I know, when it comes to travelling in Bihar, there are not many geographical diversities to explore as such. Bihar lies on Indo-Gangetic plain with an average elevation above sea level of 173 feet. We may not have sky-kissing mountains to look up to, or musical sea waves to soothe one’s soul, but we do have a soul of our own, a soul where the real rustic rural India takes breath, a soul which requires a bit of tuning-in to hear its heart beats. It is only when you find this soul, you will get to know what it means to be in the lands of Lord Buddha which was once a beacon of knowledge and wisdom in the world.
Being in Patna for Chhath, an ancient Hindu Vedic festival to worship Sun God, we decided to make a quick trip to Rajgir, which is hardy 100 kilo meters from Patna. It was a refreshing sunny morning of November with a hint of chill, when we embarked on this day-long road trip, particularly for Rajgir’s naturally-occurring hot water spring, also known as ‘Kund’. A hot spring, as you may know, is produced by the emergence of geothermally heated ground water that rises from the Earth’s crust, and is known to have medicinal benefits. Being a connoisseur of local delicacies, I was also allured by the idea of a local person making chicken curry for us in a clay pot, using the water from the Kund in Rajgir.
It took us around three hours to reach Rajgir, with a quick stopover in Silao, which is known for its excellent sweet, Khaja. Although, we did not try any Khaja here (to keep our calories count in check), we did try Bihar’s famous Litti, which is the healthiest food you can expect to get at local eateries in the morning.
Once we reached Rajgir, our first task was to procure organic (farm-bred) chicken along with all necessary ingredients to the local cook, so that they can start the preparation. Heading to the Kund, I realized that this place, was primarily for Hindus with temples around and Kunds named after Hindu Gods. The realization got deeper and the idea of living in a secular India fainter, the very moment I saw a notice prohibiting people of non-Hindu religion from visiting this Kund. Later, I came to know that there is another Kund (Makhdum Kund) in Rajgir dedicated to people of Muslim community.
If you do not mind the idea of community bathing, you may very well enjoy taking a refreshingly hot water bath in the Kund. I also saw people taking the water from Kund to their homes for drinking purposes, as it tastes very natural.
Once we completed our lunch, we headed to some of the popular tourist attractions in Rajgir, starting with Ghora Katora. To reach Ghora Katora, you need to take an e-rickshaw from the entry point, as the actual lake is around 5 kilo meters away.
This lake is characterized by a 70 feet Buddha statue made of pink sandstone in its middle, flanked by small hills on both the sides.
At the time we visited Ghora Katora, there was no well managed boating facility here, nor did we find any eateries nearby.
Our next stop was the ropeways to reach the top of a 400 meters high hill, where you can see pristine white Vishwa Shanti Stupa, also known as Peace Pagoda, built in the year 1969. This is one of the eighty peace pagodas in the world, and the oldest one in India.
By the time we decided to return, it was around sunset, which I could not capture from the ropeways.
As it was already sunset and dark, we could not get time to visit Jarasandh’s Akhara, Son Bhandar Caves, and particularly Veerayatan Museum. Veerayatan Museum is known for fifty artistic diorama handmade representations of the lives and teachings of the 24 Tirthankaras, designed by Acharya Shri Chandanaji. We also had plans to visit the historic ruins of Nalanda University on our way back to Patna, which miserably failed due to paucity of time.