Hidden in the outskirts of Anuradhapura, is the ancient Buddhist temple complex of Thanthirimale. Considered as one of the oldest settlements of Sri Lanka, this area is not just home to a temple complex but also acts as a window in to the glorious past, even beyond the written history of Sri Lanka.

Even though this location holds high significance both in terms of Buddhism and also the history of this island, not many are aware of its existence or whereabouts.

Getting there:- There are two well known routes to reach Thanthirimale

  1. Through Anuradhapura-Mahawilachchiya road.
  2. Through Madawachchiya- Mannar road.

Thanthirimale Rajamaha Vihara is thought to have been built in the third century BC. Following many years of neglect and countless invasions and changes in Kingdoms, it was hidden from the eye of man until the 19th century when archaeologist rediscovered this magnificent complex and the surrounding ruins.

When you enter the compound you will first come across the much modern temple and then a museum which is home to many of the artifacts that were found on site.


Once you pass the museum you will come to a wide opening with huge rock boulders and small natural ponds of many sizes scattered around the area, nature at its best.

From there onward there are five main points of interest that you should make sure to visit.

  • Ashta pala boo tree

Once you climb up a stone cut stairway you will come to the much worshiped “Ashtapala Boo tree”. Considered as one of the most important religious boo trees found in Sri Lanka, it is thought to have comes from one of the 8 saplings that grew from the original boo tree brought to Sri Lanka by Arhat Sangamitta Theri.


  • The next most important land mark would be the  Buddha statue carved in to a rock, located just off the Boo tree.


Following the great Buddha statue, the most noteworthy of  rock carvings are the two statues on ether side of the Buddha which has been only partly completed along with a half done section of the staircase. It is believed that due to a foreign invasion that happened on the Kingdom during the end of the Anuradhapura era the artist was not able to finish his masterpiece leaving it incomplete.


  • Towering the raised natural rock formation located at the end of the beautiful pond is a square shaped building which was used as the pothgula or a safe heaven for puskola poth (Religious script written on the leaf of Palmyrah).


At the base of this boulder a man made cave like structure, complete with Kataram can be found which is believed to have housed meditating monks.



  • Rock caves and prehistoric drawings


Once you pass the pothgula and walk along a trail going deep in to the forest you will come across two natural caves on whose wall you will be able to see many prehistoric drawings depicting animals, sun, moon and humans. According to the renown historian Prof. Senarath Paranawitharana these drawing may date back 4000 years.


Just across these caves you will find a few more natural ponds and a huge rock bolder which you can climb to see a 360 view of the area around.

  • The reclining Buddha stute

This Buddha state has many similarities to the world famous Polonnaruwa Buddha statue. Some parts of the statue has been damaged by time and treasure hunters



Thanthirimale temple complex has survived through invasions by Chola, Pandya and Magha dynasties and had been in ruins encroached by the jungle up till the 1960’s, when it was rediscovered and renovated to what it is today. Even thought many people are not familiar with the history and stories surrounding this masterpiece, it is one of the most important relics of the old world and should be preserved  for generations to come.

So if you do find yourself in Anuradhapura don’t forget to go off the much known touristy route and explore the wonders of this hidden historical site.

Until next time,

Safe travels




Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together” – Mark Twain

Have you ever been to a place that’s so chaotic, colorful and has so much character but at the same time there is this underling calmness to it.. A calmness that is surreal, enchanting and hard to explain.. That is Varanasi for me!

In Varanasi the sights, the smells, the sounds engage all your senses to a level where it feels magical, you easily get sucked in to falling in love with this place and all that it’s made of. It is a place where life and death goes hand in hand, a place that reminds us of the fragileness of life and also of the colorful side of life. She has the ability to bring out happiness and sadness at the same time- a perfect balance. She is the  world’s oldest inhabited city, and still is spreading her enchantment over anyone who sets foot on her soil.



Our train reached Varanasi in the middle of the night stranding us in the middle of nowhere. Ultimately we made our way to our stay for the next few days, the Sri Lankan Mahabodhi Temple in Saranath.

Saranath a small town located  13 Km away from the main town of Varanasi and is the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon “Damma chakka pawathana suthra”.

Mulaghandha Kuti Temple 

Next morning our first stop was the Saranath temple “Mulaghandha Kuti Viharaya” which is a  massive temple complex built in the recent past to signify the importance of Saranath in Buddhism.


Deer park

Just next to the Mulaghandah kuti temple is the Deer park, a wildlife conservation project under which a variety of birds and other animals are sheltered and cared for.



Dhamek stupa

Just a little distance away from the new temple is the Dhamek stupa, a massive stupa built of bricks and sand. It is  believed that this is the location where Lord Buddhas first sermon took place. The stupa is  34 meter in height and   lord Buddhas relics are thought to be enshrined inside.

Dharmarajika Stupa 

The remains of the foundation of a pre- Ashoka era stupa can be seen in the Vicinity of Dhamek stupa.


