24th February 2016, Wednesday…Day (5) Lakhimpur-Shravasti-Ayodhya, 310 km
Where is my cam charger?
It was 5am in the morning and I had just woken up inside the car parked outside Shere Punjab Dhaba, Lakhimpur Kheri. This was the first thought that came to my mind first up. I didn’t sleep all that well too. Maybe it was a drink or so more than what I used to or constant noise of traffic during whole the night.
Sardar ji, the owner of the dhaba, was up early and humming prayers. I hurriedly checked inside the dhaba and to my relief, cam charger was secured at the switchboard. I thought, everything was alright but to know a little later that it was gone forever. More than the cost of replacing the charger, worry was to find its replacement.
Driving early on wide potholed road, I was able to feel early morning village life of Terai region of Uttar Pradesh. Men were hurrying for the farms with their tools and women were busy in their household chores. Bullock carts and tractor trolleys ferrying sugarcanes and other agricultural produce were seen all around.
Marshy lands and few boats lying in the shallow waters along the road meant people are engaged in fishing too. Serious looking white, black ducks and colorful birds were a soothing sight to the eyes in the otherwise dull and murky landscape.
Banana plantation presented an interesting site to me since I am not used to it. To me, its early tiny size looked more was human dwarfs dancing merrily. The plantation was in such a unison as if its farmer must be master of geometry, I felt.
Driving through the road decorated with red silk cotton flowers all around was a pleasure too. I stopped a number of times to click pictures of the road and surrounding landscape.
Red-silk flower in full bloom.
Village landscape and life around NH 730 was quite different to the one I am used to in Punjab. People seemed to still struggle for making decent living.
Many truck drivers had advised me not to drive on this route around Nanpara during the night and be careful even at daytime. The target of looters was usually loaded vehicles. I didn’t have anything like that, still the advice was played on my mind when I drove on that road that day.
The area had lot many wayside gurh (jaggery) extraction plants as sugar cane supply is aplenty all around.
Who am I?
This was the first thing that struck me when I reached Shravasti, one of the largest ancient Indian cities at the time of Buddha.
It felt good being at Stupa of Angulimala at Shravasti, whose story was narrated to us in childhood. Angulimala was a serial killer, who used to kill everyone who passed by. To keep a count he would cut the finger of the victim, strung them on a thread and hung around his neck as a garland. He had already killed 999 victims when he encountered Buddha and was redeemed.
I was told Thai temple at Shravasti was a beautiful temple but to my bad luck it was closed for renovations that day. It looked huge and special from outside though.
There were many Sri Lankan and Japanese pilgrim at Jetavana that day. Buddha is believed to have spent 24 rainy seasons at the place.
Pilgrims praying at Jetavana was such a touching site.
Jetavana is quite big and it was bit hot too. After praying at Gandha Kuti and Anandabodhi tree some monks were seen resting and relaxing.
Pilgrims praying at Jetavana. They arrived on plush luxury coaches and were accompanied by professional guides carrying low sounding speakers.
It is believed that vedic king Shravasta was the founder of the city and it was the capital of Kosala kingdom during 6th century BCE to 6th century CE.
Pilgrim praying at Gandha kuti.
Selfie with Buddha at Ananda Bodhi tree, Shravasti.
Lalpari outside Thai Temple, Shravasti
The boundaries of ruins at Saheth and Maheth are believed to be the site of ancient Shravasti. Maheth was city-proper while Jetavana monastery was at Saheth.
Jetavana monastery is the main pilgrim center having Gandha Kuti (Buddha’s hut) and Anandabodhi tree inside the large premises. The remains of three ancient sites; Stupa of Angulimala, Anathapindika and old Jain temple are at Maheth.
Buddhist monasteries from Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet and China are also constructed at Sravasti.
While visiting a Jain ancient stupa I saw two naked jain sadhus flanked by two women walking on the road. Their walk was normal and with right posture. Since it was new to me, the site evoked strange feelings inside my mind. I could not but admire the mental strength of these saints.
Shravasti is also believed to be the birthplace of the Tirthankara Sambhavnath of Jainism, making it an important center for Jains as well. It is said that the city had a population of 900,000 in 5th century BCE and it even overshadowed Magadha capital, Rajgir.
Although there were still many sites to explore in Shravasti yet I decided to move on to Ayodhya. I had already driven for 170 kilometers to arrive at Sravasti on NH 730 through Bahraich and Ayodhya that morning and Ayodhya was still over 100 kilometers away.
Evening was setting in and I was aware of the fact that I was solo and in an unknown territory.
From Shravasti, the drive was through village roads and in pathetic condition. There were no signboards and I had to ask for directions at number of places. Seeing red car with PB number driven by a solo driver through the remote country road made everyone curious. It made me even more conscious and wanted to hit the main road as quickly as possible especially before sunset which luckily I did but at the expense of not clicking any pictures.
Reaching Ayodhya was a relief. I drove through the main road and many places to assess whether to sleep inside the car or find some suitable accommodation. Somehow felt safe near the main road near naya ghat. There were number of rehries and eating places, buses and autos were plying. Interestingly, many rehri walas were watching India vs Bangladesh cricket match on mobile TVs.
I kept walking on the bridge over Sarayu River and on the ghats until I felt sleepy and went to sleep inside the car parked near the market on the banks of the river.
I pinched myself, is it true. I am sleeping on the banks of fabled Sarayu River, the land of our legendary king, land of Raja Ram, Ram Janam Bhoomi of Ram Lalla, of Ram Rajya, of Ram Leela, of Ram Temple.
A Dream Come True…..Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram Patit Pawan Sita Ram.
Route map of the day.