Amid chants of "Buddham Sharanam Gachchami", people from 11 countries today walked through a 13-km-long forest trail which Lord Gautam Buddha had taken to reach Rajgir from Bodh Gaya around 2,543 years ago.
Over 500 pilgrims converged on Jethian in Rajgir district, around 100 km southeast of Patna, for the journey, marking the success of the first-ever Buddha Heritage Walk introduced by the Bihar Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC).
"Buddha took this route when he decided to move to Rajgir after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. He was welcomed at Jethian by Bimbisar, the King of Magadh Empire whose capital was Rajgir, BSTDC general manager Navin Kumar told PTI.
Mr Kumar said, "Bimibsara took Buddha to Venu Van, around 13 km from there, and offered the place to him as a gift. Buddha had stayed there during his visit."
The route is well-documented and is believed by scholars to be the only authentic one among several other such routes taken by Buddha during his 45 years of preaching in various parts of India.
It wends its way through lush green forest, hills and valleys, away from the noise of cities and villages. Several ancient stupas could be seen in the valleys along the route.
"We are happy that pilgrims, including several monks from Japan, China, South Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, apart from our own country, have walked on the sacred path. We are sure it will become more popular as awareness about it spreads across the world," Mr Kumar said.
The BSTDC served packed lunch at the start of the walk, and had arranged for two camps along the route to serve water and tea to the pilgrims.
"This is like a dream come true for me. The route is so serene, so peaceful. It is as if spirituality is in the air here. It is also very invigorating," said Monk Daiki from
The state tourism department is planning to hold many more such Buddhist Heritage Walks for pilgrims and tourists alike.
"Today's walk was organised as part of the ongoing Rajgir Mahotsav. We plan to organise many more in the coming months so that visitors are able to experience the path on which the Buddha walked," Mr Kumar said.
Mr Kumar said BSTDC had written to all embassies in India about the initiative.