Chaukhandi Stupa

A octagonal shaped tower built to commemorate the location where lord Buddha met his first five disciples.


Ashoka pillar 

King Ashoka erected a pillar to mark the area where lord Buddha preached his first sermon.

Other than the main temple complex  there are a few more modern Buddhist temples built by different countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka.


In the evening  we made our way to the main city of Varanasi to visit the bank of river Ganga, the most popular site in Varanasi.

Even before reaching the Ghats the city turns in to this colorful mess. Shops line the roads selling food, arts, traditional crafts, and Puja flowers.


Flocks of pilgrims come from all over the world to Varanasi every day to wash off their sins in the holy water of river Ganga or to cremate loved once. Varanasi is considered as an auspicious place to die as it is said that if you die here you will reach Moksha.

A labyrinth of ghali’s starting from the city will lead you to the Dashashwamedh Ghat passing shops filled with flowers and Puja offerings. The large Ghat takes you to the river bank where you can hire a boat to take you to see the Ghats from the river.

Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the oldest and holiest ghats in Varanasi. located in close proximity to the Vishwanath temple this ghat is constantly buzzing with action. There are many legends surrounding this ghat, the most popular being that it was created by lord Brhama  to welcome lord Shiva.



Once you reach the river bank you can ether walk along the Ghats or you can hire a boat to see the Ghats clearly from the river.

There are thought to be about 80-90 ghats edging the river Ganga in Varanasi, a ghat is a set of stairs leading down to the Ganga. They are used as a site for performing Puja and also to perform cremations. In some places these happen side by side- a true example of how life and death goes hand in hand.

Each Ghat has its own history, its own story and a purpose for its existence…

Prayag Ghat



Munshi Ghat 


Ahilyabai Ghat


Darabhanga Ghat


Ranamahal Ghat


Raja Ghat


Vijayanagaram Ghat


Harishchandra Ghat

Harishchandra Ghat is one of the two cremation Ghats on the river bank. It is believed that who ever gets cremated at this ghat attains Moksha.

This Ghat is definitely not for the fainthearted !! The chances of you being there while a Hindu cremation is in progress is high. But it definitely is an experience not to be missed.



Trust me your guide/ boatman will definitely stop at one of the silk saree shops on the Ghats for you to visit. The sarees there are a bit over priced since its target customers are foreigners.

Once we were done with the boat ride we took a stroll along the Ghats and we got to meet so many interesting peoples, priests, Sadus, commoners  who have made a life on these Ghats.


Every evening a group of priests perform Agni Puja or Ganga arti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Thousands of people gather around every day to witness the puja, some standing on the ghats and some on boats on the river.

Visiting Varanasi was one of those experiences that have left me speechless (shocker!!) The things that I saw there, that I experienced there have left a mark on heart like no other. Varanasi made me grow even more closer and more deeply in love with India.

Safe travels,


A City with a History- Anuradhapura

A history buff heading to Sri Lanka? Then Anuradhapura is the place for you!

Anuradhapura is an ancient historical city located in the north central province of Sri Lanka. A UNESCO world heritage site, Anuradhapura is such a city that where ever you stand you’re bound to be standing near or even on top of an ancient ruin. It’s a city filled with well-preserved ruins bearing witness to the great ancient Sri Lankan civilization that once was.

If you ever step in to Anuradhapura you are bound to be amazed at how much there is to see. From gigantic stupas, monasteries to ruins of palaces – the standing witness of an old civilization.


Ruwanwali Maha Saya (stupa)

A gigantic stupa built by king Dutugamunu, Ruwanwali Maha Stupa is located in close proximity to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Today the stupa stands at a height of 103 met and 290 met in circumference.  Around the Stupa you will see stone statues of king Dutugamunu, Queen Viharamaha Devi (Mother of king Dutugamunu) and King Bhathika Tissa. It is said that Lord Buddha himself predicted the making of this magnificent stupa in the location that it is. Also it is common belief that the most number of Lord Buddha’s relics are enshrined here making it one of the most worshiped stupas in Sri Lanka .



Jethawanaramaya Stupa

Jethawanaramaya Stupa is the largest stupa in Sri Lanka (even the world) standing at a height of 122 meters. It was built by king Mahasen and it is believed that a part of the sash worn by lord Buddha is enshrined in this stupa.




Isurumuniya is a Buddhist temple built by King Devanappiya Tissa. The temple is mostly famous for the fine carvings that can be found at the premises. The most famous being the one of the “Lovers” and the “Man and the Horse head”.



Kuttam Pokuna (twin baths)

A set of pond located in Anuradhapura, which was built in 6th -8th century by king Aggabodhi. It is belived to be used by the monks of the Abhayagiriya monastery. One pond is larger than the other and the two ponds are connected by a underground pipeline. Water first enters in to the larger tank through the mouth of a Makara, after going through a complex filter system and then proceeds in to the smaller tank.




