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Old 12th May 2017, 02:36   #1
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Default An impulsive road-trip to Bodh Gaya, Gehlaur & Rajgir

Nothing better might be possible from my end to pay homage to Lord Buddha, on the auspicious day of Buddha Purnima, than writing a travelogue to the place of His Nirvana, the trip I did recently. Although I have become a history freak now-a-days with constant change in my penchant, let me fast-forward to the crux of my narration of the road-trip rather than highlighting or touching upon the known history of all times which everyone of us had read in history textbooks of school level. Even so much consolidated information, research materials about the place Bodh Gaya and Buddhism have been compiled by the pundits I cannot aspire to show effrontery of adding something unique to them.


3rd week of December I had a severe fever accompanied by throat infection. The matter worsened so much that after 3 days I had to move to my hometown in WB for the betterment of health with sweet homely touch and motherly caress. After several doses of antibiotics and injections, I was almost bed-ridden. From 21st December my health condition was improving and gradual appearance of fitness was shining in me. I was missing my small weekend road-trips with my close colleagues cum friends and those who love to travel only can understand the subdued pain inside me for being unable to do all these on the ground of health issues. Damn those viruses causing infection and fever! Come 22nd December, the most awaited X-mas holiday was ensuing. The very morning I woke up the usual freshness was palpable in me and spotted by my Mom. I felt I was fit enough to do a ‘small’ road trip. As my return flight was scheduled on 25th Dec, Sunday night and office joining on the following day, I couldn’t hold my expression to venture for a short road trip inhibited so long. While we were at breakfast table, I asked my Mom & Dad whether we may go somewhere nearby. The instant response was Digha or Mandarmoni or Tajpur from them. All these destinations are just a half day trip from my place; even I say, if I am very high on pressure, I can go there directly and thereafter response to nature’s call! I readily dismissed it. Then they said let it be Puri, the most obvious choice of my Mom, the eternal call of Lord Jagannath. But we have been there umpteen numbers of times and we can consider it as a second home. But due to my nascent stage of fitness after immediate recovery from fever they were not ready to take it further to more distant destinations. I was not convinced with the ideas. My Dad was being late for his business errands and while moving from home he said not to make it longer as I have to journey from Kolkata to Mysore just after returning from the trip and I might have a heavy toll on my recovering health. My journey from hometown to Mysore office was a minimum 8-12 hrs chore if everything falls into right places at right time. It was a 4 step journey viz. home to Kolkata airport by car, Kolkata to Bangalore by flight, from B’lore airport to Mysore, minimum 4hrs FlyBus journey (the only direct affordable Volvo bus service from Kempegowda airport to Mysore & vice versa; since 2013, Mysore airport is non-functional for common passengers but it witnessed movements of flights loaded with new Rs. 2000 currency notes from a secret minting press at Mysore before the landmark day of demonetization by our PM, 8th November 2016). Last but not the least, an Ola/Uber cab from Mysore bus stand to my place. I was apprehending the sinister of this upcoming journey and falling ill again as warned by my Dad. Before leaving from home, he let us (me & mom) decide and finalize the destination. Soon, I was found in front of my laptop screen, Google map opened! Lots of things were to be optimized from start to end as time was very less both for planning and execution. I was running to my mom at her music classroom sporadically suggesting some names of places and I swept from nearby Shnatiniketan, Tarapith down to Massanjore and Deoghar or Ghatshila. But I was myself not happy with those trips. Finally, I hit the trick. Last year (2016), in October during Durga puja I road-tripped to Goa from Mysore with my parents; why not ‘Gaya’ this time which is around 600km from my home! The synergy of the slightly differing pronunciations of these two places made me elated and I literally pushed her to stick to it and convey to my Dad. I instantly added Rajgir and Nalanda in cover-list too. It seemed to be a perfect 3-dayer. She was hesitant about the distance to be covered pitted against my ill health conditions. But I insisted hard. She finally discarded Gaya and instead included only Bodh Gaya. Needless to say, this time we had no religious intent of the tour, but just a kind of joy-ride. She informed my Dad and he told, he might take one of his friends, let’s say Mr. KD and his wife. So the car will be brimmed with its full capacity, indeed a utilitarian point of view. Nevertheless, a road trip with a close friend onboard will be more fun. Till evening, I was glued to the laptop planning and scheduling. In fact, we went to those places when I was a mere child in 1998. The thought of re-exploring the places by self-driven road-trip was the source of additional delight to me.

