Backpacking madness: Introducing Buddhist Bihar and Jharkhand
Buddhist Bihar and Jharkhand attract many pilgrims from across the world.
The birth home of Buddhism, Bihar houses a trail of significant ancient Buddhist structures and sites. Gautam Buddha spent much of his life here an attained moksh (spiritual enlightenment) in deep meditation under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, the chief pilgrimage in the world for Buddhists. Bodhgaya is also where the backpackers head.
Half of Bihar in 2000, was torn away to create the state of Jharkhand. The crown of North Indian traditionalism though, remains in Bihar, with the average Joe following religiously, the old style principles and credos.
Bihar and Jharkhand for Backpackers
Apart from Gaya (Bodhgaya), ‘Buddhist’ Bihar and Jharkhand aren’t all that backpacker friendly. Of all the beautiful and cultural places in India, Urban Bihar is one I would least recommend. Although it is absolutely brimming with historical sites and cultural feasts, it is unsafe. And for women specially, the city scene of Bihar will probably turn out more unpleasant than unsafe. If you plan to throw caution to the winds and go to Bihar, stay away from the larger cities, where crime is most prevalent.
Solo women – beware. Watch your own, and don’t stay out late.
Caught in between poverty and population, Bihar is a sorry comedown from its glorious past. Corruption, kidnappings, banditry have soiled its splendor somewhat, yet the ancient relics buzz with scared memories of yesteryears, handed down in tradition and folklore.
Weather and when to visit
The ideal time to visit Bihar and Jharkhand is between October and February.
Where to go
Betla (Palamau) Natinal Park
The unique, traditional tiger spotting safari is on elephant-back, though the lush jungle.
Here, under the much revered Bodhi Tree, The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
Ancient university of Nalanda
Sonepur Mela: India’s biggest cattle trade fest, on a scale so herculean, that it makes the 10,000 camel-Pushkar Camel Festival look like a child’s zoo.
Bihar has much to offer, and is among the most ancient places in India. Yet, if you plan to go, watch your back.