is a yet another Jain cave, with exquisite carvings. The carved image has an imposing yakshini, seated on her lion, under a mango tree laden with fruits. Though without much ornamentation, Jain caves at Ellora are as remarkable as the Hindu and Buddhist ones............

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Ajanta Caves



Ajanta Caves are one of the most magnificent Buddhist caves in the whole of India. They are situated at a distance of approximately 100 km from Aurangabad and 40 km from Jalgaon. Counted amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Maharashtra, these caves have been found to date back to the 2nd century BC. There are approximately 30 caves at the site of Ajanta, of which cave number are 9, 10, 19, 26 and 29 are chaitya-grihas. The rest of the caves have been found to comprise of monasteries.


Ajanta Caves were discovered in 1819 AD and some of the paintings discovered inside them were made between 5th and 7th century AD. Almost each and every painting found inside the premises of these caves centers around Buddhist religion. Some of them portray Lord Buddha, some Bodhisattvas, while some other are based on the Jatakas tales and incidents from the life of Lord Buddha. Mud-plaster ground, built as per the tempera technique, forms the base for the paintings seen at Ajanta.


Situated far away from inhabitation, amidst isolated surroundings, these caves were built in the middle of a huge rock. The main aim behind the construction of the Ajanta Caves was to provide a dwelling and praying place for the Buddhist monks, who were dedicated towards the mission of spreading the principles of Buddhism throughout the world. All of them have been carved with precision and adorned with exquisite architectural details. The sculptures seen here seem to be the result of superb craftsmanship.


These caves have also been found to be ornamented with scenes that depict the semi-mythological history. One can find a few paintings based on Greek and Roman compositions and proportions. Then, there are some others that can be said to resemble Chinese style. However, the majority of them continue to be based on an Indian style, seen nowhere else in the country. One can easily divide the Ajanta Caves into two parts, on the basis of the time period when they were constructed.


The older caves situated at Ajanta were constructed centuries before the birth of Christ and belong to the time when the Hinayana sect of Buddhism was flourishing in India. The second group caves date to somewhere around the later part of 2nd century AD, by which time Buddhism had been divided into two different sects. This time period can be said to be the one, after the fourth General Council was held under the rule of the great king, Kanishka. Whenever you are in Maharashtra, make sure to visit these awesome caves. 


History of Ajanta Caves


As far as the history and origin of the Ajanta Cave Temples is concerned, one can say that they were discovered in the year 1819 (19th century AD). The caves were discovered by British soldiers by accident, when they went on a hunting expedition in the Deccan Plateau. One of the soldiers was generally looking down from a height, when he suddenly saw a rock - in the shape of a horseshoe. Obviously, he became curious and his curiosity increased when he saw the entrance of a cave, inside the rock.


The entire group of soldiers then descended from where they were earlier standing. After venturing across the ravine of the Waghur River, the soldiers came across an entire group of caves. Situated so far from inhabitation and left unexplored for such a long time, they had become covered by bush, shrubs, earth and stones. This had resulted in making them even more concealed. All the caves were empty, except for a few - whose inhabitants comprised of herds of goats, looking for shelter.


Soon after the British soldiers went back to their bases, they informed the Government of their discovery. The Government summoned archaeologists, who were entrusted with the task of carrying excavations at the site, which is today known as the Ajanta Cave Temples. Since that time, numerous unearthings have been undertaken at Ajanta and they have come up with amazing findings. Till date, 30 caves have been found in Ajanta, of which some are still unfinished. All of them stand adorned with paintings on verandahs, inner walls and ceilings............

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How to Reach Ajanta Caves

Air
Aurangabad domestic airport lies closest to the Ajanta caves. It is approximately 100 km away and is serviced by direct flights from Delhi and Mumbai international airports. The Jalgaon Airport, which lies nearer to the caves, is still under construction. With its opening, reaching the caves will become much easier.