Mihintale is the location where the meeting between Arahanth Mahinda Thero (The Monk who introduced Theravada Buddhism to Sri Lanka) and king Devanampiyatissa happened. It is said that lord Buddha has visited this place back in the day when it was called “Missaka pabbatha”. Arahanth Mahinda cave is a cave located nearby and is the cave used by Arahanth Mahinda Thero during the rainy season. Also close by you will get to see the Kalu diya Pokuna, a black water pond.



Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

It is a sacred fig tree, the right wing branch of the original fig tree from Budhgaya under which lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It was planted in Anuradhapura in 249 BC, making it the oldest living cultivated plant in the world.





The first ever stupa built in Sri Lanka, Thuparamaya was built by King Devanampiya Tissa According to the request of Arahanth Mahinda Thero. Enshrined in this Stupa is the collarbone of Lord Buddha.



Abhayagiriya Stupa

Built by king Walagamba this stupa has the relics of lord Buddha enshrined in a figure of a bull made with pure gold.



Samadhi statue

Samadhi statue is a statue of Lord Buddha in the position of “Dhyana Mudra”, thought to be made in the 3rd or 4th century. It is said that when you look at the statue from three sides (middle, left and right) you can see 3 different facial features (Neutral, sad and happy).



Mirisawatiya Stupa

Another stupa built by kind Dutugamunu. The septa of the king containing the sacred relics of Lord Buddha is enshrined in the stupa. Carvings of the septa can be found on a pillar on one side of the stupa.



Moon stone and Guard-stone

Locally known as “Sandakada Pahana” the moon stone is a carved semicircular slab of stone placed at an entry way or at the bottom of a stair case. The carvings on it symbolizes the Buddhist cycle of “samsara”.

A well preserved “Naga Raja” guard stone can be seen at the entry way of the Rathnaprasadaya. Guard stones of Sri Lanka bear the symbols for prosperity and protection.

Lankarama stupa

Built by king Walagamba this stupa has pillar stones around it suggesting that once there might have been a Watadage (house encircling the stupa) around the stupa.


The Royal Palace of King Vijayabahu 



The remains of a massive 9 story structure that was built by king Dutugamunu. According to literature it was once 150 ft in height, had 1600 stone pillars as support and the roof was thought to be of copper- bronze plates. Today you will see the stone pillars and a small modern structure resembling the old building.




A forest aramic complex home to 23 caves having drip ledges to keep the rain water away. It was thought to have housed 500 monks. There are a few paintings in one cave but they are very much faded.




There are a few museums around Anuradhapura that’s worth a visit. Archaeological museum, Folk museum and Abhayagiriya museum are the main once.


Gal Palama (stone bridge)

The remains of a stone bridge believed to have been built in the 5-9th century.



Reservoirs of Anuradhapura  

Anuradhapura is home to one of the most complex irrigation systems of the old world. Many artificial reservoirs or “Wawa” are scattered around the city, the main water source even today. Ancient reservoirs such as Basawakkulama, Nuwara Wawa and Thissa Wawa were built by kings to collect water and serve as the main water source for the inhabitants of that area.




Anuradhapura today is a well-developed city offering all the luxury you need from restaurants to hotels. The new city is a bustling hub with modern shops and hotels.

Getting to and around

Anuradhapura is well connected to most of the major cities of Sri Lanka both by rail way and roads. As for getting around you can ether hire a car, tuk tuk or you can hire a cycle and paddle around the old city.

Tips – I have read on many blogs that many travelers were bored after visiting too many Stupas, If you think that will be the case for you just visit the main Stupas Ruwanwali Maha Saya and Jethawanaramaya and visit the other non- stupa ruins (you will get to see most of the other stupas on the road side, along the way).

Hope you enjoyed reading this rather long post and hope it will be of some use to anyone planning to go to Sri Lanka (or simply interested in reading about Sri Lanka). Feel free to comment down below and let us know what your thoughts are on Anuradhapura and what-not!

Safe travels,


A simple guide to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise island located in the Indian Ocean is world famous for Tea, Cinnamon and gorgeous beaches, but being a native  I know firsthand it has much more to offer especially in terms of travel. So this is an attempt to list ten of the major “Must do’s” in this paradise island (out of many) in the hopes of helping a fellow traveler plan better.

  1. Beaches

Starting with the most popular one, Sri Lanka being an island is surrounded with the most gorgeous tropical beaches you will ever see.

Coast line of Katharagama

Hikkaduwa, Nilaveli, Unawatuna, Mirissa and Tangalla are just a few of the major beaches located in Sri Lanka  and each beach is different from one another offering different activities for its visitors. You can just relax and get a tan on at any of the beaches, or you could go scuba diving in Trincomalee, go surfing in Nilaveli or go whale watching in Mirissa.  Whatever your beach activity preference is, Sri Lanka has got you covered.

  1. Meet the elephants

Go meet these Asian giants you have heard so much about.

