Text- Sometimes all it takes is the written word to lift your soul from the humdrum of everyday life. These are the wordsmiths that can take you by the hand and induce the most austere sense of wanderlust, taking you to the edge of the world – and back, evoking the same spell of travelling with the land of sophisticated and creative civilization- BIHAR.
In recent times, many of us have witnessed Bihar being metamorphosing into an escape where guests lay into lazy rhythm of the nature. If anyone would have heard about Bihar some decades back for the first time, what they would have learnt must be about the state giving some of the most diligent IAS officers to the country.
CONNECTING WITH THE HEART OF BIHAR
Tranquility is easily found in the French Quarter, but nowhere is it as compelling as in the meditative silence around the serene vicinity of Patna Sahib.
Patna city has the unique distinction of being honored by the holy presence of the Buddha, Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur. Besides, it is also the birthplace of Sri Guru Gobind Singh.
Gurudwara Patna Sahib is one of the most important Takht. As a place that enjoyed the presence of three Sikh Gurus, Gurudwara Patna Sahib is worth visiting. This shrine is one of the most important centers for the Sikhs in eastern India. The various relics preserved here also make it very important.
The place will be bejeweled in all its glory on January 10th when hundreds of people will gather there to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Located in the town of Rajgir Nalanda is a postgraduate, research intensive, international university supported by the participating countries of the East Asia Summit. The University came into being on November 25, 2010 by a special Act of the Indian Parliament and has been designated as an “institution of national importance”.
Nalanda is inspired by the academic excellence and global vision of its historic predecessor and aspires to meet and set global standards of academic excellence and research and enable capacity building in all areas of higher learning. The University is being supported by all the Member States of the East Asia Summit and Intergovernmental Memorandums of Understanding to that effect have been signed by 17 countries.
Bihar is currently focusing on nurturing four diverse genres, namely:
The legendary spiritual enlightenment site of the Buddha under the holy Bodhi tree has become the magnetic point for human congregation ever since. The magnificent Mahabodhi temple that had been declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO is a great source of peace.
This place is considered holy among the Hindus, the Buddhists and the Jains. It is surrounded by small rocky hills (Mangla- Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni) by three sides and the river flowing on the fourth (eastern) side.
The Cradle of luminous Jain Spiritual souls lies in Bihar. Bihar is the sacred destination as the birthplace of the 12th Tirthankar “Vasupujya” and 24th Tirthankar Mahavira. Their non-violent ascetic path became very popular and become one of the prominent religions of India.
Jehanabad is mentioned in the ‘Ain-i- Akbari’, written by Mughal emperor Akbar’s court historian and poet Abul Fazl. Jahanara Aurangzeb’s sister supervised the Mandi herself and spent a lot of time at this place. Later, the area became known as Jehanabad.
BLURRED LINES OF ART
Few could have predicted the rise of Bihar as an art destination. The city always had political diversities, demographical parameters, finance community- but as a destination for art and culture? Yet, today, art lovers around the world speak of Bihar in the same way they speak of Berlin and Sao Paulo.
Art fairs emphasizing local talent may evoke images of tents filled with bad seascape paintings. But Bihar’s stone pottery and madhubani paintings eviscerates any piece of art from the nook and corners of the world.
Art and Bihar go hand in hand, the rich and prosperous history of Bihar has also promoted the music, dance, paintings and crafts throughout generations. The various folk cultures form a unique style of performance and genre which originates or have been imbibed within the regional pattern. The spiritual music of the Bhajaniayas and Kirtaniyas are quite popular during religious events of the Hindus. The classical music was also nurtured in the region with the regular exchange of artists and performers from neighboring areas of Lucknow, Benaras and Delhi.
FESTIVITIES BEGIN HERE
The beauty of the place unfolds with the larger than life picture painted with the onset of its festivals. The traditional festivals not only mark revelers but also keep alive the deeper meanings of bonding with nature which are indeed thought provoking.
With a view to develop a healthy socio-economic scenario; the Bihar Government promotes the festival spree as one of the most critical tools. It creates financial opportunities as well as rendering harmony in this multi communal society.
The major religious festivals of Bihar most of the time revolve around Nature as the deity to be worshipped. In the Chatt Puja the ‘Setting Sun’ is worshipped by all the devotees. Although Sun had been worshipped as a god by most of the civilizations the worship of the Setting Sun by the Biharis gives it a special unique feature. Celebrated twice a year in Chaitra and Kartik months of the Hindu calendar, the rituals to be performed near any water bodies make the rivers, lakes and the ponds of Bihar a colourful panorama. The Deo Sun temple is most revered amongst numerous Sun temples around rivers and tanks believed to be sacred and visited by scores of devotees. Through the passage of time, people from other religious beliefs also have started to participate in the festival giving it a true secular flavor.
A SILENT MELODY
If one wants to find real inner calm, the peaceful Buddhist region of Bihar in eastern India will definitely rebalance him/her better than any spa retreat. Lee Marshall checks into some homestays. Any elaboration of the state Bihar is incomplete without the mentioning one of its best attractions called Bodh Gaya.
It is a city in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. It is famous for being the place of Buddha’s attainment of Enlightenment.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha-to-be, had been dwelling on the banks of the Nairanjana River with five ascetic followers for six years practicing austerities. Realising that austerities could not lead to realisation he abandoned them. His five ascetic companions disgusted at his seeming failure, deserted him and left for Sarnath.
He then moved towards the village of Senani where he was offered rice milk by a Brahmin girl, Sujata. Accepting from a grass-cutter a gift of kusa grass for a mat, the Bodhisattva took a seat under a pipal tree facing east. Here he resolved not to rise again until enlightenment was attained.
For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
THE POSH SPICE
Sometimes on late afternoons, when the sunshine is mellow and warm, one ambles through the narrow, snoozing lanes where trees meet overhead where commercial establishments hum beside crumbling Bihar houses, held fast by sturdy old pillars and verandas built for weary passers-by in a more trusting age.
And then it happens. That familiar twinge of the surreal as one acknowledges that it is possible to leave behind one world and step into a starkly different one by the mere act of crossing a canal.
While the broad, sun-dappled boulevards greet the people sitting on the roof top of a serene restaurant and relishing the most authentic Khajuria ever, on the other side lined with mustard, apricot and tangerine walls with bursts of bougainvillea cascading over them; there is often a bicyclist pedaling by.
Catching glimpse of the clear blue sky and having steaming hot Litti Chokha is one feeling that is hard to be replaced by anything in the world. Beyond the stretches of the holy Ganga water, cordoned off by craggy rocks, which the river sometimes whispers to and sometimes whips, its waves crashing all over them.