Rail 
The railway station that falls closest to Ajanta Caves is that of Jalgaon. It is situated at a distance of around 60 km from the caves and is serviced by almost all the super fast, express, mail and passenger trains, coming to this side. The station is well connected with Aurangabad, Mumbai and other major cities in and around Maharashtra.

Road
Ajanta Caves have an excellent network of roads that connect them with most of the key cities in India. The roadways linking the caves with Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Shirdi, Nasik, Dhule, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Bijapur, and Aurangabad are just excellent. Regular as well as direct buses and taxis are available between Aurangabad and Ajanta Caves............

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Ghrishneshwar Temple



Ghrishneshwar Temple is a very revered temple, situated in the state of Maharashtra. It lies very near to the Buddhist caves of Ellora, only half a kilometer away, and serves as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India dedicated to Lord Shiva. Even the Ajanta Caves and Dulatabad town of Maharashtra are situated nearby. The temple, with exquisitely sculpted walls, was built under the patronage of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, one of the rulers of the erstwhile state of Indore.



Grishneshwar Temple, also known as Ghushmeshwar, has a very interesting legend attached to it. It is said that there was once a very religious woman, known as Kusuma, who used to worship Lord Shiva on a daily basis. She used to immerse His Shivalingam in a tank, as a part of her everyday prayer. Her husband had a second wife, who got jealous of the devotion of Kusuma and her resultant respect in the society. In a fit of rage and resentment, she murdered Kusuma's son.


Kusuma became extremely depressed when she came to know that her son had been killed. However, she continued worshipping the Lord. It is said that when she immersed the lingam into the tank, after her the death of her son, he miraculously came back to life again. The legend further goes that at that time, Lord Shiva appeared before Kusuma as well as the villagers. It is said that on Kusuma's request, Lord Shiva manifested Himself at the very site, in the form of the Jyotirlinga Ghusmeshwar. From then onwards, the temple is highly revered by people and attracts devotees from far and wide............

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Daulatabad Fort



Daulatabad Fort is a magnificent fort situated in Maharashtra, at a distance of around 13 km from the Aurangabad city. It forms a part of the Daulatabad city, which was earlier known as 'Devigiri'. The fort, perched at a height of approximately 60 ft, dates back to the 12th century. It has been constructed on the top of a hill and is amongst the best preserved forts in the world that date back to the medieval times. Daulatabad Fort is also one of the forts in Maharashtra that can be called as impregnable.

The excellent architecture of the fort, combined with its massive size, is what attracts visitors. Some information can be found on the history of the Daulatabad Fort. Devigiri city, now Daulatabad, was founded in 1187 AD, by Bhillamraja of the Yadava dynasty. In the years that ensued, the city passed into the hands of several dynasties of the Deccan. It also became the capital of India, under the rule of Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. Infact, he was the one who gave Devigiri, the name of 'Daulatabad', meaning 'City of Fortune'.


Even till 800 years ago, the city was one of the flourishing destinations of the country. Daulatabad Fort stands bounded within thick walls, which are almost 5 km long, and is entered through spiked gates. Its slide ways are quite steep and trench very deep, making it almost unassailable. To facilitate escape in extreme crisis, the architects of the fort developed a maze of secret, subsurface passages inside its premises. Infact, Daulatabad Fort was made so sound and secure that it never fell to marching forces. It was conquered by its enemies only by the means of treachery.


Structures within Daulatabad Fort

Chand Minar


Chand Minar is a soaring tower inside the Daulatabad Fort, which rises to a height of approximately 30 m. The minar was built as a 'Tower of Victory' by Ala-ud-din Bahmani, after he managed to take over the fort in 1435. A four-storied tower, it stands adorned with glazed tiles and carved motifs. It is believed that Chand Minar was used as a prayer hall or a victory monument in the earlier times.

Chini Mahal
Chini Mahal is a beautiful palace, inlaid with blue tiles. The palace served as the detention center of Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, the last king of Golcunda, in 1687. He remained here for 13 years, before leaving this world for the heavenly abode.

