Bihar is the flavour of the month, at least here in Bombay. Bihar bashing, bihari bashing. verbal and physical bashing. Tragic and dangerous in extreme for all its misplaced regional and linguistic chauvinism. I too had different impresssions of Bihar which i am glad to say, changed entirely, after my visit.
Some 60 kms from Patna is Vaishali, a serene little place, surrounded by plantains and rice fields. It used to be one of Lord Buddha‘s favourite places, and excavations have revealed a number of historic sites from those times.
The story goes that Mahapajapati Gotami, Buddha’s foster mother expressed her deep desire to join the Sangha. Despite many appeals, Buddha refused to ordain her (or any other women). Finally Ananda, his disciple intervened, and the Lord relented. But not before putting down “eight weighty laws” which any woman who entered the order would have to obey’*
In addition to these 8 rules, the nuns had to follow the Bhikunnivibhanga, a separate rule book meant only for women, modelled on the rules meant for monks. In the end, the ordained nuns had to follow 311 rules, and the monks 227. **
Despite these restrictions, women joined the Sangha in large numbers. They were formally
initiated into the faith by Lord Buddha himself at Vaishali . Today this place is a neatly maintained site, with its Ashokan Pillar, the ancient stupas, and the Abhishekha Pushkarn (Coronation Tank). There is also the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, depicting the stages of Buddha’s life, a Japanese temple, and the Muesuem displaying artefacts and antiques from the region.
Its a clean, serene place, uncrowded, in green rustic surroundings, and a nice introduction to the state of Bihar. Of course, if one intended to do the Buddha trail...Vaishali is a must visit. A simple way to get to Vaishali is to reach Patna by air/train, and then take a day trip out to Vaishali by road. Patna has more lodging options, and you get to see the Ganga in her expansive best.
Happy tripping 🙂
*Women Writing In India; Vol 1; 600 BC to the Early twentieth Century, Ed by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita, pg. 67
**First Buddhist Women by Susan Murcott pg. 215