Bhuj – Siyot – Bhuj – Gondal – Junagadh – Somnath – Diu – Sana caves – Talaja – Bhavnagar – Lothal – Ahmedabad – Vadnagar – Ahmedabad – Baroda
Buddhism is a religion which originated in India by Buddha around 525 BC. It later spread to China, Burma, Japan, Tibet and parts of SE Asia. It is based on the philosophy that life is full of suffering caused by desire, and suffering ceases when desire ceases and that enlightenment obtained by following the right conduct, wisdom and meditation releases one from desire, suffering and rebirth. The followers of Buddhism seek nirvana, the release from the cycle of rebirth and suffering.
Buddhism flourished in Gujarat since the days of Emperor Ashoka, as is mentioned in the diary of Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang when he speaks of Buddhist monks living and practicing their faith in the region called Vadnagar.
Due to the efforts of Ashoka, Buddhism spread far and wide throughout the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd C. BC.
Ashoka’s edicts located on the way to Girnar dates back to 3rd Century BC. There are 14 of them, inscribed in Pali language speak about sixteen attributes of a virtuous life and about the construction of Sudarshan Lake for the welfare of the society. Some of Ashokan edicts still exist in Junagadh.
In Gujarat Buddhism was mainly cantered in Saurashtra and Kutch where Buddhist caves and remains of ancient monasteries can still be seen.
Day 01 Bhuj
Arrive at Bhuj airport and drive to hotel, check in. Bhuj: The historic city of Bhuj derives its name from the Bhujiyo Dungar, a hill overlooking the present day Bhuj town. Bhuj is a desert town located between two geographical features- Bhujiyo Dungar on the East and Hamirsar Lake in the West. Aiana Mahal: This was constructed by Rao Lakhpatji (1707-61 AD) in 1750 AD, who was a great patron of art, architecture, music and literature. Aiana Mahal is a unique example of an Indian palace built in the middle of 18th C having European influence. Prag Mahal: Rao Pragmalji (1838-76 AD) undertook the construction of this Mahal. It was designed by the famous architect Col. Henry Wilkins. It is constructed in Italian Gothic Style having a large Darbar Hall, big rooms, wide verandas and a 45 meter high bell tower. It was built using various types of stones available in Kutch region. This is a fine example of Indian Craftsmanship combined with European architectural design.
Day 02 Bhuj – Siyot – Bhuj
We than proceed to visit the first Buddhist site, cave at Siyot village. Siyot Caves are dated around the first century AD and have an east-facing sanctum and a walkway. It is believed to be one of the 80 monastic sites reported by the travellers from China during the 7th century, at the mouth of the Indus River. Drive back to Bhuj
Day 03 Bhuj – Gondal
Early morning drive to Gondal. After lunch proceed to visit Khambhalida caves. These caves dates back to 4th-5th Century and are scooped out from the local lime stone rock. There are three caves here, the central one being a chaitya with a worn out stupa. The entrance of the chaitya is flanked by two large sculptures of the Bodhisattvas-Padmapani on the right and Vajrapani on the left. Drive back to Gondal
Day 04 Gondal – Junagadh
Today morning drive to Junagadh and visit the old city which is famous for its Fort. Buddhist Caves: Junagadh cave complex is made up of two main caves – the Khapra Kodia cave and the Baba Pyara Caves. They belong to the period around 3rd -4th Century. The plainest caves of Khapra Kodia were used as a monsoon shelter by the monks while the Baba Pyara Caves consists of intricately carved gateways, chaitya halls, sculptured pillars, sanctums and spacious courts. Besides the Buddhist caves there are 14 Edicts on the way to “Girnar Hills carved on huge stones. These edicts belong to the period around 250 BC. These rock edicts mention morality codes and royal orders against slaughter, greed and emphasises the principles of purity of thought, kindness and gratitude. Ashokan Rock Edicts: At the foothills of Girnar Mountain, there is uneven rock with a circumference of seven meters by ten meters. It bears inscriptions in Brahma’s script, etched with an iron pen.