Beginning of The Journey

I decided to start from my place sharp at 10 pm after dinner so that we can expect to reach Bodh Gaya early in the morning. It was finalized and I had to take Mr. KD’s better half and 3yr old child near from Santragachi or say 2nd Hooghly Bridge. It was a detour of 50km to and fro from NH-6 and Durgapur expressway connector to Kona e-way. But the plan was shattered to dust, even at a point the tour became almost uncertain. My Dad is a good carrom player. When the striker finds his expert hand it starts to do magic on the board. That evening, my Dad and Mr.KD was so much engrossed in it, they continued to play board after board at club house forgetting everything even without answering a single call! Alas! I was upset. It was 11 pm, I finally had dinner along with my Mom. I was not at all fully fit and felt sleepy. I tried to doze off or just take a short nap. But once I was at bed I readily fell asleep. 12 O’clock at night, my Mom woke me up handing over the cell phone with Mr. KD at other side.

KD: (Delightedly) Babuuuuu, are you ready?!
Me: (Dumbfounded, in trance of sleep) What! What’s the time?
KD: The watch will speak the time. You get ready. We will look at the time when we reach Bodh Gaya!
Me: Whoa!! Did you have dinner?
KD: All are arranged. You just get ready and inform us.
Me: Hand over the phone to Dad. (Dad’s other side) Who will pack your clothes and what to take?
Dad: Ask your Mom to take something for me as she likes.

(Phone call ends)

I took off from the bed and washed my face. Although I fell asleep, I was hoping against hope for the trip, be it delayed. And the phone call finally rescued me from my wit’s end. I was getting ready, but suddenly I thought it’s already12:30 am. Our garage yard is a bit outskirt from the main city-centre flat due to so much paucity of places at the busy junction of city. Who will take out the Manza? The keys of the car, as well as the garage, are with our driver as usual. We had the duplicate key of the car at home but what about the garage key? Who will collect it? Even he is sleeping and not taking any call. He stays with his family at 5km from our home. Gosh! Again all is going to be futile. I called my dad and Mr. KD again told delightedly “It’s not at all an issue. Forget your Manza, you will take my Ciaz ZDi+ SHVS. It will be our chariot.” I was already in anger for being so late; hearing his casual and funny sounding words just aggravated it for the moment, but I suppressed my expression and asked him to get it asap. My Mom said it’s really a pain to deal with us, the nocturnal morons! I kept quiet and finally, we were ready. But not! It is a road trip and it was going completely unlike my type of trips where all kinds of essential car kits like GPS logger, car charger, inverter laptops, mobile holder, a good dash-cam, a DSLR to capture the memories, a flask full of hot tea, a tyre repair kit, a portable tyre inflator, a towing rope and jumper cable are must. I left my cameras at Mysore. I can do it upto Dobhi without GPS as I am quite familiar with the Kolkata-Delhi route and have done several times. At last, when nothing is there I was depending on phone’s Google map navigation. Even due to a long stay at home, I really forgot to recharge my 10000mah power bank. I was pretty sure most of these equipment will be absent in his car. But nothing was to be rectified at this eleventh hour. The Ciaz came driven by Mr. Dad and was parked on the road adjacent to my home. None, can think to park even a Nano in broad-day-light because the place remains too congested with shops all around, e-rickshaws, cycles motorcycles and everything! But Ciaz was the only contender on the road at the ripe time of 1 am. We loaded the boot with our small luggage and the small bags there seemed like playing football in the huge, voluminous 510ltr boot of Ciaz. We took 5ltr barrel of water and the empty flask, sans tea or coffee. I swallowed a chilled red-bull from refrigerator and outside ambient temp was 11 degree to be precise as shown in car’s MID. Nothing best I could do that time to tame my incomplete and untimely woke-up wintry night sleep with a small dose of caffeine. Finally, I was at wheel. The journey began.

On Hitting The Road

Seating arrangement was such: I at driver’s seat, my mom at front passenger’s seat, dad and his friend at the backseat. The road was completely empty except a few trucks with their high beams to blind us as always they do. A little fog was also prevalent but the extent was not that severe to bother about. I refilled the Ciaz to its brim near Mecheda in an IOCL gas station. I was cruising at a steady triple digit speed all the way upto Haldia junction. Just before entering Kolaghat on NH-6 I heard coupled voice from back seat “We are hungry. We will stop at Sher-E-Punjab.” We are getting delayed more and more. But presuming no better option for food further, I stopped there. Mom and I had already taken our dinner. But by this time, we also were a little hungry. We shared small pieces from them, had a sip on the hot milky and overkill sweet tea in transparent glass and refilled the empty flask. Dad and Mr. KD had their customary smoke after food. And we resumed at 2 am.

