India, officially the Republic of India, is situated in South Asia and is the world’s seventh largest country. The country’s population exceeds one billion and the local dialects number as much as more than 200. The history of India dates back to a very long time ago, thus leaving the country with precious historic culture, architecture, and Buddhist-related relics.
Thai Smile Airways proudly launches new routes from Bangkok to four major cities (Gaya, Lucknow, Jaipur, Varanasi) that hold precious cultural importance and boast beautiful scenery. Journey through Thai Smile’s recommended destinations where you can soak in the amazing culture of India.
“Bodh Gaya” is one of the four most important religious sites for Buddhists as it is the location where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. This important site for Buddhists worldwide is situated to the west of Neranjana River, 350 meters from the river’s bank (calculated from the Animisalocana cetiya or the shrine which was built under the Bodhi tree where the Buddha attained Enlightenment). A landmark of Bodh Gaya is the diamond throne shrine with a canopy supported by the four pillars of the Maha Bodhi Temple. There are a variety of international Buddhist temples around Bodh Gaya, including the Thai Bodh Gaya Temple.
The “Sri Maha Bodhi Tree” spans the area above the Animisalocana cetiya shrine. This tree is one of the two shoots from the third Sri Maha Bodhi Tree that died and has vast importance for Buddhists because the Buddha stood where the tree currently stands to view the original Bodhi tree where he attained Enlightenment. The tree is over a hundred years old (it was planted at around 1880).
Bodh Gaya – Rajgir
The gentle incline of the “Gridhra-kuta Hill” makes it easily accessible. The area close to the peak is where the monk Devadatta threw a large rock onto the Buddha while he was hiking up to his retreat on the mountaintop, hoping to kill him, but the rock broke off splinters which hit the Buddha’s foot, causing bleeding which was later healed by his personal physician Jivaka Kumar Baccha, the father of Ayurveda medicine.
The “Black Buddha Statue” is carved out of granite and escaped destruction by Islam extremists in the 18th century in their quest to root out Buddhism, kill Buddhist monks, and burn down Nalanda University, the world’s first Buddhist monastery. Legend has it that there have been efforts to relocate the Black Buddha Statue to other sites but they were never successful so the statue remained in its current location.
Bodh Gaya – Varanasi
Visit “Varanasi” on the bank of the Ganges River to view the livelihoods of those living on the river bank and embark on a boat ride up the Ganges, a river held sacred by Hindus they believed that it originated from Mount Kailash in heaven (geographically this river originated from the Himalayas on the Tibet Plain). Have a look at the bathing ritual to cleanse the soul of the Hindus on the banks of the Ganges and their cremation ceremony that dates back to 4,000 years on the funeral pyre whose fire never goes out.
Varanasi – Kushinagar
“Dhamek Stupa” in Sarnath is the spot where the Buddha gave the first sermon to his five disciples after attaining Enlightenment, revealing his Eightfold Path leading to Nirvana. View the Mulagandhakuti, where the Buddha resided; the Ashoka Pillar; the ruins of the hundreds of dwellings of the Buddha’s disciples; as well as the stupa which marked where the Buddha met his disciples before attaining Enlightenment.
Kushinagar – Lumbini (Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal)
The Sala Forest, located in Kushinagar, is one of the four Holy places of Buddhism and is one of the two major towns of the Malla Kingdom, the other of which is Pava and is located on the opposite bank of the river. The Buddha attained Parinirvana upon his passing at the Sala Forest, which is also the site of his cremation. This area became known as the village of the Prince’s passing.
Lumbini – Shravasti
View the birthplace of the Buddha, as well as Mayadevi Temple, and Ashoka’s Pillar that is 22 feet and 4 inches high. The pillar has a Brahmin inscription that this is the birthplace of the Buddha and was visited by King Ashoka in the 20th year of his reign (around the 13th century).
Shravasti – Varanasi
What remains of the miracle stupa in Shravasti is just a mound of dirt that is clearly visible and is located about 2.5 kilometers from Jetavana Vihara, between Pubbarama and Shravasti. This is believed to be the place where the Buddha performed a miracle.
The “Sarnath Museum” houses one of the earliest Buddha images found in the area, as well as the famous original sandstone-sculpted Lion Capital of Ashoka, which has been adopted as the national emblem of India. It also showcases other statues discovered in the area and statues of various Hindu deities.
The recently-built “Akshardham Temple” is a Hindu temple built out of white and pink marble, giving it a stunning façade. However, entry is strict with all cameras, electronic devices, paper, pens, etc. not allowed on the premises. The temple is also known as Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham and is considered the world’s largest Hindu temple.
“Qutab Minar” is the tallest brick minaret in the world and the second highest minar in India. It is a landmark of Delhi at five stories and a height of 238 feet. The building was made of red sandstone and marble and bricks covered with intricate iron carvings and verses from the Koran. The higher stories were added later on.
The “Taj Mahal,” the world-famous symbol of forever love, was built from white marble and the breathtaking architecture made it recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at childbirth in 1631. Construction took place over a 22-year period, using 22,000 laborers and designs by world-class artisans of the time. No expense was spared to decorate the mausoleum with jewels and colored stones, which stand out against the backdrop of white marble. Upon his death, the body of Shah Jahan was placed next to his favorite wife in the Taj Mahal where they forever remained together.
