2014 - Buddhist Pilgrimage to India (Day 11, 12)

BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE TO INDIA “In the Master’s Footsteps” 24 Nov – 5 Dec 2014 (12D/11N)
Beautiful sunrise view at this ancient Buddhist monasteries near Dhamekh Stupa Monument Site, Sarnath.

Day 11 (04.12.2014) Varanasi to Sarnath, the place of first sermon by Buddha. Varanasi to Bangkok by TG328 16:30hrs 21:15hrs

The morning call at 4am and breakfast was at 5am. At 6am we visited the Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath which marks the spot of the Buddha’s second sermon after Enlightenment at this Deer Park. We then visited the museum with a remarkable statue of the Buddha setting the wheel at law (Dhammacakka) in motion. Visited Mulagandhakuti temple in the Deer Park.

Sarnath is a city located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi near the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati rivers in Uttar Pradesh, India. The deer park in Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna.

Sarnath is one amongst the four holy places associated with the life of Lord Buddha. This is the place where Buddha, after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya, preached his first sermon to his five erstwhile companions. This event in Buddhist literature is known as Dharma-Chakra-Parvartana or The Turning of the wheel of Law, Foundation of the very first Buddhist Sangha was also laid over hereby Lord Buddha himself. In Buddhist texts, the place is recorded as Rishipatana or Issipatana and Mrigadava or Mrigadaya Saranganath (Lord of Deers), Still Borne by the Mahadeva enshrined in a temple nearby.

After lunch at hotel, transfer to Varanasi airport for our flight to Bangkok. Arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport for direct transfer to Hotel Novotel Suvarnabhumi for dinner. Overnight at Bangkok: Hotel Novotel Suvarnabhumi.

Beautiful sunrise view at this ancient Buddhist monasteries near Dhamekh Stupa Monument Site, Sarnath.

Most of the ancient buildings and structures at Sarnath were damaged or destroyed by the Muslim Turks.

Dharmarajika Stupa was built by Ashoka to enshrine the relics of Lord Buddha in view of the redistribution of the relic and to enshrine them. In a number of stupas at different places, it is referred, that king Ashoka opened seven original relic stupas (but for Ramgram stupa guarded by the Nagas) and collected relics to erect thousands of stupas and Dharmarajika stupa is one of them.

Dharmarajika Stupa - As concluded by the excavations, originally it was a small stupa of 13.49 meters in Diameter, subsequently it was enlarged in six different phases, by raising the height, providing circumabulatory path-latter on shaped as Medhi, with monolithic stair cases at four cardinal directions to climb over it, as per available record this huge structure was unfortunately pulled down by Jagat Sing, A Diwan of Raja Chet Singh, king of Banaras, during 1794 A.D in order to exploit building materials. In this tragic event a relic casket of green marble inside a stone box was discovered. The box is preserved in the Indian Museum Calcutta, whereas the casket was thrown into River Ganges, Later on during archaeological excavation two outstanding images viz the colossal Bodhisattva of Kusana period in Red sand stone and an image of seated Buddha in Dharmachakra pravatana mudra of Gupta period were also recovered from the periphery of this stupa.

The Dharmarajika Stupa is one of the few pre-Ashokan stupas remaining although only the foundations remain. The rest of the Dharmarajika Stupa was removed to Varanasi to be used as building materials in the 18h century. At that time, also relics were found in the Dharmarajika Stupa. These relics were subsequently thrown in the Ganges River.

The ruins of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara mark the place where the Buddha spent his first rainy season. (Pic: May Soong)

This monolithic railing made of Chunar Sandstone, which bears the typical Mauryan polish, was discovered by Mr Oertel during excavation in the year 1904-05. Each side of this square railing measures 2.54 meter in length and 1.45 meter in height, probably it was originally placed at the top of Dharmarajika stupa. It bears two inscriptions of about 3rd century B.C which refer to the teachers of Sarvastivadin sect.

The Ashoka Pillar erected here, originally surmounted by the "Lion Capital of Asoka" (presently on display at the Sarnath Museum), and was broken during Turk invasions but the base still stands at the original location. (Pic: Annie Watt and Bro. Leong Yew Joo)

These are the fragment of a 15.25 meter high monolithic pillar created by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (272-232 BC) made of Chunar sand stone. These bear the typical Mauryan polish. The cylindrical shaft is slightly tapering with a diameter of 0.71 meter at the base and 0.56 meter at the top. It was once surmounted by the famous four adored example of Mauryan art (Now the National Emblem of Govt of India) and displayed in the site museum.