At Sher-E-Punjab, Kolaghat
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The journey till Santragachi, detour through Kona e-way was mostly eventless except long queues of trucks at Dhulagori toll plaza at midnight. I managed to cut through them within 15 minutes. At 2:50 am we reached Santragachi to pick up Mr. KD’s better half and child. They were ready and a time saver for us. Even at the odd hours of midnight, the 3yr old, the smallest member of our team was awake with full enthusiasm. The entire baggage and passenger loading hardly took more than 10minutes. We were towards Salap, West Kolkata city flyover. Durgapur expressway upto Asansol is very good. After Panagarh some real pain starts with deteriorated road condition of NH-2 aka AH-1 with several diversions. But most of the time, triple digit speeds were maintained without much discomfort or risk. It was 6 am, the red glow binged vermilion and scarlet effect on the dark backdrop of the horizon. The dawn marks the very beginning of the day and the serene nature with the speeding car on a straight highway meeting the end of the sky at infinity point beseeches some peaceful and joyous minds imbued with soothing divine morning chants in raga Bhairavi. I re-tuned the audio system suited to nature’s mandate. By the way, I forgot to mention so long, during the entire night drive only my Mom sat beside me, was awake, vigilant and chit-chatting with me as always she does and the rest 3.5 members at the backseat were enjoying their sedan comfort with acres of leg space and comfortably slept! By 6.30 am the back-benchers woke up with sound of yawning and added salt to my annoyance of being late, saying "It was a great sleep, and your driving is great, so we slept at our heart’s content without feeling a single jerk.” I drove non-stop from Santragachi and now it was the time for some tea & P and morning duties. I didn't know the location or the name of the place, but I stopped at a dhaba with minimal facilities for the ladies and ordered breakfast, Aloo parantha. Most probably it will be Nimiyaghat because we passed Topchanchi, the famous roadside weapon shops some while before; We spent nearly 1hr to finish all the chores.

At the Dhaba in Early Morning
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We were ready to resume. But something unexpected was lurking at us. I, with the Ciaz’s smart key in my pocket pressed the request button at driver’s side and all boarded the car. Just I was gearing up with seat-belts, disengaged the hand-brake and as soon as I pushed the engine start button, the engine was cranking with abnormal struggling sound like it happens with a low battery. I tried twice. But nay! It was rigid to get ignition. I looked at the console; all lights were ok as they should be before engine start, and surprisingly no low battery light came up. I didn’t try further pressing the engine start button. All came out of the car except the ladies. Even the staff from the road-side dhaba stepped down from their eatery and came to us to see what happened, as we were the only customer in that early morning time. I really doubted that in a quite new, timely serviced car how the battery could be drained within 1hr when there was no load on it. I went back to the car and switched on the headlights in high-beam. They were glowing with full brightness as they should do. Being a new-tech, semi-hybrid car from Maruti’s stable even the staff at SVC were not fully adept in handling all its problems, so no roadside auto-mechanic was a preferred choice to get the car checked. I didn’t dare to try once more to crank the engine as it may gulp the remaining battery power and even while push-starting I cannot get the initial power to get fuel pump to work from a dead battery. At last, without spending time unnecessarily, I asked my dad and Mr. KD to push the car. The ladies also got down from the car and the dhaba staff also came forward. As usual, I tried the widely followed 2nd gear push-start method and I am quite sure I do release the clutch and feed gas in perfect time from my previous experience. Two times they pushed and the car got enough momentum yet I couldn’t bring the engine to life. Finally, I asked them to push backward, as we, the male members moved away some 150mtrs from the dhaba leaving the ladies alone while trying twice. They really pushed it hard and I remember, I saw the speedo needle touching a fair 20km/hr mark. I tried my best. Even when I was disengaging the clutch they carried on pushing. Finally, we crossed the dhaba from backward direction and Voila! The engine started. We all were quite happy and decided not to switch off the engine even we had to stop somewhere further to buy cigarettes, chocolates, chips or fruits. We stopped at Chouparan brought some fruits for us and cigarettes at my dad’s and Mr. KD’s disposal, but I refrained from pushing the engine start/stop button against my natural reflex action after stopping. We continued to Dobhi check post and as expected we faced the never ending lines of trucks in a standstill state. It was a real test of mettle to squeeze through the spaces between trucks and that too with a car like Ciaz’s dimension with both ORVMs unfolded. At one place, the gap was so narrow I had to fold the ORVMs to cross through the trucks lest unwanted scratches are invited. I am pretty sure SUVs will cry to make it through. The toll plazas were also a mess. No separate line for the private vehicles and one has to struggle through the trucks for avoiding any untoward delay. After crossing Falgu river bridge, striding through some bad traffic we left GT road and took right to Gaya-Dobhi road. About 20km running through the single lane road with some unruly oncoming traffic, we again took right on Domuhan-Bodh Gaya road. Finally, it was almost 11 am, we were welcomed by the Bodh Gaya gate.