Jami Masjid
The mosque situated inside the Daulatabad Fort complex is known as Jami Masjid. It was constructed in 1318 by Qutub-ud-din Mubarak, the Khilji ruler of Delhi. It stands adorned with 106 splendid pillars, which were looted from several Hindu and Jain temples that stood on the site initially. Some time back, the mosque was converted into a Bharatmata Temple............

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Bibi Ka Maqbara



Bibi Ka Maqbara is a magnificent mausoleum, situated at a distance of approximately 5 km from the Aurangabad city of India. It entombs Rabia-ul-Daurani, alias Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The construction work on the mausoleum was started in the year 1651 and it took approximately 10 years to complete it. Prince Azam Shah, the son of Aurangzeb, got the tomb built in the memory of his mother. The main entrance door of Bibi ka Makbara is adorned with an inscription.

This inscription tells us that the tomb was designed by Ata-ullah, an architect, and constructed by Hanspat Rai, an engineer. The marble used in its construction is said to have been brought from the mines situated near the 'Pink City'. The design of the Bibi Ka Maqbara has largely been based on the Taj Mahal of Agra. However, it could not rival the magnificent 'Monument of Love' and was reduced to a poor imitation. Still, the mausoleum is today known as the 'Taj of Deccan'.


The reason for this is that, despite the fact that it could not be an adequate competitor for the Taj, it is still a magnificent monument. Bibi Ka Maqbara has been set amidst picturesque surroundings, with the mountain ranges providing the perfect backdrop. In the center of the north, east and western part of the enclosure wall of Bibi ka Makbara, one can find pillared pavilions. Its gardens follow the typical Mughal Char-Bagh pattern in their layout, adding to the splendor of the mausoleum.

The main entrance to it is provided by the gate, situated in the south and adorned with a brass plate having beautiful foliage designs. After crossing the entrance, one comes across a small tank and a screen wall that ultimately leads to the main structure. As one moves through the screened pathway, the series of fountains at the centre some into view - adding to the tranquility offered by the place. Supporting the base of Bibi Ka Maqbara is a square platform, with four minarets at its four corners. To the west of the tomb is a mosque, added much later.

The mortal remains of Rabia-ul-Daurani have been placed in a chamber, below the ground level. Surrounding them is an octagonal marble screen, which has been adorned with beautiful designs. The roof of the chamber coincides with the floor of the ground floor and stands pierced by an octagonal opening. This was done so as to ensure that the tomb remains visible from the ground level also. Adorning the top of the Bibi ka Makbara is a huge dome, pierced with trellis works and adorned with panels having floral designs............

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Aurangabad Caves



Aurangabad Caves lie nestled in a valley, between Sihyachal and Satara hill ranges. Dating back to somewhere around the 2nd - 3rd century, these caves serve as the proof of the flourishing Buddhist settlement in Maharashtra during that time. They are located on the outskirts of the Aurangabad city of India and are counted amongst one of its major tourist attractions. The twelve caves situated in the valley have been divided into three major groups. The groups have been based on the location of the caves.


The first group of caves lies in the western side of the hill on which the Aurangabad Caves have been found. It is made up of cave number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The second group of caves is situated on the eastern side of this hill. It has been included with cave number 6, 7, 8 and 9. The distance between the two is not more than 500 m. The last and the third group of caves do not fall within the boundaries of Aurangabad city and lies to the east of the second group. It includes within itself, cave number 10, 11 and 12.


The first excavation that was carried out at the site of Aurangabad caves revealed only two caves, cave number 1 and cave number 3. The rest of the caves were unearthed later on. The rock formation of the Aurangabad Caves is of a heterogeneous nature and this has become a hurdle in carrying large scale excavations at the site. Infact, many portions of these caves are so unstable that the caves have been left unfinished. The cave number one is also an unfinished one. Even its verandah has fallen down because of its shaky rock formation.