The pillar bears three inscriptions. The earliest one is an edict of Ashoka. In the Mauryan Brahmi script in which the king warns the monks and nuns against creating schism in the sangha. Next mention the 40th year of the Kushana king Asvaghosha of Kaushambi and the third is in early Gupta Brahmi script refers to the teachers of the sammitiya sect and the Vastiputrak School.

Group of Votive Stupas.

Group of Votive Stupas. In the area around the Moolgandha Kuti, there are many ruins of small stupas, Buddha Vihars and a small temple. These small stupas are known as votive stupas. These are basically built to commemorate visits of various acknowledged Buddhist masters or dignitaries.

Archeological site at Sarnath (Dhamek stupa is visible in the background).

Jenny Teng Swee Lin and daughter Tan Faye Shien.

Dhamekh Stupa - According to an inscription dated 1026 A.D recovered from the site, its old name was Dharma Chakra Stupa. It is perhaps commemorating the spot where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon.

Dhamekh Stupa - In search of the relic casket Alexander Cunningham bored a vertical shaft through its center down to the foundation level and at a depth of 91.4 cm. He found a slab which the inscription “Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava Hetu"... Written in Brahmi Script of 6th-7th century A.D. Further below he traced out a stupa made of Mauryan bricks.

Dhamekh Stupa - However, the present diameter of this solid cylindrical tower is 28.5 meters at the base and 33.35 meters in height. Its total height is 42.60 meters including the foundation. The structure consists of a circular stone drum up to the height of 11.20 meters from the ground above which, rises the cylindrical mass of brick work about 6.0 meters above the base, eight niches are provided in eight directions which must have contained images of Buddha. Below them runs as broad course of beautifully carved stones having geometric designs, swastika, leaf and floral patterns combined with birds and human figures.  

Wong See Lan and Ching Bee Geok.

Buddhist commentaries by Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee.

May Soong, Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, Mike Khaw Eng Aun.

The Deer park is a huge enclosure made for the deer to roam around freely.

Dharma Chakra Jina Vihar - According to an inscribed stone slab found during excavation at the site, this imposing monastery was donated by Kumari Devi the Buddhist queen of Govinda Chandra, a Gahadwala king of Kannauj (1114-1115 A.D). The area excavated so far measures 232 meter east to west having two gateways towards the east which are 88.45 meter apart from each other.

Dharma Chakra Jina Vihar - The basement of the monastery is raised to the height of 2.44 meter and constructed of neatly chiseled bricks and decorated with elegant moldings on both the inner and outer faces. At the Western proximity of the complex is a covered passage or tunnel is 54.78 meter long with its side walls 1.83 meter. In height the entire complex was constructed over the ruins of several earlier monasteries.

Mulagandha Kuty Vihara (4:00 AM to 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM to 7:30 PM), the prime place of worship by world Buddhist community was constructed by Anagarika Dharampala, a noble son of Sri Lanka and founder of the Maha Bodhi society of India. It was inaugurated in 1931 and enshrined the sacred relics of Sakyamuni Buddha.

It is located in the Isipatana Deer Park at the eastern side from that place where Buddha preached first sermon. Its wall paintings on Buddha's important episode of life, done by famous Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu during the years 1932-1936. The exposition of the sacred relics for the public and its annual procession around Sarnath falls on Kartik Purnima, full moon day in the month of November.

Our lunch at Hotel Rivitas, Varanasi, India.

I am going to miss all the chapati and curry which I have been eating for the past ten days.

L-R: Julie Tan Chooi Kee, Ching Bee Geok, Lilian Agumo Estolas, Cheong Jin Jee at Varanasi Airport for our flight to Bangkok.

Saying goodbye to India at Varanasi Airport.

All saying goodbye to India at Varanasi Airport.

Saying goodbye to India at Varanasi Airport.

Saying goodbye to India at Varanasi Airport.

Overnight at Bangkok: Hotel Novotel Suvarnabhumi.

Day 12: 5th Dec. 2014 Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur TG 415 ETD: 08:45 HRS ETA 11:55 HRS

Early 5.30am breakfast at hotel, then transfer to airport for our 8.45am flight back to KLIA arriving at about 12 noon. 
At Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.

At Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.


It is our pleasure to provide herewith some feedback from fellow participants of our Buddhist Pilgrimage trip to India and Nepal, which turned out to be just as wonderful, memorable and adventurous too.