We didn’t have any hotel booked as the trip was very hastily planned, nor did I find much time to look at some good hotels online. So we stopped at the side of the road where some lines of hotels started to appear. All 3 male stepped out and went to the receptions of some nearby hotels. After seeing the rooms neither we were happy with the room quality nor with the price they asked for; some cases they didn’t have two separate double bedroom. After inspecting 4 hotels I came to the car and searched for some hotels online through mobile. I zeroed down to a hotel by 4.6/5 review rating. The name was Kundanbazar Guest House. I switched on navigation in mobile and pointed to the hotel location as provided by GoIbibo. After slowly passing through some broken concrete lane we reached the place and I saw it is adjacent to a slum and the road was so narrow with an open gutter one side it was almost impossible to get the Ciaz reversed. I also got down along with my Dad and Mr. KD but didn’t go upstair to check the rooms. The hotel has a Buddhist boutique shop at ground floor. My mom and Mr.KD’s wife was browsing through the items. After 10 minutes my dad and KD uncle came down and they said it’s better to go back and check-in one of the hotels we say before. The rooms were so claustrophobic and humid without good ventilation. Finally, the ordeal came to get the car reversed. My dad and KD uncle did spotting for me to avoid the wheels falling into the wide gutter. But the Ciaz’s SmartPlay 7” touch screen showed through reverse camera feed, the boot of the car in complete red zone and was prone to touch the opposite wall of a house. In no way one can fit the car across the road, not even diagonally. At last, I sped forward and after 100 mtr I could find some empty spaces at one side that too with a steep ramp from the lane. With no options in hand, I reversed the car and put the back wheels on the ramp and the car bottomed from the back as I estimated. But Ciaz being a front-wheel-drive I managed to pull through very easily and reached back in front of the hotel where others were standing. All again boarded the car and we came back to the same location where we stopped first to find a good hotel. We found a newly built hotel, still on construction for its 2nd floor and found 2 cars parked in front of them. No nameplate was there also till that time. It was near hotel Heritage and The RK Palace. We thought to give it a shot. Fortunately, the owner was a Bengali. As he saw the WB registered car he himself started speaking in Bengali intervening our Hindi enquiry. We were also happy to find one from our state building a new hotel in Gaya. The hotel staff was courteous and as instructed by the owner he showed us two rooms. Both rooms had all the basic amenities and it being peak winter AC were not at all a need. The beds and mattresses are very new and hardly used. The rooms were painted very recently and entering into them exudes the smell of new paint, of course not so much disturbing or intolerable, rather we liked it. We settled with the owner and he also reduced the price a lot for us. So finally we were in. It was already 12 past in the noon. We decided to get fleshed quickly and have our lunch and take rest until 4 pm. I was much eager to stick to the resting decision as I was driving the entire night and mom too was tired as she continuously accompanied me throughout the journey. They cooked chicken curry, rice, daal and salad in their kitchen as we preferred in Bong style. We finished our lunch and went to bed.

But when I am on travel, sleep hardly lasts for two hours as ‘what next and how’ is always recirculating in the brain. I woke up at 3:30 pm and nudged my Mom. By 4 O’clock she knocked the other room and asked them to get ready. With valuable inputs from the hotel owner about local Bodh Gaya travel, we came to know that CM of Bihar Mr. Nitish Kumar is on a visit to the city; so most of the usual roads are blocked due to security issues. He suggested getting a Toto/e-rickshaw instead for hassle-free travel. We readily agreed and he arranged one Toto for five and half of us and for the entire trip he would take Rs.500. As soon as we boarded the Toto I took the drivers mobile number for ease of locating him after each temple and monastery visit. Obviously, the four seat of the back was full by 4 senior members of the team and I had to seat in front just beside the Toto driver. He took internal lanes, bylanes to reach the POIs and we enjoyed the bumpy ride, after all.

We started from the 80feet Buddha Statue (Daibutsu) to its adjacent Dayjokyo Temple, Indosan Nipponji, Royal Bhutan Temple, Nigma, Korea Temple, Chinese Temple, Wat Thai Temple, Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling and Archeological Museum. Most of these places close by 5 pm. So we hurriedly swept through the places. I remember my 1998 childhood trip to Bodh Gaya with parents and was trying my best to identify the locations as I see in some old photos in album taken by the then 35mm Yashica camera (now celebrating its martyrdom!).

