Friday, October 4, 2013

Come Away With Me : The Swades Moment

So it happens (cue the Shehnai background score from the movie pls!!). You can run but you cannot hide. Your roots, they unearth you and take you back to where you belong. I am proud, I really am but growing up, Bihar was an albatross around my neck. You want to be known and identified by your roots but who wants to be stereotyped? So I threw attitude when I could, avoided answering when I could but abhorred using “Main” and “Haanji” from the very core of my being. We are Biharis and our “I” is Hum and our “We” is Hum. And really, when you can’t say “Aap lijiyega” sufficing with “Aap loge” then why add a respectful “Ji” to a basic “Haan”?

I don’t want to start a regional warfare zone here but I have a husband who takes “Being Bihari” as a cause in his life and enlightening others as his responsibility. I, obviously, have to be his star student and spread the awesomeness around. I was visiting my parents and one fine day we decided to make our stay worth its while, so we drove up to discover Nalanda.

You can read the history and the story above as I hardly remember the details of what the guide said. What struck me though was the sheer beauty of the place, the stories behind the walls and how the knowledge centre, probably the greatest in this world, was reduced to being a tourist spot?

The pathways which were once bustling with students and I am, 
assuming,  some pretty ground-breaking ideas – all lost!!

The floor-plan was quite ingenious where students had dormitory style accommodation. It is assumed that it once accommodated close to 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The learning centre was a cosmopolitan melting pot of students from different cultures and nationalities, some from as far as Greece.

The Stone Beds for the Students – Tough Love??

This picture, above, shows the carnage and the burnt up state of the place, quite succinctly. The Turkish, Bakhtiyar Khilji, in his efforts to uproot Buddhism, had thousands of monks beheaded and burnt alive. The library was so vast that it was, allegedly, burning for several months. The smoke from the copper plates, on which the manuscripts were written, hung over the town ominously. The atrocities of man against man always make me shudder in disbelief. I can’t help but wonder – can’t two separate set of beliefs co-exist harmoniously without feeling threatened?
Before I get all morbid and start feeling that inexplicable sense of loss all over again, I want to move on. We drove forward to Bodh Gaya. I don’t know about the situation during peak seasons (I am sorry, I don’t even know the peak seasons), but the whole city exudes an aura of immense peace and tranquility. The temples are well-maintained and the tourists were well-behaved. The unexpected rains, though, turned out to be a bit of a spoil-sport. 

The police were super-active, owing to the recent bomb-blast scare, and the nominal 20 bucks camera charge was increased to 100. There were few repair works also in progress.

Following below is the picture of the main shrine. Sorry for the blurry image. The camera was not allowed inside, so I took it from a distance.

Next up is the very pathway that Gautam Buddha walked on. He spent his third week here, walking up and down, in meditation. A lotus design indicates the place where the Lord’s feet rested. The symbolism is pretty mind-blowing.

This is the place where Prince Siddhartha attained his full enlightenment - under this Bodhi/Peepul Tree, which btw was pretty huge to be captured in one frame – and I didn’t try. The Vajrasana or the Diamond Throne under this tree is the central place of worship.

I hope you liked what you saw and I assure you that visiting these places will certainly strike a positive chord in you. Now for the best part – the Loot!! I bought some pretty amazing local knick-knacks at throwaway prices.

This beautiful piece above and the antique kettle below, both cost a paltry sum of INR 1500/-. The black Buddha paired with the kettle is, believe it or faint, 150 bucks. Sheer love!!!

So tell me, have you ever visited Bihar? Share your story – did you ever have a Swades moment in your life? Also do you, like me, scout for local knick-knacks for your home wherever you travel? 

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