Ching Neng Bin said…
Dear Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, I just wanted to tell you that I had a wonderful pilgrimage with you as our spiritual guide. The trip was fantastic in both a spiritual and historical perspective, bringing the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha alive in a way I could never have imagined! Words cannot describe what it meant to me! This was my first pilgrimage. You have been so personable and informative that we all felt you made the trip so much better than we could have imagined. We cannot emphasize enough how much we enjoyed on our pilgrimage, and we can only make sure that we will follow you on future tours. It was very meaningful to visit all the holy sites and to have Buddhist chanting and meditation at all these different holy places. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

I must say that Voon Seong our Malaysian tour guide was great! He was so friendly, kind and patient. His chanting was fantastic and I love to hear him chanting. The spirituality of the pilgrimage grew as we traveled from Bodhgaya to Rajgir, Vaishali, Kushinagar, Lumbini, Sravasti then to Varanasi. My only regret is that I would have loved to stay a day or two longer in Varanasi to visit the Ganges River.

As for our Indian guide, Mr. Sharad, I wish to express my comment on a job well done. He was also very knowledgeable. We enjoyed his good humor and he has demonstrated a lot of patience working with Voon Seong. He was punctual, courteous and well mannered. It was great that he pointed out the important locations at each site. The accommodations were just fine and the North Indian food were excellent.

The bus driver did a good job driving the bus and we always felt safe. It was especially nice to have such a group as we all bonded together.

It was a trip of a lifetime for me and especially special to do it with my sister Ching Bee Geok and also to celebrate her birthday on 25th November by all participants. 

To all Buddhist out there, you are encouraged to perform this Buddhist Pilgrimage to India “In the Master’s Footsteps” in your lifetime. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Cheong Jin Jee said…

Dear Prof Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee,
Congratulations on your professorship! With your knowledge and experience, you are already like a professor of Buddhist studies to me, as I really enjoyed your enthusiastic recounting of the history and stories relating to each site we visited in India! Thanks to your contacts too, we were fortunate to see a different side of the pilgrimage trail with Dr. Basanta and Dr. Panth. The memorable moments of this trip will linger long in my memories.

Thank you so much!! Hope you are keeping well. I am in Hong Kong now for X’mas and be flying back to Penang on New Year’s Eve. It's cold!!!

Baby Cheah said…
I would sincerely like to thank Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, Elaine and the organising committee for a very successful pilgrimage to India. I would also like to thank Voon Seong for being very caring, helping and making our 12 day journey so much comfortable. We are blessed to have met archeologists and learned professors, monks, performed Dana, chanting & meditation, a complete pilgrimage of Buddha's path to Nibbana. SADHU, SADHU, SADHU.

(Lilly) Guoy Lee Le said…
I am grateful to my good karma ripening at the right time that makes it possible for me to be on the BGF India Pilgrimage Trip 2014.

"Seeing is believing", and this pilgrimage has added a new dimension to my understanding and practice of the Dharma.

Thank myriad to BGF Committee, the organiser of the trip; Prof Datuk Seri Dr Victor Wee, the leader; Bro. Voon Siong, the time keeper; Ah Heng Gor, the photography director; Bro. Ching, the blog writer and all the brothers and sisters in the Dharma for making this pilgrimage a memorable one.

Choo Swee Kim said…
My sincere gratitude to Prof Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee and Elaine to accept me to join the Pilgrimage to India.

I truly felt the warmth and Metta extended by Prof Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee and BGF members and also our new friends in the trip. This trip has enhanced my Viriya to practice more mindfully and wish to gain more peace and happiness in everyday life.

The effort that we have put in to wake up so early in the morning in India to go for meditation was very fascinating and I have enjoyed very much, especially together with Elaine. By my practice and the merit that I have gained, I wish to share these merits with Prof Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee and all my fellow friends to gain enlightenment soonest. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Julie Tan Chooi Kee said…
This trip under our leader Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee was a very well organized and a memorable trip to me. It was unbelievable that I could actually walked the Buddha's path under his guide. I enjoyed the many stories of Buddha's life that Datuk Seri regaled us devotees.

I attained a new but brief blessed peace during the early morning meditation after chanting the Pali prayers at the Mahabodhi Temple. I really wish time had stood still during the bliss for I had been suffering from 24 hours of tinnitus for more than 40 years. (As one grows older, the noise becomes louder to the extent that meditation and sleep is impossible). I had to see a psychiatrist for sleeping and other medication. Being stone deaf in both ears makes it worst. Scientist discovered that our ears are made for hearing and because it couldn't hear sound, the ears nerves made loud sound inside the ear. I was never able to meditate as a result of my tinnitus, my monkey mind jumps everywhere in scenery I had no idea of seeing. It was a miracle that my mind was able to keep still during those meditation session and the tinnitus disappeared.

