BUDDHIST TRAVEL FEATURES
Nepal: Patan - Buddhist City In A Hindu Kingdom
Nepal was the world’s only Hindu kingdom until it was declared a secular republic in 2008. But, the historic Patan area – which is literally the center of the Kathmandu Valley – is dotted with Buddhist temples and small stupas in every street corner. Locals say that some of the ancient temples here go back to the time of Emperor Ashoka’s Buddhist kingdom in 3rd century BCE.
Ajanta Caves - India: Perfect Specimen of Buddhist Mural Art
The caves of Ajanta is a nature masterpiece by itself. About 30 in number, the caves are in a semi-circular scarp of a steep rock mountain and in this UNESCO World heritage listed site are the murals that adorn the walls of most of the caves as well as various rock carved stupas and Buddha statues and other scuptures, inside and outside the caves.
Laos – A Special Communist Country
By Li Na
At the end of September, I did a small tour of Laos for a few days. Although the skimming, but I got some fresh, novel impression. Coming from China it was interesting to see the similarities and the not so similar images of a “Communist” country.
Japan: Kamakura – A Journey Back Into History
Kamakura is a historic city about 50 km south-west of Tokyo and reachable by train in less than an hour on Japanese railway’s Yokosuka line. It is a nicely laid out “museum” city and walking along the streets, you would feel like you have stepped back in time during the samurai era. It is a city rich in history and culture, which is preserved to this very day in the city’s shrines and temples, unfortunately most of these temples do not seem to be functioning Buddhist institutions, which is a sad reflection on Japanese youth of today who don’t seem to appreciate the richness and practicability of their Buddhist culture and heritage.
Bangkok – Thailand: Wat Pho – More Than Just A Temple
The temple of the huge reclining Buddha known as Wat Pho is one of the most well-known and popular cultural icons of Thailand. The lacquered and gilded image made with brick and stucco is 46 meters in length and 15 meters in height, with the feet 5 meters long and 4 meters in width. The patterns crafted on the soles of the Buddha is believed to contain auspicious signs that were found by Brahamins in Prince Sidartha’s soles five days after his birth. Millions of people visit Wat Pho every year, many believing that worshipping here bring them peace and happiness. Many foreign tourists in particular come here to have an authentic Thai massage perhaps wondering what has Buddhism got to do with massage?
India: Sanchi – A Popular Buddhist Pilgrim Site
Sanchi located about 45 km from the north-central Indian city of Bhopal is not directly related with the life of Gauthama Buddha, but it is a popular Buddhist pilgrim site that attracts over 100,000 visitors a year. The reason is that it hosts one of the most well-preserved Buddhist stupas in India whose history goes back to the 3rd century BCE.
Sri Lanka: Kandy Esala Perahera Maintains Its Traditions Amidst Modernisation
The Kandy Esala Perahera a colourful nightly procession of dancers, drummers, whip-crackers, fire-dancers and gaily decorated elephants which winds along the streets of the ancient hill capitol of Kandy over ten days during the Esala full moon (in July or Ausgust) is world renowned for its grandeur and colour. Yet, perhaps less well known are the age old traditions which underlies this cultural pageant and how the Sri Lankans are balancing the demands of modernisation and the need to preserve its traditions.
Laos: Making Merit For The Departed
Laos is a devoutly Buddhist country – even though it is theoretically ruled by a communist government – where many festivals are held throughout the year to make merit for oneself and your departed relatives. Boun Khao Padap Din festival is one of them held in the middle of the rainy season – usually on the 10th full moon of the lunar calendar. Over 2 days Buddhist devotees flock to the wats (temples) carrying silver trays of offerings for monks and deceased ancestors.
Indonesia: Candi Portibi – A Relic of Sumatra’s Buddhist Heritage
The great Srivijaya empire was a maritime and trading kingdom that flourished between 7th and 13th centuries spanning much of Java and Sumatra islands. It controlled the trading routes of the Straits of Malacca and established communities not only on the coastal belts but also rivers that fed into the sea. Being in the middle of the pilgrim routes between India and China, Srivijaya empire became a transit point for Buddhist pilgrims and hence developed a strong Buddhist civilization.
Portibi situated on one of these river driven trading routes in Northern Sumatra was a major trading centre, especially in the 11th to 13th century CE. Many Buddhist temples and stupas traced back to this era have been restored since Indonesia gained independence from Dutch rule. These are now protected by law as heritage sites.
India: Bodhgaya – Sacred Bo-Tree Attracts Millions Of Pilgrims
In the heart of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, and 15 km from the town of Gaya stands the peepul (or bodhi) tree under which, Prince Siddartha sat in meditation and achieved enlightenment at the age of 35, over 2500 years ago. This place is today known as Bodhgaya or Bodhigaya. In the ancient days it was known as Uruvilva or Uruvela.
Taiwan: Living Tradition Reflected In Taipei Temples
The Han Chinese who have begun to settle in the island of Taiwan since the 17th century have brought with them Chinese traditional religious beliefs such as Confucius, Taoist and Buddhist from mainland China. Since the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949 and Chairman Mao’s repression of traditional religious practices, especially during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, it is in Taiwan that traditional Chinese religious practices have flourished.
Lumbini-Nepal: Buddha's Birthplace Gearing Up For Tourism
Tens of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from Asian countries, especially Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar, visit the Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini each to pay homage to its teacher - now the Nepali government wants to attract larger numbers - even none Buddhists - for a tourism experience with a Buddhist flavour.
Thailand-Chiang Rai: “White Temple” – An Attempt To Create A 21st Century Thai Buddhist Architecture
Chiang Rai is the northernmost city in Thailand just a few kilometers from the Myanmar border. The area has its own unique culture known as Lana culture with its spicy cuisines and golden roofed temple architecture.
Wat Rong Khun in the outskirts of the city known as “White Temple” to tourists stands out with its unique architecture. It reminded me of the white marbled ‘monument of love’ – the Taj Mahal in Agra , India.
Thailand – Bangkok: Erawan Shrine – Worshipping Popular Hindu-Buddhist “God”
The Erawan Shrine – officially known as Thao Maha Brahma – is a shrine to the Hindu God of Creation Brahma, but to most Thai Buddhists, this four-headed god (deity) is also a Buddhist deity. The popular shrine is always crowded with worshipers from Thailand and abroad.
Thailand: Chiang Mai – Lana Kingdom’s City of Temples
The charming city of Chiang Mai about 700 km north of Thailand’s capital Bangkok is the Kingdom’s second largest city, but, compared to Bangkok’s 9 million population this city has got just over 200,000. It’s a city with Buddhist temples at almost every corner, rich in history and tradition – a city that has grown around an ancient wall surrounded by a narrow channel, that gives it a real charm and now attracts thousands of tourists both domestic and international. This city’s history goes back to the late 13th century to the Lana Kingdom and it is full of active temples today with intricate external carvings, wooden roofs and colourful paintings depicting the Buddha’s life or other Buddhist tales on interior walls and sometimes on ceilings. There are over 300 temples – known as Wat – in and around the old city.
Sri Lanka: Vesak – The Triple Buddhist Anniversary
Vesak is the most important religious festival for Sri Lankan Buddhists, which falls on the full moon day of the fifth lunar month in May. It marks the triple anniversary of Gauthama Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Every year over a period of three days Buddhists all over the country celebrate this festival in a grand scale with colourful lanterns and pandols lit up at night paying homage to the Buddha. Thousands of people commute around cities and towns across the country to see these sights until early hours of the morning.