For any believer, India is the ultimate destination to retrace the enlightened path of the Buddha. The journey from Rajgir, to Bodhgaya, Sarnath and on to Varanasi is an extremely inspiring pilgrimage for Buddhists the world over. The eight events repeatedly represented in Buddhist art are associated with Lumbini, Buddha's birth place; in Bodhgaya he attained enlightenment; Sarnath witnessed his first sermon; Rajgir is known to be the place he displayed his miracles; he finally ascended to heaven from Kushinagar.
DAY 1: DELHI - PATNA
Depart from Delhi by flight to the 2500-year-old ancient city of Patna. Transfer to the hotel. In the afternoon visit to Vaishali, where Buddha preached his last sermon and announced his approach to Nirvana. Visit the stupa, which contains the ashes of the Buddha, and the Ashoka pillar which was erected by Mauryan emperor Ashoka to mark the place sanctified by the Buddha. Vaishali is also famous for the Madhubani paintings which adorn the walls of village houses. Overnight in Patna.
DAY 2: PATNA - RAJGIR
In the morning, drive to Rajgir (2 hrs), capital of the 6th century Magadha empire. It is a revered site because of the religious discourses Buddha held in the many years the Buddha spent here. Visit the Gridhrakuta, Saptaparni Cave, Ajatasatru fort and Venuvana. In the afternoon, visit Nalanda, the world's oldest university founded in the fifth century. Visit the monasteries and temples around which contain fascinating Buddhist and Hindu images. Also, visit the Institute for Research in Buddhism and Pali Literature which houses rare manuscripts and visit the archeological museum. Overnight in Rajgir.
DAY 3: RAJGIR - BODHGAYA
Early in the morning drive to Bodhgaya. En route, visit the Borobar caves which display the earliest examples of rock cut sanctuaries. The craftsmanship is truly impressive. The caves served as a location for the film version of EM Forster's A Passage to India. Arrive in Bodhgaya in the evening; check-in to the hotel. Overnight in Bodhgaya.
DAY 4: BODHGAYA
Take an inspiring tour of this holiest of Buddhist pilgrimage centres, known to be the land where Buddha attained enlightenment. Visit the Stahabodhi temple, a couple of Japanese and Tibetan monasteries, the Magadha University and museum. Overnight in Bodhgaya.
DAY 5: BODHGAYA - VARANASI
Early morning depart for Varanasi (a train from Gaya is an option). Arrive by lunch time and check into a hotel. The afternoon is reserved for visiting the ghats and temples. In the evening, enjoy a boat cruise on the Ganges. Overnight in Varanasi.
DAY 6: VARANASI - SARNATH - KUSHINAGAR - GORAKHPUR
In the morning set out for Sarnath, 10 kms away. The principal centre of Buddhism, it was here around 530 BC that Buddha preached his first sermon after gaining enlightenment. Visit the Dhamekh and Dharmorajika stupas and the Buddhist shrines. In the afternoon, drive to Kushinagar, the place where the Buddha passed into parinirvan. Overnight in Gorakhpur.
DAY 7: GORAKHPUR - BALRAMPUR
Visit Sravasti and some Buddhist shrines. Overnight in Balrampur.
DAY 8: BALRAMPUR - LUCKNOW - DELHI
In the morning, drive down to Lucknow (150 kms) to board your flight to Delhi.