December 13th we walked The Buddha Walk. First organized in 2014 by several Buddhist organizations it is intended to revive and spread the history of Jethian-Rajgir valley.
Before the walk, everyone from the very small village of Jethian gathers to distribute food to monks in observance of Sanghadana, an ancient tradition that stems from the time of the Buddha, who while staying in the village would visit homes to collect food.
The walk ends 14 kilometers away in Rajgir at the Sonebandhar caves.
Rajgir is in itself, an important pilgrimage center for several religious traditions, mainly, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
The hills of the Jethian Valley straddle the jurisdiction of the Nalanda and Gaya districts. This valley contains what is believed to be one of the main routes taken by the Buddha during his 45 years of wandering and preaching in various parts of India. During the Buddha’s time, Rajgir was the first capital of the Kingdom of Magadha, and according to legend, it is believed that King Bimbisara greeted the Buddha in the Jethian Valley and invited him to reside in the area of Venu Van (Bamboo Grove) where he gifted land for the Sangha’s rain retreats.
The streets were decorated in bright chalk patterns to welcome the pilgrims
Every home that lined the main street had members of the family serving food to the pilgrims
The final stop was this open area where the monks sat to enjoy their food
Senior monks enjoying the rest before the long walk
Water served from the well by volunteers
Volunteers from around the town
Selfies are such a huge part of every culture, even in India
Pilgrims taking photos with the locals. The traditional dress of pilgrims is all white
All the school children lined the streets as we left the village waving, saying Namaste, Goodbye, Have a pleasant journey. It was very sweet and heartfelt
We encountered villagers for the first 1/2 kilometer as we walked out of town
There were approximately 1000 or more monks and lay people that did the walk
It was a very warm day making everyone seek the shelter of the shade from time to time
Despite the smog, you could catch glimpses of the mountains from time to time.
While some of it was beautifully tree-lined, planting trees in the valley is a priority for those discussing restoring this historic pilgrimage site.
Stupas were proposed for the area but the government pooh-poohed it, so “kilometer markers” line the path instead.
Many were just too hot to finish, a truck passed by and they hitched a ride.
If you made it all the way to the Sonbandehar caves several ice cream vendors awaited. This fellow was enterprising enough to move his cart 1/2 kilometer up the road to catch all of the business before you reached the caves.
It was a lovely day, albeit, way too hot for this California girl. Walking on a rocky path makes for very tired feet and very tired bones, but to have walked in the footsteps of Buddha is something very special.