Of all the Aurangabad Caves, one of the most remarkable caves is cave number 3, which is basically a Chaitya Griha, belonging to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The cave number 2 enshrines an idol of Lord Buddha and looks very much like a vihara. Apart from these two caves, all the others are believed to have been built during the reign of the Kalachuri dynasty. Cave number 7, being adorned with sculptural embellishment, is the most magnificent one of the Aurangabad Caves.


There is a shrine, situated right in the heart of the cave, with an outer corridor surrounding it. The recesses in the corridor have images of Buddhist Gods and Goddesses, carved with utmost precision. This cave also has a verandah, with its front fall decorated with a splendid representation of a panel of litany of Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva. The litany symbolizes Bodhisattva Padmapani in the form of the 'Savior of Eight Great Perils' (Fire, Theft, Demon, Elephant, Lion, Shipwreck, Snake and Monkey)............

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How to Reach Aurangabad

Air
Aurangabad city has its own airport, which is located at a distance of approximately 10 km from the city center. The airport is well connected with the major cities of India, like Delhi and Mumbai, by direct as well as regular flights.

Rail
Aurangabad also has a railways station of its own, which is well linked with Mumbai and other major cities in and around Maharashtra. You can easily get direct trains from Aurangabad for most of the parts of the country.

Road
Aurangabad has good road links with most of the cities in and around the state. Private as well as State Transport buses ply from the city, for Mumbai, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, etc. Taxis are also easily available............

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Patna Excursions

Located just 29 kilometers away from Patna, Maner is an Islamic pilgrim destination. Maner houses a shrine of 13th century Sufi Saint Maneri. His cenotaph at Bari Dargah is a popular tourist destination among his followers. There is one tomb of his disciple Shah Daulat which also attracts a number of tourists. 

Located 125 kilometers away, Bodh Gaya is a major tourist attraction near Patna. Bodh Gaya was the place where Bautam Buddha attained enlightenment under the peepal tree. Known as the Bodhi Tree, it is one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists across the world. The Bodhi tree is enshrined in a temple called Bodhi Temple. A huge statue of Lord Buddha inside the temple is another major tourist attraction at Bodh Gaya. Bodh Gaya is a part of Buddhist Circuit that connects all the places associated with Buddha and Buddhism. 

Located 90 kilometers away from Patna, Nalanda houses the ruins of the famous Nalanda University. Nalanda was once the seat of higher learning but was devastated by a Turkish invader in the twelfth century. Wide spread campus of the university shows the grandeur and versatility of Nalanda University. According to Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang, Naland University housed more than ten thousand students and one thousand faculty members. 

Rajgir holds great importance for Busshists and Jains. Situated amongst lush green hills and at a distance of 102 km from Patna, Rajgir was the ancient capital of the Magadha Empire before Lord Buddha. Major tourist attractions at Rajgir are Gridhakuta, Pipphali House, Venuvana, Tapodarama and Saptaparni cave. 

Vaishali is said to be the first republic in human history. Vaishali had the concept of republican government much before the Greeks. Vaishali is located at a distance of 55 kilometers from the capital city of Patna. Lord Buddha stayed here for quite some time during his search of truth. Vaishali is also associated with Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara............

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Sher Shah Suri Masjid



Sher Shah Suri was a celebrated Afghan ruler and a good administrator. He erected this mosque at Patna to commemorate his victory over the Mughal emperor Humanyun. The mosque, built in Afghan architectural style, has a tomb inside the compound which is topped by an octagonal stone slab. The Sher Shah Masjid is considered among best looking mosques in India.

This impressive landmark of Patna built in Afghan style of architecture is the biggest mosque in Patna. Inside the mosque is a big dome built specifically to cater huge gathering of masses. Other than the huge dome, the mosque has four small gathering rooms. The mosque was made according to the need of huge gathering to accommodate collective prayer. The specialty of the plan of the mosque is that the domes are so placed that only three of them can be seen at a time from whichever angle one sees............