Meet and greet at the Yala border

If You prefer to see them in their own habitat go to one of the many wild life sanctuaries located in Sri Lanka such as Yala National park, Wilpattuwa National Park, Wasgamuwa National Park and see them in the wilderness doing their own thing!. Or if you want to interact with them more closely, you can go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage where you can help in feeding baby elephants or give one a bath.

  1. Sigiriya

Sigiriya is a UNESCO World heritage site located a few hours away from Kandy. This rock fortress is world famous for its Lions Paw, Fresco paintings, Mirror wall and the fascinating water garden with still functioning water fountains. You can also climb up the Pidurangala mountain close by to get a better view of the Sigiriya rock and the surroundings.

  1. Kandy

Visit the second largest city in the country to see the temple of the tooth relic, stroll among exotic flora at the royal botanic gardens, feel the breeze of Kandy lake or see Kandian dancers in action.


  1. Colombo

The one true metropolitan city of Sri Lankan is home to an array of architecturally interesting buildings, shopping centers, museums and parks. Go for an evening stroll at Gall Face and indulge your taste buds in Isso wade from a roadside shop or shop till you drop in the many shopping centers located throughout Colombo that offers both local and international brands and artisan goods.

  1. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

A history buff? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Head to Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa to get a dose of history dating back to 4th century BC or before. Walk among the gigantic Stupas, Drink local herbal teas such as Belimal, Ranawara, or hire a bicycle and ride among the many archaeologically important ruins – your bound to be mesmerized by the remains of an ancient time.

Walk around the gigantic Stupas ( Note- Those are fully fledged humans at the bottom of the Stupa , so ya they are HUGE)


  1. Waterfalls

Sri Lanka is home to large number of waterfalls both big and small, the largest being Bambarakanda waterfall.  If you’re heading towards Nuwaraeliya your bound to come across a few of these mesmerizing natural wonders. Take a dip in one of them but do pay attention to the safety signs displayed.


  1. Hike

Being a country home to many different mountain terrains Sri Lanka is famous for all the different hikes you can go on, whether it’s Ella, Adams’ peak or Hantana your bound to love the path and where it leads to. Go see the sunrise at Adams’ Peak, where you will get to see the world famous triangular shadow at sunrise. This mountain is a religious place and pilgrimage season is between December and April so you can join the flocks of pilgrims climbing up during this season or go up alone during off season.

  1. Tea

If you’re a tea person (or not) Go see where the magic happens. Stroll among the Tea plantations, go to a tea factory and drink authentic Ceylon tea. If you are traveling to the hill region of Sri Lanka you will come across a lush tea plantations and factories. Some plantations have a little bit more to offer like the Sembuwatta Lake located inside the Alkaduwa plantation.



  1. Visit the Vaddas

The Vaddas are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. You can meet them, learn their life style if you visit the Dambana jungle village. Head off to Dambana to learn a few words from their indigenous language, listen to their traditional songs and watch them perform their traditional dance.


This list only has a small fraction of what Sri Lanka has to offer to its visitors. Even though Sri Lanka is a small island nation it has so much to offer to the wanderers who love to explore.

Do visit Sri Lanka to experience all of this and a lot more. And let us know in the comments below what you loved (or even didn’t like) about Sri Lanka.

Happy Travels,


Gaya and Rajgir (Gaya Adventures part 2)

Day 2

Next morning the kind-hearted monk at the Sri Lankan temple arranged us and a small flock of students also from Sri Lanka to visit a few of the archaeologically important sites located in and around Rajgir.

Rajgir is the first capital city of Magadha kingdom and is filled with ruins and locations connected to stories from both Jainism and Buddhism. A city mentioned in many religious text and stories from the times of Buddha to Mahabharata this city is filled with archaeologically important sites and temples indicating the glory of a by gone time.

The hills of Rajgir

Being a child who grew up reading stories about the life of Lord Buddha, The city of Rajgir is familiar to me at a spiritual level- a weird sense of Deja vu. Its amazing how fast your brain tries to connect the dots of a story that happened a few hundred years ago to what is there today in front of you.

The long winding roads of Rajgir is dry (Maybe because it was the peak of summer) and isolated with hardly anyone around. once in a while you will come across a woman dressed in a colorful saree with a clay pot on her heads walking alone the narrow road or a man dressed in traditional attire sitting on the road side- a glimpse in to the beautiful local culture.

First stop in Rajgir was Nalanda Mahavihar or commonly known as Nalanda University.

Nalanda ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

A large Buddhist monastery , thought to be build in the 5th century AD this magnificent structure stands as proof to the brilliance of the craftsmanship of that period.

A UNESCO world heritage site, this vast complex of building were once Shrines, Stupas, residential and educational buildings. Named as the most ancient University in the Indian subcontinent, a learning hub for many from countries as far as China this magnificent complex was destroyed in 12th century (1193 AD).





The bell at the Nalanda Museum ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

After an interesting stroll among the red brick buildings and Stupas of Nalanda and a visit to the Museum that is home to many interesting artifacts from Nalanda we headed out to see the world renown hot water springs of Rajgir.

