This is the second of four important sites in the life of Buddha, the first one being Lumbini in Nepal. This is the site where Siddhartha Gautama acheived his enlightenment beneath a Bodhi tree, and was thus transformed into the Buddha. Mahabodhi Temple is the site where this happened, so needless to say many Buddhists visit this; and a sea of dipping maroon and saffron coloured monks can be seen every morning around the temple as they worship. As at Lumbini, there is also a plethora of temples around the village built by different countries.
But the real attraction for me here has actually been witnessing some real Indian village life. I stayed in a place in the middle of the brightly coloured but basic village houses watching children playing in the streets, adults sitting around chatting or cooking in their doorways. Wish I could have stayed here longer, but the transport is turning out to be much slower than I'd hoped, so I lost half a day sitting on a bus and I have an important train to catch later today.
Another treat was watching the sun set over the plains of Bihar, which I saw from the bus as I approached the town, so I didn't managed to get a photo. The Ganges River only drops 200m all the way from Pakistan to the huge river delta in Bangladesh, which accounts for the flatness of the huge Gangetic Plain that makes up much of Northern India. I will be travelling over more of it in the coming weeks, so I doubt that it will be the last impressive sunset I will see.
Posted from Darjeeling, November 25th 2010.
Manish Hi Phil, Been reading the blog, some of the pictures are great. Don't forget India is a very religious country and in my experience that means getting ripped off and lied to all the time (ditto Italy). Make sure you agree the price before getting into a Rickshaw or taxi or eating from street vendors etc. Always ensure you have a little cash in several pockets as pocket slicing is common. Nobody will physically harm you but taking money off you is their number 1 priority. From here where do you intend going? I'd recommend the west: (Kashmir if things are relatively calm), Amritsar, Delhi, Agra (don't stay there it's a complete dump), then south to Jaipur, Udaipur, Mount Abu, Mumbai, Goa, Kerala to Kanya Kumari (the tip of India), then up the east coast ... You could be gone a long time.
Phil Thanks Manish. Don't worry - I'm on my guard with the money. Varanasi was a baptism of fire. I'm planning to head down the east coast as far as Puri, then cut all the way across to the west, with many of the places you mention on my list, but I will make sure I check that I'm not missing any important places. I don't think I will get as far as Kashmir - probably not the best time of year any more - but I might get as far as Amritsar before turning south.