I guess the group of devotees under Datuk Seri and even Datuk himself are virtuous Buddhists who sends out positive vibration of peace and harmony to all sentient beings. I was glad that orbs were always around us to help us improve our spirituality. As long as one has a camera of 6mega pixel one is able to capture orbs. Not being able to capture orbs doesn't mean it is not around us. These orbs moved at a very high frequency. Pessimist would say it is due to reflection, well try to capture orbs, and using the same camera quickly capture at the same angle, you will find the orbs are not there anymore. If it is reflection, no matter how many times you capture it will still remain. Like us, the orbs are sensitive e.g. when people try to capture a photo of their friends and if we happen to be near or obstruct them, we would quickly avoid the photographer. The more colorful or brighter the orb, the higher its rank in the orbs system. Animals sees orbs easily with their naked eyes but not us.

When I was back home, my ear was still in bliss for a week. After that it was back to square one. May be I should stay at the Mahabodhi temple for a longer time like the yogis. With Metta, from Julie (Tan Chooi Kee).

Tan Kim Lock said...

I sincerely like to thank all of you. I have been privileged to join you all in this memorable pilgrimage trip to India. It has been a very interesting and incredibly enlightening journey for me. I realized this pilgrimage trip is extraordinary and the experiences I encountered are indeed worthwhile. I hope everyone else felt like wise.

Pilgrimage Itinerary:

Copy and WIN : http://bit.ly/copynwin


  1. Cheong Jin Jee30 December, 2014

    Dear Bro Ching, your blog is excellent, the photos are beautiful (I especially like the Bodhgaya ones) and the records are meticulous. Thank you so much for the good work, I sent your blog to all my friends and relatives as it saves me having to explain to them myself!

  2. Minderjit Benvait30 December, 2014

    Wonderful pics thanks for sharing your adventure.

  3. Bro. Ching, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful journey to the west i.e. 2014 - Buddhist Pilgrimage to India. I truly enjoyed reading your travelogue. It was simply so exciting and enlightening. I wish you good health, happiness and abundance in your journey in life.

    With Metta,
    Jack Au

  4. Mr Ching NB, Long absence but not forgotten. Great photos taken &
    shown unmistakeably tell bygone legends of magnificent civilization &
    eras of unparallelled Buddhism. Much could be learn & shared if
    privileged to have personally traveled there. Thank you for sharing.

    In by passing, FYI, Dtk Victor Wee was a year senior in my Economics
    Faculty in Uni M'ya then. We were staying at the 4th Residential
    College then. I remember he plays & strum the guitar well so was my
    raw powerful vocal chord which cannot be redeemed now annihilated by
    unBuddhist influences and surroundings.

    Emm I saw one redhead (surely arouse lots of attention, unnecessarily
    perhaps that could disrupt the peace of mind which look quite
    familiar, whatever may be, I respect her courage with the new look.
    Didn't telephone neither of you when I was at Ipoh days before your
    holy trip cos my emails sent received no reply.

    In good faith, your Buddhist friend
    Ray Chong.

  5. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu.
    From our Malaysian friends.
    I didn't know that Victor Wee is a Datuk now.
    He probably won't remember me during the days we spent together at the 1977 novitiate program under Venerable Sri Dhammananda, but I remember him singing Buddhist hymns with his guitar. Good to know he is still very active in Buddhist circles.

    All Buddhists should be encouraged to make a pilgrimage at least once in their life to the 4 places of pilgrimage, if possible, the 8 places, as this was advised by Lord Buddha himself. If the Muslims can make a Haj pilgrimage once in their lifetime, why not the Buddhists?

    Gentlemen, can I humbly request you to think about it and start a movement to encourage "Pilgrimage to the 4 Holy Buddhist Places at least Once in Your Lifetime".

  6. Felicia Tai Poh Chee31 December, 2014

    Brother Ching, I am so impressed with your good effort which helped me to show them all to my friends with lots of the photos taken and the detailed write up of our pilgrimage.

  7. Sadhu Ching, very good write-up and photos taken which help us to recall back to day one of our pilgrimage.

  8. Leong & Annie05 January, 2015

    THANKS AGAIN! Ching,

    Annie & I greatly admire and appreciate your diligence & immense effort in putting up such a memorable blog on the whole tour. It's indeed invaluable and we'll treasure them for life time! May your family and you be Bless by The Triple Gem.

    Best Regards,
    Annie Watt & Leong YJ

  9. Lau Chea Yong16 March, 2015

    Thanks a lot for sharing all your wonderful travels all over the GLOBE. Very educational, too.
    Sadhu, Sadhu,Sadhu
    Lau Chea Yong

  10. Nice write-up. Very detailed and good quality pictures. But it is quite sad that you visited only Lumbini from Nepal.