A scorching delight to our tired bodies (even though we just dipped out feet) this hot water springs and temple complex is a  popular religious site for Hindus and is locally known as Brahmakund. The water was unbearably hot but many believe that the water has healing powers owing to its mineral content and therefor a constant stream of pilgrims and visitors are seen here at all times.

Hot springs !

Venu Vana or “Veluwanaramaya” in Buddhist religious text, is a park located in Rajgir. It was called Venu Vana because of the bamboo wall surrounding it ( Venu- bamboo, Vana- forest).  It is said that King Bimbisara selected this location as Lord Buddha’s residence because of its close proximity to Rajgir and the tranquil nature of the location. Lord Buddha spent his second, third and fourth ” Vassana” (rainy period) here.

Venu van ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

Today there is a small lake in the middle of the park and a Statue of Buddha on the bank. Also a Japanese temple has been build on site for pilgrims to visit and pray.



Bimbisara’s Prison

King Bimbisara a prominent character in the stories surrounding lord Buddha, was the crowned king of Magadha and the Father of Ajatashatru.  He was widely known as a devoted follower of Lord Buddha and a dear disciple. He dedicated the Venu Vana for the use of Lord Buddha and has done much in the nourishment of Buddhism.

In a later time Ajatashatru (the son) took the kingdom by force imprisoning his father.There are many versions in Buddhist and Jainism text narrating the story of King Bimbisaras’ imprisonment and death. It is said that the king was starved and kept in a dark cell and when this did not kill him the son ordered that his feet should be cut open and salt applied on the wounds (Gee talk about father- son bonding! )

The  ruins of the prison are still there in Rajgir, a clear stone base on which the prison might have been.

Next stop- Peace Pagoda,


                                                 ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


A small cable car ride away is the peace pagoda or the Wishwa Shanti Stupa.

Getting there ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

Built on top of a small hill overlooking the magnificent surroundings this Stupa is a recent addition to the Rajgir skyline. The pagoda is a symbol of peace and humanity similar to the other peace pagodas located world wide.

If you look  at the valley down bellow, you will see a smaller hill with a rock like formation at the summit, it is the Gijjakuta hill,  A well documented location in Buddhist script. The location were Devadatta committed an anantariya sin by  rolled a boulder towards Lord Buddha. It is said that while the boulder was falling towards lord Buddha another rock came in course sending the boulder in another direction. But a small splinter that broke at the collision damaged a toe of lord Buddha and it started bleeding.


There are a few caves near the summit of the hill and it is believed that Lord Buddha spent time here in these caves. Also Gijjakuta is where a few of the important sutras were recited by Buddha.





Son Bhandar Caves are two caves carved in to a rock located near the foot of the Vaibhar hill. The walls of the inside are polished and have a few inscriptions dating back to a few centuries ago.IMG_0039.JPG

there is a fascinating legend tied to these caves. Son Bhandar means the ” store of gold” inside the western cave wall there is a carving that resembles a door and next to it an inscription. according to local legend this is a door way leading to another cave that holds the treasury of gold and that the inscription is the password to open the door (Si-Fi!!! 😛 ).


Last stop of the day  Durgeshwari hill or “Dushkarak krya kanda”

Located close to Boudhgaya this is the place where Prince Siddharta spent 6 year practicing self mortification before enlightenment. According to Buddhist text he was determined to meditate in search of enlightenment and spent 6 years here only eating fruit and leafs that fell at hands reach. After understand that this was not the way to go about Siddharta took the “Middle way” in searching spiritual enlightenment.

The cave where once Prince sidhartha meditated is till now well preserved with a statue resembaling him during his self mortification days.



The inside of the cave is supper dark and you can hardly see anything without a flash light! but its worth it! the inside is fascinating!

Even though Rajgir is not usually on the “must visit list” of many traveling to India I highly recommend it to anyone of any faith because this city has so much to offer in terms of culture and history.

Hope this post will help you get an idea about Gaya and Rajgir and may be make you want to add it on to your must visit list 😛

Until next time,

Safe travels.

To read about Bodhgaya and our first day in Gaya  – Gaya Adventures – Part 1

Gaya Adventure –Part 1


Situated on the bank of river Niranjana (present day Lilajan river), Gaya is the second largest township in the state of Bihar and is one of the most popular tourist sites owing to its rich historical and cultural significance.  This Town is home to many major religious sites belonging to different religions and also is the stage where many mythological and historical accounts took place.

After another moderately long train ride (now moderately long for us is 10-12 hurs 😛 ) we made it to Gaya Junction, the starting point of our Gaya adventure. From there we made our way to Bodhgaya, a town located 11 km off Gaya. Our home for the next few days was the Sri Lankan Mahabodhi society pilgrims rest located just in front of the famous Mahabodhi temple complex. Many Buddhist countries have their own temples and pilgrim rests located in Bodhgaya that  offers accommodation for free or for a very cheap price.