Daibutsu, 80ft Buddha Idol
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Buddha Temples
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Cutest Moment with the Tiger Skinned Dog
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2016 & 1998 -- Same Place, Same People
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Finally, the crux of the attraction, Maha Bodhi temple. I wanted to see its glory at night only as I remember last time I saw it in daylight. The Totowala dropped us there and asked to deposit the shoes at the counter and get the camera permit. But we didn’t have any full frame camera and even a point and shoot too, result of an abruptly planned trip! So the mobile camera was the only available option. We hired a guide, although initially, my dad was reluctant, I and KD uncle were insisting on it to know the finer details what are not available in so-called wiki like sources. Finally, at Rs.200 the guide agreed to come with us. He is at his middle 50 and is fluent in English and Hindi. He knows broken Bengali too. He explained all the things as I read from the info. available on the internet. He started to explain total 7 points of interest inside the temple campus one by one. Also, he added how the temple was built under the reign of different Kings and upto which heights. As in the very beginning, I said, I would abstain from touching upon the history I will redirect to wiki link and everything is well documented there. Rather, I will let the pictures to do the talk here, although they are not good quality; thanks to the mobile camera.
I liked the entire ambiance of the temple, including all the POIs. The way Buddhist lamas offer prayer to the load is fantastic. Both physical exercise and mental meditation is an integral part of their procedure. The Maha Bodhi Peepul tree is not the initial one. The guide said it is the 4th generation of the tree originating from the old tree. Some seeds were brought in by Sanghamitra and Mahendra, the daughter and son of the great King Ashoka, who all dedicated the later phase of their life in the dissemination of Buddhism around the world. My mind was dipped into the visualization of the ancient histories and we all were literally feeling it. Needless to say, the guide was a marvelous story-teller. What mesmerized me much are the elements of walking meditation of Lord Buddha, the Lotus stones wherever he kept his feet and the Animeshlochanabriksham (the tree which he looked at constantly 7days without blinking his eyes). Buddhadev meditated here for 7 weeks and each week a different kind of meditation with utter austerity was performed by him. He also told the tale of Sujata feeding cooked sweets ‘khir’ to Lord Buddha after he meditated long without consuming any food. Near the Maha Bodhi tree, a stone engraved footprint of the Lord is revered by the devotees. When we did a complete ‘parikrama’ of the temple from the left side to right covering POIs one by one we discovered a huge metal bell with some Hindu and Buddhist inscription. We clicked some pictures, went inside the shrine and golden clad Lord Buddha’s pacific idol just enchanted us. Some Buddhists were offering prayer in the innermost shrine of the temple. I silently mumbled

Buddham Saranang Gacchami
Dhammam Saranang Gacchami
Sangham Saranang Gacchami’

The guide also told us, after meditating for seven weeks Lord Buddha relocated to Sarnath (near Varanasi). Since that time the place is named 'Budh Gaya' translated Lord Budh went! Quite interesting.

Unlike most of the Hindu temples, taking pictures is allowed inside the temple. We came out and the guide redirected us to some shops with Buddhist cultural stuff, books etc. Ladies are always fond of shopping. With no particular exception, my Mom and Mrs. KD Aunty were on the stage and they purchased various small things for them and to give others as gift items. Our legs were aching by this time and we found some empty spaces to seat and relax. I was relishing the exquisite beauty of the entire heritage place and the act of recognizing the same places from childhood memories after 18 years, revealed a hidden smile in my face with a Déjŕ vu effect.

We got to the external assembly point outside the main temple. A lot of things changed and some very beautifully decorated public facilities were constructed in recent times. There is a Lord Jagannath temple just adjacent to the main compound. There was also a ticket based exhibition, we didn’t enter to see as we had enough walking for the day. It was by 9.30pm we left from the Maha Bodhi Temple towards our hotel. We paid the Totowala and were getting ready for the dinner to be hot-served. In the dining table, we all were discussing last episodes of today's trip enthusiastically and even the 3yr child took an active part in it with valuable gesture inputs. We planned for the next day, for visit to Rajgir and Nalanda and start for home after the sunset. I went out in the chilling night to check the car for a cold start. Yes! There was no sign of problem. The engine started with the first attempt. Peace. Watch ticked at 12 am joining the palms of its both hands. Now time to sleep & snorrrrrr!!! Time for some pictures.

Maha Bodhi Temple Night View
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Inside Maha Bodhi Temple Compound
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The Huge Brass Bell
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I and my Mom in front of Maha Bodhi Temple
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The Jagannath Shrine
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Next morning we all woke up very late at 8 am. I forgot to put an alarm in my mobile too. Anyway, it is never too late to start. We had breakfast and started for Rajgir at 11 am sharp. I opened Google map navigation because the route I have never driven before. As usual, I was following the fastest route provided by GMaps. After crawling through the Gaya city traffic, we took the Gaya-Bodh Gaya road which runs along the dried river Falgu. As we were passing through it, I stepped down the volume of the car stereo as my Mom and KD Aunty started to share their learnt stories through generations about the ‘cursed river Falgu’. It was a real fun to drive listening to all these and all persons on board awake and sharing their thoughts! The heavy traffic didn’t matter to me when driving was so much fun. I was easy on throttle. We were driving through Gaya-Mokama road. At some point, Google map suddenly pronounced there is another faster route to Rajgir through Bhindus-Chamandih road. Initially doubtful, I ventured into the road with a sharp left turn. The road is narrow with several potholes and I was slowly cruising to enjoy the natures’ beauty with 50-50 barren to green land. The more we progressed, the more our surroundings was being dry and rocky with small hills at the roadside. At one point, I found an open area and a rail line parallel to a road curve. I stopped the car at the side of the road and we all got down for a photo session there. The entire area was so beautiful by natural creation it resembled my recall to a complete village scene as I studied in old school textbooks of Bengali literature. Fortunately, a train also passed hauled by a diesel locomotive with its benchmark engine and horn sound. This accentuated the beauty of the spot. After spending around 30 minutes there, we started again.