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Hajipur

Hajipur was known as Ukkacala in ancient times. According to Buddhist scriptures, Lord Buddha gave one of his many discourses at Ukkacala. Some Buddhist sources also say that ashes of Lord Buddha's disciple Ananda were kept in a Stupa at Ukkacala. He erected this mosque at Patna to commemorate his victory over the Mughal emperor Humanyun. The mosque, built in Afghan architectural style, has a tomb inside the compound which is topped by an octagonal stone slab. The Sher Shah Masjid is considered among best looking mosques in India.

According to Buddhist literature, Ananda was the closest disciple and personnel attendant of Buddha. The same sources tell an interesting incident about Ananda- when Ananda realized that his life was drawing to its close, he decided to head towards north from Rajgir. Later on when King Ajatashatru came to know about it he went to meet Ananda and asked him to stay in his capital. Similarly, people from near by Vaishali came and asked him to stay at their place, which made the situation quite tricky for Ananda.

As Ananda was in conflict where to go and whom to visit, he reached in the middle of river and in order to avoid disappointment and possible conflict, Ananda rose into the air and disappeared into a ball of flames. As the legends have it, people gathered on both sides of the river and collected the ash which was poured from above. Later on many Stupas were erected enshrining the same ash.

Though the whereabouts of these stupas is not known, one mound on the bank of river Ganges is evidence of one such stupa's existence at the spot. Historians are of the opinion that stupas might have been erased by Ganges flood overtime and some Hindu temple has come into existence now. From historical evidence and Buddhist literature, archeologists have concluded that the modern Hajipur is ancient Ukkacala............

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Maner Sharif



Maner Sharif is the place where Makhdum Daulat in 1608 breathed his last. It was then in 1616 that Ibrahim Khan, Governor of Bihar, who was also his disciple finished the construction of his mausoleum.

The building at Maner Sharif is a marvelous one. The walls of the building are adorned with intricate designs. There is a big dome on the top and the ceiling is full of inscriptions depicted from the Qur'an. In the compound of the Maner Sharif you will find a mosque which was also constructed by Ibrahim Khan in 1619. In the ancient times, Maner Sharif used to be the principal site of learning and knowledge in the region. The well known grammarian Pāṇini as well as Bararuchi were the residents of Maner Sharif, where they have completed their studies as well.

Maner is also famous for its sweet delicacy laddu made with pure ghee. As the Halwai's quote - the groundwater is sweet as sugar (comes from the Sone river). When the final mixing is done with 'boondi', the groundwater acts as a catalyst - sugar to make it pure and sweet. Every 'boondi' which forms the laddu has enough sugar that melts like a fresh sweet. 'Maner ka Laddoo' is famous in India and abroad............

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Phulwari Sharif



Phulwari Sharif is an important medieval and religious city of Bihar. It is located seven kilometers away from the Patna. This place has a long and rich religious history that is closely attached with the birth and development of the Sufi culture in our country. Sufi saints of the medieval times had made Bihar one of the important centers of religious, social and cultural developments. Phulwari Sharif was one such place from where the Sufi saints had spread their message of love and toleration to other parts of the country. Being a very important mediaeval site in Phulwari Sharif has some exquisite mediaeval structures. These are Khanqah Mujeebia, Sheesh Mahal, Shahi Sangi Masjid and Imarat Sharia. history that is closely attached with the birth and development of the Sufi culture in our country.

These structures clearly manifest the influence of Mughal architectural style. Among various structures here Sangi Masjid is an architectural master piece. It is not only influenced by Mughal style but also bears influences of local style of architecture prevalent in this region at that time. This beautiful mosque was built by Mughal Emperor Humayun. As the important characteristic of that period it is built in red sand stone. It is not only an attraction of Muslims but also for all tourists from all parts of the globe. The importance of Phulwari Sharif is also lies in being an important religious educational institution and popularly known for an inside Madrasa which has played a significant role in spreading education to the poor masses of the region............

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Gandhi Setu




Gandhi Setu was built to connect Patna with Hajipur. The bridge also connects north and south Bihar. The bridge is 5450 meters in length and the longest in the world. Gandhi Setu has helped in better traffic management and speedy transportation in the entire region.