The “Agra Fort” was built from red sandstone on the banks of the Yamuna River by Emperor Akbar in 1565 and added on by later kings until his grandson Shah Jahan turned it into a palace. The structure boasts a wall higher than 20 meters and 2.5 kilometers in length. So many additional buildings were constructed within the wall that the fort turned into a small town. What you will get to see upon visiting the Agra Fort is the Hall of Private Audiences which was used to welcome guests and diplomats. The famous Peacock Throne, now in Tehran, Iran, had its origins here. The fort also houses the Mausamman Burj, the octagon-shaped tower used to imprison Shah Jahan for seven years until his death.
Agra – Jayapura
“Fatehpur Sikri” was established by Mughal Emperor Akbar, one of India’s greatest ruler who has four queens. The city was originally named Fatehabad, which means the city of victory, to celebrate Akbar’s victory in the South Indian War but was later changed to Fatehpur. The buildings are constructed from red sandstone and situated atop a hill near the village of Sikri. Construction took over nine years to be completed and it remains one of the best-preserved examples of Mughal architecture.
“Amber Fort” was first commissioned by Raja Man Singh in 1592 and completed during the reign of Raja Jai Singh. Situated atop a hill, the fort is a landmark of Rajput architecture. The cliff where the fort stands overlooks a lake, which mirrors the reflection of the fort, creating a stunning scenery. Touring the fort is a special occasion because you will be treated to a trip on the back of an elegantly-decked out elephant, with music serenading you like a maharaja. From the balcony on the top storey, you can see the magnificent view of the lake below.
The “Hawa Mahal” or the Palace of Winds was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in the style of Rajput architecture. Constructed of red and pink sandstone, the palace has as much as 953 windows to allow the women of the royal household to observe street festivals while remaining unseen from the outside. The structure is considered a landmark of Jayapura.
Jayapura – Jodhpur
The classic “Clock Tower” is located in a busy commercial section of the city. At night colored lights are turned on around the clock tower, giving it a different look. Here is a good spot to sit and watch the lifestyle of the people of Jodhpur.
The “Jaswant Thada Cenotaph” is just about a kilometer away from the Merangarh Fort. This cenotaph was built in 1899 in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, four years after his death. He was a much beloved ruler and was well-respected for his initiatives in irrigation. Jaswant Thada was built from marble with intricate carvings around the doors and pillars. The interior boasts a beautifully-landscaped garden that must not be missed.
“Umaid Bhavan Palace” is located on Palace Road and is four kilometers southwest of Jodhpur. It was built in 1929 and is considered a modern-style palace. Today, a part of it has been turned into a museum. This was the last palace constructed before India gained independence from Britain, during the reign of Maharaja Umaid Singh. Construction took over 15 years and as much as 3,000 laborers were used.
Jodhpur - Udaipur
“Mehrangarh Fort” is one of the most historic and magnificent forts in India and houses one of the four largest and most stunning palaces of the country. This is considered the best location to take in the view of the “Blue City,” another nickname for Jodhpur. The fort itself is built in 1459 on a hill at an elevation of 122 meters, making it stand out from afar. Buildings were decorated with colorful glass, giving it a most stunning vista. The palace has a large number of receiving halls such as the Moti Mahal, the Sheesh Mahal, and the Phool Mahal, and a section has been converted into a museum that is beautifully decorated.
A visit to Jodhpur will not be complete without a boat ride along the “Pichola Lake” which is likened to an oasis for this desert city. Take in the scenery around the lake which has two islands called Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Jag Niwas is the location of the Lake Palace, commissioned by Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1743 as a summer palace. It has been converted into a five-star hotel.
Udaipur – Mumbai
“Sajjan Garh Palace” is the rainy season retreat for the maharana of Udaipur. It is situated atop a hill, about three kilometers north of Udaipur. This palace was built as a residence for the maharana when out hunting and is currently a most perfect place to view the sunset over City Palace and Pichola Lake.
Mumbai – Aurangabad
The “Gateway of India” was built from honey-colored sandstone and is a landmark of the Arabian Sea, as well as the city of Mumbai. This memorial was built in 1911 to commemorate the first visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary to participate in the Delhi Durbar. The last British troops to leave India following the country’s independence passed through the Gateway on their way out, marking the end of British rule.
“Elephanta Cave” or Gharapuri is a network of caves with rock-cut stone sculptures and the name is derived from a huge elephant sculpture. Tour the interior that was excavated since the 7th and 8th centuries and pay respect to the Trimurti sculpture of Shiva as a builder, protector, and destroyer. These caves were designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Aurangabad – Ajanta Caves
The “Ajanta Caves” were excavated out of the Sahyadri mountain range from molten lava that formed after a volcano eruption. The 29 caves and one unfinished one dated from the second century BCE to about 650 AD. The paintings and rock sculptures within the caves are a mixture of Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism.
Aurangabad – Ellora Caves – Mumbai
The “Ellora Caves” are 30 kilometers away from Aurangabad, and the paintings and sculptures within the caves are mainly carvings, which are different from those found within the Ajanta Caves. The Ellora Caves were completed after the Ajanta Caves or during the period when Buddhism faded in importance and Hinduism made its return to India. Of the total of 34 caves which are two kilometers in length, 12 are caves about Buddhism, 17 about Hinduism, and five about Jainism.
For those of you interested in visiting India but not well versed on traveling around the country, you’re advised to go as a group with a guide who can give you accurate information on the culture, history, and current affairs so you can learn about the country while taking in the view and scenery.
For more information, please contact:
Condidence Travel Service Co., Ltd.
Tel: 02-668-4259-62, 02-243-3069, 02-243-5569
Website: www.1confidence.com, www.indialuxuryrail.com