Day 1: Arrive and check-in at the hotel in Varanasi by 12 noon. After lunch, we travel to Sarnath where Gautama the Buddha gave his first sermon. This momentous and historic event has been depicted in exquisite sculptures of the Buddha and other monuments at Sarnath.
Day 2: We visit places of tremendous spiritual significance including Kalabhairava Temple – the powerful guardian deity of Varanasi, Mahamrityunjaya Temple – where it is believed that one can win over death, Kashi Vishwanath Temple – one of the twelve Jyothirlingas, said to have been consecrated by Shiva himself, Vishalakshi Temple – one of the Shakti Sthalas, and Manikarnika Ghat – the most sacred cremation spot in Varanasi, which is at the core of the spiritual process that thrives in the city. A boat ride in the sacred Ganga followed by participation in the evening arati from the boat, are some of the highlights of the day.
Day 3: A free day to explore the city on your own and visit its various temples, ghats and market places. Varanasi offers a variety of cultural delights including exquisite silk weaves and unique cuisines.
Day 4: We journey to the place of Buddha’s enlightenment – Bodhgaya. Since that glorious full-moon night of Gautama’s enlightenment 2500 years ago, Bodhgaya has been visited by countless seekers to imbibe the essence of this space. Bodhgaya is also famous for the 1500-year-old Mahabodhi Temple. It stands next to the legendary Bodhi tree and the Vajrasana or Diamond Throne, which marks the exact spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Day 5: From Bodhgaya, we travel to Rajgir, an ancient center of pilgrimage. We take a chair-car ride to the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, atop the hill where Buddha meditated, and also spend some time at Gridhakuta, Buddha’s favorite monsoon retreat. If time permits, we shall also visit Nalanda, one of the first great universities in history. The vast archeological site with its classrooms, temples and meditation halls, recalls the heyday of the university, when it was a center of learning and inner exploration renowned throughout the world. The sojourn concludes at Patna, the capital city of Bihar, from where we begin our return journey.