One side of the road had a fairly high rocky hill without any sign of green. I was constantly thinking somewhere I have seen the place before or it perfectly resembles the one I was thinking. I couldn’t hold my thought longer. I expressed to all that perhaps, I have seen this. But my Mom interjected, it is impossible as we were through this road for the first time. But soon all ice of doubts melted into the water after we progressed 5km more and it radically changed our tour plan. None of us was prepared for it. Suddenly, my mom told the name of the place is Dashrath Nagar and she had read it in some milestone just then. What a surprise to me! I said yes. This is! This is the place I wanted to visit sometime in life. All others inside the car were looking at my face with absolute astonishment. They couldn’t at all figure out what I was upto. (To be continued..)

Enroute to Rajgir
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Old 13th May 2017, 13:18   #2
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Default Re: An impulsive road-trip to Bodh Gaya, Gehlaur & Rajgir

Now it may seem off-topic, but I would insist on dipping into the fact which sparked all this sudden wonder. Of late, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the Bollywood actor with a strong theatre background caught my attention (not only mine, there are many others applauding him). So perfect and subtle his acting skill is. After Gangs of Wasseypur, he took a permanent place in my heart. I decided to watch all of his films sometime. Just before I came home this time, I was watching ‘Manjhi’ a biopic by him based on the life of a poor fellow Dashrath Manjhi, the Mountain Man, who spent almost 22 years of his life to cut stone single-handedly and carve a direct pathway through the barrier mountain from Gehlore to Wazirganj, the nearest working place for most of them. He lost his wife Faguniya (Phalguni Devi, cast by Radhika Apte in the biopic) at this mountain when she was off to deliver food to her husband. The death of his wife was so sternly marked in his heart, this man dared to challenge the mountain and finally broke it after 22 years of untiring diligence. The way Nawazuddin portrayed the character in the movie, it left an indelible impact on me for the Mountain Man and his place. The film was shot at Gehlaur, the village of Dashrath Manjhi, the man in talk, and Dashrath Nagar is the renamed version of Gehlaur to pay a tribute to the man of a vow.

Dashrath Manjhi (pic. courtesy Google)

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So unknowingly we reached this place. Thanks to google maps. It redirected me many times to many wrong routes and dead-end before. That day I have forgiven Gmaps for all the sins it committed to me! This is the place where the beauty of the Taj also blushes before the rude, arid and hardcore achievement against nature’s hindrance for the love of wife. Both Sultan Shahjahan and Dashrath Manjhi built something dedicated to their wives, but the subtle difference lies here: one with the power of money and repression and another with zeal and will power; one to showcase aesthetics and pride, another to make convenience to the poor villagers. History is always beautified by the geographical and natural constraints even sometimes the beauty of a place is enhanced by its rich history. An awesome co-ordination is always found between them. Here, I found the epitome of it.

A memorial is built by the govt. as a tribute to Dashrath Manjhi just beside the beginning of the carved mountain path. The pathway is 110m long and 9.1 m wide, sufficient for making a two-lane road. No photography will do justice to what tremendous and continuous work of a single man resulted into it. The place is till date stark with the quintessence of poverty. I couldn’t resist myself to get the car onto the carved rocky path through the mountain. The downtrodden, poverty-stricken kids from the nearby shanties came out with utter enthusiasm and asked us some food. My dad was so amazed by the entire scene that he assembled all of them and bought samosas from a local seller and distributed among them. They were very happy to get those little samosas and on the other hand we all were happy to see them smiling!

Dashrath Manjhi Memorial
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Dad Distributing Samosas Among Kids
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I parked the car on the mountain road and went up to the hill climbing the small unofficial steps. From there I could see the mountain top. I could visualize Dashrath Manjhi cast by Nawazuddin in the very first scene cursing the barrier mountain.

On The Mountain Path With Ciaz
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Someone Posing with Our Ciaz
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On the Mountain
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Nawazuddin as Dashrath Manjhi
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We spend some time there. Clicked photos and saw the widespread span the area upto Wazirganj visible from the mountain top. We got back to the car and it was almost 2pm. We even forgot lunch and other things, thanks to the exploration of much-desired place without hoping for it. It was like ‘We got rain while there was even no demand for cloud!’