Mahatma Gandhi Setu stands on forty piers and for better navigational purposes the span arrangement has been done in such a manner that it does not affect the movement of ships and big boats. To accommodate free movement of ships, height has been kept optimum except for the last few spans on the Hajipur side, which covers a length of 305 m. An excellent specimen of better plan and execution, Gandhi Setu has served an example............
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How to Reach Patna

Road
Patna is well connected with all the major cities of Bihar and the rest of India. An excellent road network links Patna to major cities and tourist destinations within Bihar. Intra-city road transportation is also good in Patna. 

Air
Patna has regular flights from different cities of India. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata are linked with Patna with regular flights. Several Airlines including Air India and Jet Airways serve the city with regular flights. 

Rail
Patna is a major junction of Indian railway and is linked with all the major and minor cities of India via railway network. Patna has many regular trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bangalore and Chennai............
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Vaishali Excursions

Some of the Important places near Vaishali are:


Nalanda
Nalanda University was the center of higher learning during ancient times. Founded in the fifth century AD, it housed more than ten thousand students and one thousand faculty members. Students from abroad came to study here. One of such students was Hiuen Tsang, a Chinese traveler, who wrote his travelogue which gives important information about the place. There were many Buddhist monasteries too at Nalanda and many were built during Mauryan king Ashoka’s time. Now in ruins, Nalanda still attracts tourists for its historical relevance. 

Pawapuri is located 90 kilometers away from Gaya. Jain followers believe that visiting the place one can get rid of their sins. The place is revered for being the place where Mahavir Jain took his last breath. A popular Jain tale says that when Mahavir died at Pawapuri, people took away not only the ashes but also scooped out earth which resulted into a big pond. Pawapuri has a Jain temple called Jalamandir. Jalmandir is made in marble and is a major tourist attraction at Pawapuri

The place where Gautam Siddhartha earned enlightenment is Bodh Gaya. Bodh Gaya is just 34 kilometers away from Rajgir. Bodh Gaya houses Bodhi Tree, Mahabodhi Temple, and other religious places relevant for Buddhists. The Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya is not the original tree but a sapling of old tree brought from Sri Lanka. The Mahabodhi Temple enshrines the same Bodhi Tree. Lord Buddha’s giant statue is a major attraction here at Bodh Gaya. 

Gaya
Gaya is an important Hindu pilgrim destination and it is believed that “Pinda Dan” at Gaya makes one’s ancestors’ soul rest in peace. Gaya is considered the most sacred spot for Hindus............
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How to Reach Vaishali

Air
Patna, at a distance of 55 kilometers, is the nearest airport from Vaishali. There are regular flights from Patna to other major cities of India like Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Varanasi and Lucknow. You can hire taxis for further movement or board buses from Patna

Rail
Most of the north India is well connected with railway network and Vaishali is no exception. Hajipur is the nearest railhead at the distance of 35 kilometers. Patna the capital of Bihar, is just 55 kilometers away from Vaishali and is well connected with all the metro cities of India and there are regular and direct trains from Patna to the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata

Road
Vaishali is well connected by road to other important cities of Bihar. Patna, the capital city of Bihar, is 55 kilometers away and there are plenty of buses running from Patna to Vaishali. Being a popular pilgrim destination there are many tourist companies which run taxis and luxury buses............
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Nalanda Excursions

Gaya
For the believers of the Hindu faith Gaya is the most sacred place. Hindus believe that an individual goes to heaven if his last rites are offered under the celebrated ’Akshayabat’ or immortal banyan tree, in Gaya. The Vishnupad Temple was renovated by Holkar queen Ahilyabai of Indore

Bodh Gaya is one of the most sacred places for the Buddhists. Buddhists from all over the world come to Bodh Gaya to explore the place. Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya under the Bodhi Tree. Besides the Bodhi Tree, there are other places of interest such as the Mahabodhi Temple, which houses a huge statue of Lord Buddha. 