Sri Lankan Pilgrims rest and temple

Since we being the smart-ass people that we are, we decided to visit Bodhgaya during the hottest season of the year (May-June) Phewww.. when I say hot I don’t just mean average bearable hot!! No no,, i’m talking about burning HOT!! But even that had its perks- less crowd!!. When the climate conditions are mild and bearable in this region, Bodhgaya becomes filled  with people from many different countries and for me its quite overwhelming!! ( been there, done that.. and it was just too overwhelming for me!! ).

Don’t get me wrong there were quite a few visitors even with this scorching sun but in comparison to what I saw during my first visit this time the crowd was nothing.

Bodhgaya is without a doubt the most popular pilgrimage site for Buddhist all around the world closely followed by Sarnath, Lumbini and Kushinagar in India.

home to the location where Buddha found enlightenment this city is full of history, culture and stories waiting to be heard. ..

Once settled in we decided to venture out in search of something  good to eat ( we have our priorities straight !! 😛 ) and we found that just opposite the Mahabodhi temple complex  entrance is an array of roadside shops serving mouth watering Indian food. And if you care for a horse carriage ride you can easily find one here around!


If you’re a Indian Chai lover I swear the best of the best Masala chai can be found under a tree in front of the Sri Lankan pilgrims rest and temple.. !!

Chai under the tree!


An evening stroll along the pathway leading to the Mahabodhi temple complex is bliss on its own (again less crowd the better!!). filled  with small road side shops that sell trinkets and religious offerings, prayer flags criss crossing the roof of the pathway dancing in the wind, pilgrims  in white slowly making their way to the temple- this pathway is a small window in to the culture surrounding Bodhgaya.

Entrance to the Mahabodhi Temple Complex ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)
Religious offerings
Fashion lovers paradise – ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


Seeing the temple rising between the trees in the distance is a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s the place where Buddha found enlightenment, a place where a religion, a philosophy was born!! Can’t help but wonder how it might have been back then ! What might have been what is now the pathway, the shops and the temples?

The main temple ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

The main temple stands in the middle of the garden like a giant surrounded by dozens of smaller temples, stupas and buildings! Its size and intricate detailing mesmerizes you and takes your breath away.

The sight of saffron clad monks meditating and pilgrims praying so deeply transports you to this state of calm that only a few places can offer you.

DSC03113 (2).JPG

The main temple has a small prayer room in the middle, home to a magnificent Buddha statue ! worshiped by many this statue stands tall making us feel like we are in the presence of Buddha himself.

( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)



But the real attraction is located just behind the temple structure. The Bodhi tree and Vajrasana- The place of enlightenment!

The Bodhi tree ( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


The large Bodhi tree is surrounded by a gold railing for protection and the side walls are filled with thousands of prayer flags that were hung by devotees belonging to many countries.

Apart form the main temple and Bodhi tree the complex is filled with smaller temples and Stupas scattered in a wide area. I see many tourists walking amidst the temple complex, the small and big stupas and building but many really don’t know what those monuments represent. Each has a meaning that not many know about.


There are seven religiously important points located in this vast temple complex each representing the first 7 weeks that lord Buddha spent here.

Week one

During the course of week one after enlightenment lord Buddha is said to have sat under the Bodhi tree experiencing the happiness of freedom and peaces.

Week two

Animisalochana pooja– showing gratitude to the Bodhi tree that sheltered him during the course of attaining enlightenment by gazing at the tree in a state of meditation without moving his eyes away form the tree.

This is thought to be the root of the tradition of paying respect to Bodhi trees by many Buddhist today, both the original Bodhi tree and it’s daughter trees that are located in many other countries .

This is represented by the smaller, similar temple build on top of a small hill located on the right side as soon as you enter the complex. The view of the whole temple complex from this point is breathtaking!!



Week three

Pacing the golden bridge- Lord Buddha after sensing through his minds eye that the gods did not believe that he attained Enlightenment built a golden bridge with his minds power and paced up and down for a week.

A line of stone lotus flowers are used to represent this week and it is located along the right side face of the main temple.



Week four

Lord Buddha spent week four in the Rathnagara or the jeweled chamber created by him and meditated on what is known as the Abhidarmaya.

This is what is represented by a small chamber like structure that can be found amidst the ruins on the right side of the main temple.



Week five

Meditating under the Ajapala banyan tree.

It is said that during this time Tanha, Rathi and Ranga-three beautiful girls came and danced in hope of distracting lord Buddha from his meditation. Once all hope was destroyed by Lord Buddhas focus on meditation the tree girls left unsuccessful.


Week six

On week six Lord Buddha was meditating deeply while heavy rains broke and a huge king cobra (Muchalinda nagarajaya) wrapped him self around Lord Buddha and kept his hood over Buddha to protect him from the cold and rain.

A representation of this can be seen in the middle of a small lake located on the left side of the complex.

( Image- Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

Week seven

The last week was spent in meditation under the Rajayatana banyan tree where two merchants Tapassu and Balluka came to Lord Buddha and become the first followers of Buddhism.