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Distant, Arid Wazirgunj
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After getting into the car we looked at our watches, and without wasting more time we hurried towards Rajgir. Our only target in Rajgir was the ropeway to Vishwa Shanti Stupa and its ticket counter is closed by 4 pm. Other places at Rajgir we have seen before and it would be a reiteration to include them in the target. But the most important thing was the paucity of time, else we would definitely touch them. We reached Shanti Stupa parking at 3 pm, parked the car and headed straight to the ticket counter. There were some eateries around, but we skipped them to cover the ropeway ride and Shanti Stupa first. But one more unwanted situation stranded us down. I clearly remember, when last time we came here back in 1998 they allowed a child to be carried on lap in the single seater ropeway carrier. I also sat with my dad in a single carrier. But the rule was revamped now and they did not allow to board the carrier with a child. Quickly we decided that 3 of us (my parents and I) will go up first, see the Stupa and will come back as early as possible and make a way for the rest two to do the same while we will take care of the child. This claimed exactly twice the time required here. But we had no other option. We executed the plan accordingly and visited the stupa at the time of sunset. After two batches completed the to and fro ropeway journey we were hungry like dogs. We went to an eatery adjacent to the ropeway ticket counter and ordered chowmin, chole batura and so on whoever wanted whatever according to their respective choice. We devoured the food despite being not so tasty.

At Rajgir Ropeway
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Vishwa Shanti Stupa
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The parking lot was almost clear at that time. Only 3 cars were parked including ours. It was almost dark. The parking had a pay and use public facility. Finally, after tea and P we got into the car. It is very much clear that with the time bargain, we didn’t visit Nalanda; but that was overly counter-balanced by the Gehlaur, the village, and work of the Mountain Man. Finally, at 6:30 pm we started for home towards Kolkata. We took the road through Nawada-Rajauli-Koderma-Barhi road upto Barhi junction before taking left to get on GT road. This stretch of road was one of the worst stretches I have driven through in plains. Craters, big potholes were at every length and breadth of the road. This is not at all recommended for any low ground clearance car. No sedan can do it without bottoming it umpteen number of times and damage the car. The average speed of this stretch was hardly 12km/hr and the Ciaz with full load bottomed like hell. Moreover, the oncoming trucks with high beam and shrouded dust smoke aggravated the condition.

The Road Taken from Rajgir to Barhi
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At Barhi we refilled diesel again and headed towards Kolkata. Our first stop was at Topchanchi at 1am. Mr. KD has told me before even he fell asleep I need to stop there and wake him up. My dad too was very keen on inspecting those awful road-side weapon stores. We stopped there and the stores showcased starting from a meagre baseball bat down to every sharp dagger, knives, swords and all types of their lethal variants. For display and home decoration purpose, we chose to take a pair of good looking Dhal Talwar set, in yet-to-be-sharpened condition.

Dad & Mr. KD Posing with Swords
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Just we were to begin the rest of the journey, we were again greeted with the same engine start problem as we faced in the dhaba on the previous day. This time I was cent percent sure that the car fuel pump was the culprit. Anyhow, we asked the weapon store staff to extend their help to push the car. But we found we are on a slightly upwardly inclined part of the road. So, even after being pushed by 5 men against gravity, gaining sufficient momentum was almost impossible. They pushed the car from the back and forth several times so that I can position the car in opposite direction. By this time, all of them were sweating even at 10-degree Celsius temperature! Now they pushed the car at ease with the direction of road inclination, but it was risky as we were doing it in the wrong direction with oncoming, head on traffic. The car got sufficient momentum and was started in 2nd gear. I reversed the car with a lot of precaution judging the traffic, for me being in the wrong direction and resumed for Kolkata. After 45 minutes of this second ordeal, we stopped at famous Khalsa Hotel at Govindpur, Dhanbad. And stopping here, I did not at all extend my finger to push start/stop button. The engine was on always.

Before Palsit toll plaza suddenly impenetrable fog slowed us down and I saw the speedo doing 10km/hr max. Visibility was reduced to 10m or less. Most us the cars and trucks even stopped by the side-lane of the highway. As we crossed Palsit toll plaza, the situation was most vulnerable. None inside the car was sleeping in those odd hours of time and all was worried. Some places the wrath of smoke just engulfed us in a labyrinth with zero visibility. I was slowly continuing in 1st gear. After 1hr odd struggle with fog, suddenly everything was clear onwards. Upto Dankuni, I maintained a steady trip digit speed as usual.

