How was your experience with Bodh Gaya

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During this summer vacation, too, we planned another outing for our children that was supposed to combine further education, culture and fun. For those 53 children who have been attending our alternative school system of bridging courses since last year, this time we planned a four-day trip to Bodhgaya (literally “place of enlightenment”) in the neighboring state of Bihar. There Siddartha Gautama, who is revered as Buddha today, is said to have experienced his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree (poplar fig). From now on Bodhgaya is considered to be one of the holiest places and pilgrimage cities of Buddhism.


Guddu before departure - Parvati & Afrin during the bus trip


After a long period of preparation and even greater anticipation, the journey finally started on May 20th. When the rented large-capacity bus finally arrived at two o'clock in the afternoon with the usual delay in India, the children stormed the vehicle and could hardly wait for our home manager Rajesh Rai to offer the traditional blessings for travelers. Our bridging course teachers took over the supervision of our children and this time we even took two of our cooks with us for food. For some of our youngest children, the trip to neighboring Bihar was particularly exciting, as they had never left Varanasi or the surrounding area. The first hours passed by singing and laughing together, but by early evening at the latest the well-known question "Are we there soon?" Guesthouse arrived in Bodhgaya, most of the children were sound asleep.

A tight program was planned for the next day. After breakfast, you should first visit the Baraba Caves, 30 kilometers away, and then visit the most important temples and sights of Bodghaya after you return. But it turned out very differently than planned. The bus took two hours alone to negotiate the urban traffic chaos and a small stretch of the motorway. And with the departure from the highway, the adventurous tour began, which was plagued by minor and major mishaps. It took the fifty-five-seat bus three hours to walk a four-kilometer-long dirt road until it finally reached a bridge with a large gap in the middle. Safe for pedestrians, but unbridgeable for vehicles. Now it was time to leave the bus to have a short lunch in the shade of the trees. Our children are used to the Indian heat, but at almost 45 degrees the surprising sight of a local ice cream seller made the children burst out into cheers. The little refreshment provided the necessary cooling and encouragement to master the last two kilometers on foot.

As soon as we got to the caves, our children forgot all their troubles and could hardly cease to be amazed. Finally, the Baraba Caves are considered to be the oldest man-made caves (around 252 BC). During the tour of the seven chambers, the children asked how it was possible to carve such imposing caves into the hard rock with primitive tools alone. Our teachers explained to them that this happened under the great ruler Ashoka, so that the Buddhist monks could find a quiet place to meditate and study. Around four o'clock in the afternoon the group set out on their way back, hoping to get back to Bodhgaya faster and more comfortably with the help of another route. But on the way through a small village the bus got off the track in a curve and hit a house, so that a window was broken. Fortunately, Sangita (12) and Archna (13), who were sitting at the window, were not hurt despite the great shock. After the broken pieces were removed, the journey continued. It was now late in the afternoon and the little ones were already exhausted and just wanted to go home as soon as possible.



Group photo at and in front of the Baraba caves


But it took less than half an hour until the next mishap happened. Shortly after the bus drove through the small village of Sultanpur, its front tires got stuck in the sand and could not drive forwards or backwards. What now? A slight despair spread among the children. But soon the villagers came to the rescue. The women lovingly looked after our children and offered them food and drinks, while the men of the village first shoveled the wheels and then put wood under them in a joint effort. With the help of a tractor organized from a neighboring village, it was finally possible after three hours to pull the bus out of the sand again. In the meantime, our children had already had long conversations with the village children and made their first friends. Even though we offered the villagers money for their help, they refused to accept financial compensation. Looking back, Mohit (12) stated: “In Benares they always say that it is particularly dangerous in the rural region of Bihars and that you have to be careful of thieves and bandits. But today we saw something different. People with big hearts full of helpfulness and kindness. ”And so this adventurous day came to a happy end with the safe return to the guest house around midnight.



Shipwreck on a sandbank with a coach - waiting and hoping in Sultanpur


The children of Sultanphur are happy about the unexpected visit - "Indian ADAC"

With the intention of making up for the lost time of the previous day, our cooks started preparing breakfast at 4:30 the next morning. To their great surprise, Soni (13), Poonam (14) and Niti (12) joined them despite the lack of sleep and helped them with the preparation. Freshly strengthened, it was now time to visit the heart of Bodhgaya with its famous sights. First they visited the impressive Mahabodhi Temple, the most striking structure of which is the 54m high pyramid-shaped temple tower, which dates from the 11th century. Inside the temple there is a large gilded Buddha statue that is venerated by both Buddhists and Hindus, as many Hindus see Buddha as an incarnation of the god Vishnu.



The Bodhi Tree - Dilip, Suraj, Monicka and Mohit


Afterwards, the children visited the descendant of the Bodhi tree where, according to tradition, Buddha found its enlightenment. The children could not help but perceive the unique peaceful silence that surrounded this sacred place. Visiting the temples evoked memories of the stories in their school books in the children. Monicka (13) reported that at the Bhdodi pond, Nagar-ji, the snake goddess in the form of a huge cobra offered Buddha protection from a storm during his long and deep meditation. Our bridging course teachers always knew how to give detailed answers to the many other questions that gushed out of the children. The more than 30 meter high Buddha statue also left an unforgettable impression and invited people to take photo sessions together.


Sawan, Chandan, Suraj & Ashok - Priyanka, Isha, Mahadeo & Dilip



Sandeep (teacher) Sanjeet, Suraj & Maduranjan


After the Tibetan, Taiwanese and Japanese temples had also been admired, the journey continued to the next destination in Rajgir, a well-known small town in the mountains of Bihar, which offered a very special experience: the ride on a cable car to the highest mountain peak and viewpoint. After it was the first time for everyone to move at such lofty heights in a previously unknown means of transport, the eyes and fears among the little ones were initially large. But in the end all the children took courage and were rewarded with a wonderful view over the valleys. The trip ended with a visit to the Nalanda Multimedia Museum, where they learned a lot about Indian history and culture in an audio-visual lecture.


Anita's first gondola ride - view over the Nalanda valley


The return trip the next day, with its eight hours drive, offered enough time to work through all the unforgettable moments and stories that they had experienced in the past few days.

You can find these and other pictures of the excursion to Bodhgaya on our Facebook page.