During our stay we came back to the temple complex twice and I must say how ever much time you wander among the ruins you will not get bored, or tired and every time you will stumble across something new and interesting!!

Getting to visit a Place like Bodhgaya is definitely a blessing. Walking among all these monuments gives you this weird sense of calm that for someone chaotic like me is rare!!.

Visiting the Mahabodhi Temple Complex was definitely the highlight of my Gaya adventure followed by more exiting places and things to do in and around Gaya.

Stay tune for the next article where we go out and explore the lesser known archaeologically important sites in the outskirts of Gaya!

Till then,

Safe travels,



Darjeeling- Queen of the hills!


A colorful city nested in the Himalayan foothills, Darjeeling is by far one of the most scenic cities that I have ever been to. Surrounded by snow-capped giants and lush greenery this town is the place I first fell in love with the Himalayas.

First time I went to Darjeeling was in 2005 with my family and it was love at first sight!! I was so smitten by her charm that she tempts me to come back again and again. Even if my first and second visits to Darjeeling were nearly a decade apart something’s in this town will never change. The smiling friendly faces, lush greenery and scenic mountains, colorful monasteries that will give you an insight in to a rich history and culture are just a few things that remain constant. This hill station and the surroundings have always reminded me of a  scene right out of a fairy tale!!.

We left the bustling streets of Kolkata to make our way to Darjeeling and ended up taking a train to Jalpaiguri- the starting point to Darjeeling for many.

Jalpaiguri station (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)
Jalpaiguri station (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


Once u get down from Jalpaiguri station make your way outside where you will see an array of jeeps, vans and cars waiting to take you to hilly Darjeeling. Make your choice wisely after inquiring in as many counters as you can. Take your time weigh your options and bargain a bit 😉

The route to Darjeeling is as breathtaking as the city itself !  Lush greenery, sea of tea plantations, mountains looming up from behind one  another, Kanchenjunga playing peek-a-boo, road-side houses that gives you an insight as to what life is in these parts of the Himalayan foot hills, are just a few things that make taking this bumpy road worthwhile.

Road to Darjeeling

A sudden increase in the number of homes and road-side shops will indicate that you have reached the city limits of this enchanting city. A cloud of houses covering the hill side, monasteries looming from in between the hills, The mystic weather, clean air, the mountains in the backdrop! Oh how I miss Darjeeling!

Cloud of homes!



Welcome to Darjeeling! (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

Searching for our hotel amid the busy streets was not an easy task, after going through so many back roads and up a small hill we found our hotel, A modest hotel tucked away in a back ally of Darjeeling- bliss!!. (the paved path leading up to our hotel was so steep that you practically have to climb it with both you hands and feet!! I wish I had a picture!)

Once settled in we made our way to Mall Street the center of the city . A narrow road leading up a small hill jam packed with street side shops, hotels and tourists- Mall street has a charm of its own.


Once you get to the center you come in to a small open space where you can ether sit and enjoy the surroundings or go on a pony ride! Other than that there are many art galleries filled with artsy things and antiques belonging to many cultures making it a Paradise for antique collectors.

Center of Mall
My dear Pony ! 😛

DSC02737 (2).JPG


A short walking distance away from mall street is the Shrubbery Nightingale Park. The path leading to it starts from the center of Mall road and winds around hills taking you away from the chaos of the city center. Its peaceful out here.. just you and the surroundings with a few buildings here and there.

On the way to Nightingale park you will pass a few interesting landmarks such as the St.Andrews church.

St. Andrews Church (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

The path leading to the park is ideal for a cold evening stroll. A calm quite place to walk around and experience the breath taking views of the surrounding mountains.

The park itself is quite amazing with the flower gardens, Large Lord Shiva statue and the mountain view. Also the park houses a wide open space in the middle which hosts a few cultural dance performances per day -make it in time and it’s an added bonus!!

Shrubbery Nightingale Park (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)
Cultural Dance
Statue of Lord Shiva (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

The next morning was an early start for us since we were planning to head out to Tiger hill, the best view point of Kanchenjunga (According to me that is!) If you are planning to go to Tiger hill best start early morning to catch the sun rise- best part of the day. Start REALLY early if you want to find a nice view point. Pre book a cab and take warm cloths because its COLD up there that early!!

Once you get to the view point you can ether go to the observation Deck or opt to just stand on a cliff outside. I prefer the outdoors. Yes its freaking cold and yes the wait is looooongg but its one of those experienced that you have to suffer through to get to the best part. Bundled up in the cold sipping hot masala chai while waiting for the mist to part and the sun to rise is a memory that you will always cherish.

The deal with Tiger hill is that your fate lies in the hands of mother nature. If she doesn’t want to show you her colors she won’t! Out of the two times that I have been to Tiger hill only once I got to see the sun rise. The other time I just stared eagerly in to deep mist like a total idiot for hurs (from 4am till 6 am ish)!!. The wait was long but no sun!! no Kanchenjunga! nothing !! just a hint of color and a wall of fog that i’m sure you can cut with a knife!!. Don’t get me wrong it was not a BAD experience. Yes I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the sun rise and the glamour surrounding it but just standing there experiencing everything that was going around me was a memory of its own.