Foggy Road Condition (Palsit-Dankuni)
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At 4am we crossed Dankuni toll plaza and welcomed by an impenetrable jam. We already left the Howrah entry cut from GT road as we need to take Kona e-way for Santragachi. After half an hour of impatient waiting, suddenly all trucks huddled with each other to move forward. Even it took some time as most of the drivers were sleeping. After crossing nearly 700mtr we found a long trailer stood across the road in such a way that it was difficult for the other trucks to find a way forth. Crane came by that time and pulled it to a side clearing the jam. At 5:10 am we were at Santragachi. We took rest at Mr. KDs home. Next day, we all woke up late with the vibrant memories of the just finished trip. We brought and cooked mutton ourselves and feasted on that. At 4 pm, we started towards Haldia with a gloom-cast mind and a thought of repacking luggage and return to my workplace on the very next day. To wrap up, it was a small yet grand road trip with lots of events and that too with my bad health condition, we all will cherish forever.

P.S: I composed the travelogue on the day of Buddha Purnima, 10th May 2017. But I was not able to post it due to an official engagement. Sorry for posting it as it is.
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Old 13th May 2017, 15:23   #3
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Default Re: An impulsive road-trip to Bodh Gaya, Gehlaur & Rajgir

Nice story of your journey there. Being located in this region, we have visited Bodh Gaya many times and I can say that it's a nice place to visit. I am still ṭo visit Rajgir though. Request some more inputs for Rajgir travel.

Appreciate the minute details that you have covered in your posts. What about the road condition and distance from Bodh Gaya to Rajgir?

Was shocked to know that Rajauli- Koderma-Baṛhi stretch is now in shambles. It used to be the main route which we used to take to travel to Patna.

And did you get down to the issue with your car?

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Old 13th May 2017, 16:37   #4
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Default Re: An impulsive road-trip to Bodh Gaya, Gehlaur & Rajgir

Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Request some more inputs for Rajgir travel.
Rajgir (Rajgriha=House of Kings) is very old city dated back in Mauriyan-Magadhian era. Various remains of Mauriyan Empire make this city a worth visit. Due to the scarcity of time and bound to take the return flight from Kolkata we only did Ropeway-Shanti Stupa. Apart from this, a natural hot-spring (one can take bath here), Makhdum Kund (Shrine of a Sufi saint) Cyclopean walls which fortified the city to protect from foes, King Bimbisara's penitentiary, Chariot Tracks, Saptaparni caves where Bheema killed Magadhi King Jarasandha and Buddhist monks used as inn during historical Buddhist Council Meeting, Lakshmi Narayana Temple or Tapodhrama, a Japanese Stupa (Myhoji Japanese Buddist Order); this is situated near Vishwa Shanti Stupa (Gridhakuta). I posted one photo with stone engraved Japnese inscription in my TL which is just in front of this. We visited all these places in our earlier visit to this place (not self-driven road trip).

Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
What about the road condition and distance from Bodh Gaya to Rajgir?
From Bodh Gaya to Rajgir, the route we took via Gehlaur seems to be shortest and fastest. After the common dense and slow traffic in Gaya-Bodh Gaya road, rest of the road was well laid with new tarmac and devoid of any significant traffic. It was about 73km from our hotel in Bodh-Gaya according to odo reading.
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Road via Hisua is a longer route (nearly 80km) and our hotel owner suggested not to take that road as it was in bad condition. Name:  reply1.JPG
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Many people from Kolkata used to reach Rajgir via Bakhtiyarpur which is a much longer route from Bodh Gaya (125km apprx.) This road is not very safe after evening still now with numerous reports of dacoity and similar things.

Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Was shocked to know that Rajauli- Koderma-Baṛhi stretch is now in shambles. It used to be the main route which we used to take to travel to Patna.
Yes, Bihar govt. didn't take any step and completely overlooked it in last several years. Sedan owners' be aware of this road!

Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
And did you get down to the issue with your car?
Mr. KD called the SVC manager of Bhandari Automobiles in that ripe time of midnight from Topchanchi itself and scolded him like hell as he suggested to carry on with it and assured us when we escalated the first issue to him just after reaching Bodh Gaya. It was just serviced before we ventured the long journey. Our ODO clocked 1367km from start to end of the trip. We immediately took it to SVC and as I doubted, they found the fuel pump to be the culprit. The SVC guys told some fuel stations from which we refilled has given adulterated diesel. But when we started our journey we refilled it to the brim from a trusted IOCL pump in our locality, and with that fuel, the problem occurred for the first time. So we can't blindly blame the fuel station at Barhi. Even we had a big tiff with the sales manager as we took several Maruti cars from him (even my Alto). How he forgot to give or ask us to take extended warranty while registering the car! Both he and the SVC apologised. They said the fuel pump needed to be replaced which costs around Rs. 32k . Our car was more than 40k kms and default warranty is limited to 2yrs or 40k kms (whichever is earlier). Due to our long-term relationships with the showroom, they took the responsibility on their shoulder and arranged to replace it. The part reached SVC after 3 weeks, and these 3 weeks the Ciaz took rest at garage!
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