Day 05 Junagadh – Somnath – Diu
Today morning drive to Diu via Somnath. Visit Somnath Temple: One of the most revered & an important center of culture & nationalism. The legendary temple contains a ‘Jyotirlinga’. Looted & destroyed, built & rebuilt several times, it represents the eternal beauty & strength of the Indian society. The present splendid structure was rebuilt about five decades ago, at the exact spot where the original shrine was located. The iron man of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was instrumental in the construction of the present temple. Continue drive to Diu and visit Diu Fort: This majestic structure stands on the coast of Diu sentinel. Once inside, you are overwhelmed by the gaunt majesty of the ancient stone work which transports you to a bygone era of gallant, where time stands still. The fort offers a kaleidoscopic view of Diu town.
Day 06 Diu – Sana Caves – Talaja – Bhavnagar
Morning drive to Bhavnagar Enroute visiting Sana Caves: The caves at Sana reveal the relics of the Buddhist past in the State. There are 60 Buddhist rock shelter caves carved between 1st Century BC and 1st Century AD. Believed to be the earliest caves of Western India, these rock shelters have ornate carvings and stupas, rock cut pillows, benches, chaityas, dome and pillared hall. The caves are marked by an austere simplicity and complete absence of sculptures. There are three chaitya-grihas. All of them are apsidal halls with flat ceilings. Two of them, cave 13 and cave 26 have a long veranda with plain pillars resting on a raised basement and supporting a beam below the flat ceiling, while the third has a deep veranda or porch now completely open in the front. The monasteries provide some significant features. They consist of a pillared veranda usually with one or two cells at the back and very rarely three or four cells. The plan of cave 48 is a different one. There are two halls of unusually large dimension. Around the halls are benches. The cave has a central door and a single cell on the dexture and is fronted by a long veranda with having a recess at either end.
Later drive to Talaja Hills: Talaja Hills which has around it 30 ancient rock cut Buddhist caves with perfectly identifiable Bodhisattva carvings. The most impressive structure is the Ebhala Mandapa, a large hall with 4 octagonal pillars in the front. The layouts of the monasteries are like those of Sama. They usually consist of a few cells at the ball of the pillared veranda but there are evidences of a few typical rocks cut quadrangular monasteries. The cave 3 of is an example of a quadrangular monastery with an open veranda with a bench, a long astylar hall with specious double leafed door, a bench on two sides and names of cells. The central cell of cave 19 on the near side has against its back wall a plain rock cut pedestal probably for an object of worship now no more extent. Continue drive to Bhavnagar
Day 07 Bhavnagar - Lothal - Ahmedabad
Today drive to Ahmedabad visiting Lothal Enroute Lothal: This is a place to get a perfect insight of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The most dominating site at Lothal is the massive dockyard spanning an area of 37 metres x 22 metres perhaps the greatest work of Maritime Architecture. Lothal was also famous for is arterial streets, microbes of gold, ivory and coppersmiths’ workshops, potteries and underground sanitary drainage.
Day 08 Ahmedabad – Vadnagar –Ahmedabad
Vadnagar: A Buddhist Monastery dating back to the period 2nd – 7th Century AD had recently been excavated within the fortified area of Vadnagar. It has two stupas and an open central court-yard around which nine cells were constructed such that it formed a swastika-like pattern. Apart from this, the site yielded the image of Bodhisattva of 3rd-4th C. AD. Later drive back to Ahmedabad
Day 09 Ahmedabad – Baroda
Today drive to Baroda and visit Baroda museum: The museum is famous for unique collection on Buddhist antiquities and works of art discovered from Devni-mori of North Gujarat as a result of excavation by the Department of Archaeology. Museum is also noted for its interesting collection on prehistory protohistory of Gujarat discovered from various pre-protohistoric sites of Gujarat as result of excavations. There are also exhibits Buddhist relics from the famous Devni-mori stupa of Sabarkantha District, copper plate dated to 496 A.D.; a pot dated 2000 B.C.
Later drive to airport to board flight to Bombay