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- Vaishali – The Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre
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Vaishali – The Buddhist pilgrimage centre
Worth visiting and an important destination for Buddhists and Jains, the city of Vaishali is situated within Bihar state, India. It is located 55 kilometers from Patna, at latitude 25º, and longitude 85º.
Believed to be the first republic, and part of the Buddhist pilgrimage, Vaishali is rich in history. The city’s name is derived from king Vishal who built a now ruined fort. Delivering his final sermon here, the Buddha announced his nirvana and upon his death, the city held its second Buddhist council.
Extending through the hills of Nepal, the empire was ruled by numerous kings of the Lichchavi clan in the 6th century. The glory of the city diminished once King Ajatashatru of the Magahs, annexed the state.
Mahavira, the last Tirthankar of Jainism and the son of king Siddartha and Trishala, was born in Kundupur near Vaishali. When he turned 30 his parents died, and he renounced the world. The great Indian dancer Ambapali, made the city famous and followed the path of Buddha.
Upon first arriving, you will stumble upon Kolhua. Marking the entrance and commemorating the last sermon given by Buddha is an iron pillar and stupa, constructed by king Ashoka. Close to the pillar are the ruins of the monastery used as the Buddha’s temporary residence. There is also a tank.
If you are interested in archaeology, the museum houses many remains from different sacred sites in Vaishali. The stupa containing the Buddha’s ashes is kept near the museum as well.
Adjacent to the museum is a tank called “Abhishek Pushkarani” used by the Lichchavi clan. An excavated site called the Raja Vishal Ka Garh houses the remains of the ancient parliament house where the government of Lichchavi clan met.
A relic of the Pala period, at the northern edge of the Bawan Pokha, is the Bawan Pokhar temple, enshrining many images of Hindu gods. One of the newest additions to the site, and a joint effort between the governments of Japan and India, is the Vishwas Shanti Stupa monument.
Points of Interest
Vaishali makes up part of the Buddhist Circuit that includes Sarnath, Kushinagar and Bodhgaya. Beyond the circuit, other cities, worth exploring are Patna, Rajgir, and Bodhgaya. Madhubani is famous for its paintings and is accessible by road. Patna, the capital of Bihar and the Magadh Empire, is surrounded by other cities such as Rajgir, Nalanda, and Bodhgaya. In the city of Kundupur, you will find a plaque commemorating the birthplace of the 24th Tirthankar of the Jains.
Fairs and Festivals
In mid-April, you will find yourself at a festival of the birthday anniversary of Lord Mahariva. Also, in Sonepur, 35 kilometers outside of Vaishali, you will experience Harihar Kshetra Mela, the largest cattle fair.
Best Time to Visit
Extreme temperatures range from 45º c in the summer to winter lows reaching 6º c, making the months of October through March the best time to visit.
Where to Stay
Few people stay overnight due to limited accommodations. Stay in Patna, and begin your explorations early in the morning.
You can get to Vaishali by rail, airplane and road with the latter being the most useful. The nearest airport is in Patna, with flights available from Delhi, Calcutta, Kathmandu, Varanasi, and Lucknow. By train, Hajipur, located 35 km away is the main hub with several trains from Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai, and Varanasi. Travel by bus from Patna and other northern Bihar cities. Take a tour starting in Patna where coaches are available.