Rajgir
Rajgir is the place where Buddhism and Jainism meet together, not because of the commonness in the teachings but due to the fact that the place is relevant both for Buddhists and for Jains equally. Rajgir was the capital of Magadh Empire during Buddha’s period and the first Buddhist summit was held here only. Some major tourist attractions at the place are Jail of Bimbisara, playground of Jarasandha, Venuvana, Karand tank, Maniyar math, Swamabhandar cave, Pippala cave, and Viswa Shanti Stupa. 

Bihar Sharif



Located 13 kilometers away from Nalanda, Bihar Sharif was once the capital of the Muslim Governors of Bihar between 13th and 16th centuries. The place houses the tomb of Malik Ibrahim Vaya. It is a beautiful tomb constructed on top of the rocky hill. Hanuman Mandir at Badi Pahari, and prison of Jarasandh are another major tourist attractions at Bihar Sharif. Also, the place has the mosque of 14th century Muslim saint Makhdum Shah Sharif-ud-din............
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Nalanda Museum



Heritage and culture are something which every nation is proud of. Each civilized country in the world has tried to preserve its heritage and the sources from which history of the nation is sketched upon in museums. India too has a great heritage, and Nalanda University is one such heritage which needs care and preservation. Keeping all these things in mind government of India in the year 1917 established Nalanda Archeological Museum at Nalanda. The museum houses the antiques found at the excavated site at Nalanda University which is in ruins since twelfth century AD.

Nalanda Archeological Museum has a collection of more than 13463 antiques. Out of these 349 are on display in the four galleries of the museum. These antiques found in Nalanda date back to fifth century. Since the university was vandalized by the Turkish invaders in twelfth century, all the collection is of before twelfth century. 

The antiques that have been found at Nalanda including sculptures of stone, bronze, stucco, and terracotta have been kept in Nalanda Museum. The main gallery of the museum shows sixteen sculptures inclusive of Trailokya Vijay, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, and Buddha in Varad, Dharmachakra and Bhumisparsh posture, Samantbhadra, Parshvanath and Nagaraj. The huge collection of the antique products kept here shows that Buddhism had great influence in and around the region and people followed Dhamma. 

The museum at the third gallery displays some ninety-three specimens of bronze sculpture including two images of Buddha in boon giving posture, Tara, Prajnaparmita, Loknath, Bodhisattava padmapani. Another sculpture shows Lord Buddha in earth touching posture at Nalanda Museum. Other than these the images of Lord Ganesh, Surya, Kamadeva, Indrani and Vishnu, etc. of Brahminical religion are found in Nalanda Museum............
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The remnants of Nalanda University



Nalanda was famous center of higher learning during ancient times. Now in ruins, Nalanda is believed to be the first international university. The site is located at a distance of ninety kilometers from Patna. The Nalanda ruins are spread in an area of 14 hectares which show that the campus of the university was widespread.


The famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang writes that the university was spread over a large area and had more than ten thousand students and nearly one thousand faculty members of great intellect. According to his writings, students and teachers from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Java, Sumatra, and Surinam would come to study and teach at the center. Hieun Tsang further says that researchers were out performing each other in intelligence and knowledge and were highly knowledgeable. 

Why the place was called Nalanda has history in it. According to one fable Nalam means Lotus, and Da means ‘to give’ and if both are combined these words give the meaning ‘giver of lotus,’ and, since lotus is a symbol of knowledge, Nalanda was an ultimate giver of knowledge. The university was a residential campus and students were expected to leave their parental houses to learn higher knowledge of life and the world. 

Other than the study of Buddhism, the university was known to be a great center for learning the Vedas, Philosophy, life sciences, medicine, and natural law. Students were exposed to effective learning processes and stress was given more on learning and practice. The monks therefore took to learning so that they might practice it and realize Dhamma perfectly and thereby enrich the masses with their higher understanding of teachings of Lord Buddha............
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