Wall of Mist
The sun Playing Peek-a-boo (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

The first time I went to Tiger hill it was the same drill- early morning, freezing cold, masala chai and a flock of humans! Only difference- we got to see the sun rise properly and also got to see Kanchenjunga bathed in the colors of the sun! its one of the most amazing sun rise i have ever seen.

The sun slowly coming up in the horizon and spreading its color on to the mountains, and at the same-time stars still glistering in the mild light. Breathtaking!!!! ( sadly this was pre-need to take all the picture in the world era of my life ;( )

While coming back from Tiger hill make sure to stop at the Dail monastery because early mornings are the best time to visit since the monks perform prayers during the early morning hours and in the evening.

Dali Monastery

The Dali monastery nested on the side of the road serves as the entry way in  to the heart of Darjeeling. Situated 4-5 km away from the center of the city, Druk Sa-Ngag Choeling Monastery or commonly known as Dali monastery is one of the biggest monasteries in Darjeeling. the vast colorful structure is build in the traditional Tibetan style and the walls are filled with paintings that depict the life and teachings of lord Buddha.


                                                        (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

Prayer wheels (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


Pagodas (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


Listening to the chanting of prayers by about 200 monks at the same-time is sure to give you goose bumps and leave you speechless!


Other than the Dali monastery Darjeeling is home to many splendid monasteries that are definitely worth exploring. Do visit to a few to get an insight in to the Tibetan culture and Mahayana Buddhism.

Our next stop was the Peace Pagoda which is about 15 min drive from the city center. On the same premises of the Peace Pagoda is a Japanese temple that you can visit and learn about the traditional ways of the Japanese Buddhist. You can also join in a prayer session and be enchanted by the prayers and the drum beats!

Peace Pagoda
The Japanese Temple (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)

After visiting the temple you can climb your way up to the Peace Pagoda, a symbol of harmony and peace!

If you take a stroll around the pagoda you will get to see carvings depicting the life of lord Buddha on the sides. and if your lucky (unlike me 😦 ) and visit the pagoda on a clear sky day you will get to see a clear breathtaking view of  the mountain range around Darjeeling.


                                                         (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)



Next stop- The Rock garden, situated just outside Darjeeling this is a recently added attraction to Darjeeling. The road leading to this garden is very steep with many hairpin bends. Despite the fact that the road is a bit difficult and scary the scenery offered of the beautiful landscape is worth the ride.


The Rock garden is built around a waterfall, based on rocks cut at different heights and is filled with flowering plants and trees. A staircase is built along the waterfall to climb up and on your way up you will cross small beautiful bridges.  Even though the bad weather was a Debby-downer for us in other places it was surely a treat here!! walking around the garden in a slight drizzle was pretty awesome ! and also the waterfall was in full bloom !


Rock Garden (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)



While your in Darjeeling why not do something to pump up your adrenaline!!. Best option- Rock climbing!! There are many stations located throughout Darjeeling that offers rock climbing and on our way back from the rock garden we made a stop at the Tenzin Rock HMI a small yet fairly challenging climbing face (Nop its no Himalayas but still!).

(Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)
Some start young 🙂 (Image – Vishvathika Nadarajasharma)


One thing I regret not doing or rather I couldn’t do was taking a ride on the Toy train! During the time we visited Darjeeling the toy train was not functioning properly due to landslides. It was just doing a few small rounds to locations nearby!

Baby train tracks
Toy Train


The War memorial located on the Batasia loop is a monument built to remember the Gorkha soldiers of Darjeeling. Here you can get a clear view of the surrounding mountains and also you can use  binoculars that are available to view the mountains and  the China border (at least that’s what the people there said!) A fun thing to do here- you can dress in traditional attire and pose for a picture.

As our last stop in Darjeeling we made our way to the world famous and recognized Darjeeling Zoo. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological park is home to a array of wildlife ranging from high altitude Himalayan animals to highly endangered species. The roadway leading up to the entrance is lined with shops filled with small traditional colorful trinkets and food ( Ideal for shopping! ).

Once you enter the zoo you will be amazed to see the number of different species who live here, some of which you only get to see on Discovery channel. Red pandas are without a doubt the highlight of the zoo since they are highly endangered!

Also you can visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute just located next to the zoo to learn about Mountaineering in the Himalayas and the history surrounding it .


Darjeeling is a city that has so much to offer to its visitors! There is so much to do and see in this small hill station if you dare to wonder around!I highly recommend Darjeeling to anyone heading to India and I can’t wait to go back again !!

So hey,  I hope you enjoyed reading the longest blog post in my (short) blogging life and please feel free to share your thought about Darjeeling and what-not !!

Until next time,

Safe travels!