|Starting Point||Supatitthya Cetiya, Jethian|
|Ending Point||Jivaka Mango Grove, Rajgir|
|Total Distances||14 Km|
The places where the Buddha walked and taught are largely found within the modern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and are bounded by the eight great sites of pilgrimage at Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kusinagar, Rajgir, Vaishali, Sravasti and Sankasya. Many of the places that the Bhagavan visited were recorded in the Vinaya, and marked with stupas and other monuments during the ancient period by the great emperor Ashoka.
Having been abandoned and fallen into neglect by the 13th century in India, these sites were the subject of intensive archaeological exploration in the late nineteenth century through the offices of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the leadership of Sir Alexander Cunningham. Many were rediscovered at that time, and in the century that has passed since then, the ASI has continued to make excavations at many Buddhist sites. Major discoveries are still being made, but the scale of the remains from the 1000 years when India was primarily a Buddhist country are immense. In Bihar alone there are estimated to be 1,600 Buddhist sties, of which only a handful have been excavated.
With the recent growth in pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Buddhadharma, an initiative has been launched to encourage visitors to recreate some of the walks made by the Blessed One “In the Footsteps of the Buddha: Walking where the Buddha Taught”. Projects are underway to recreate the route taken by the Buddha in Sarnath, Sravasti and Kusinagar in UP, as well as the places visited in Bodhgaya and Rajgir.
On December 13, 2015, one such walk is being initiated, when 600 monks and many thousands of lay people will walk on the ancient pathway taken by the Blessed One in the company of King Bimbisara of Rajgir and all of his court from Jethian Valley to Rajgir in the months following the Enlightenment.
After spending the first period in Sarnath, the Buddha came back to Mount Gaya where he converted 500 fire worshippers and preached the Fire Sermon. Then he walked with his extended Sangha in procession towards Rajgir. King Bimbisara, hearing that the Blessed One was coming to see him, having fulfilled his prophecy that he gave to the King some years before that he would achieve unsurpassed enlightenment, came out from his walled capital and walked with his entire court along the ancient line of hills towards Bodhgaya. The two met at a beautiful valley called Jethian, some 13km from Rajgir, and having made offerings the King and the Buddha walked together back to Rajgir where the King offered the Bamboo Grove pleasure park to the Buddha and his monks.
The place of their meeting was marked by a stupa during Asokan times and the ancient stupa is still clearly visible today. Indeed, as this is desert land no excavation is required to reveal the ancient landscape – it is still on the surface. The rocks one walks over on this ancient pathway are the self same ones touched by the feet of the Blessed one. The rocky hills are the same ones he saw. There was more forest perhaps in those areas able now to support the cultivation of crops, but this desert landscape is largely pristine, just as it was in ancient times.
We had 1000 participants from 13 countries walking along the Jetthian Valley. The Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International (lbdfi.org) (www.lbdfi.org) sponsored 15 stupas in the name of each country who participated in honor of the Blessed One.
Please stay tuned for our next walk on December 13th 2015!