For most people the first thing that probably comes to mind is backwardness, poverty, crime and of course Laloo Prasad Yadav. However what a lot of people don’t realize is that Bihar is also the cradle of Buddhism and home to a number of important Buddhist sites. It is in Kesariya that the Buddha gave away his begging bowl and Vaishali, where a group of monkeys built a tank for the Buddha and fed him honey. But Bihar is also the place where it all began, in Bodhgaya, the home of the holy Bodhi tree under which Siddhartha gained enlightenment and the Buddha was born.
Today at the site of that original Bodhi tree stands the grand Mahabodhi Tree and Temple, one of the most important pilgrimage spots for Buddhist the world over and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The first time we were in Bodhgaya was at the end of spring 2016, after a month long journey across Uttar Pradesh. Temperatures were soaring and the place was nearly empty. It was not a pleasant experience largely due to the heat. Yet such was its impact that we decided to return the following year in the winter when the town is inundated with monks in their traditional maroon robes, the sky is that special shade of blue and the temple is adorned with thousands of yellow and orange marigolds.