My last night in North India, after three weeks there, was an emotional one. I was in Bodhgaya, a town best known as the spot where Buddha yes THE Buddha attained full liberation/enlightenment, after he sat all night under a tree in the middle of the open field. Modern Bodhgaya is no longer that serene, 2,500 years later. Instead, it has paved streets full of the typical busy Indian overwhelm that I have become familiar with – jostling noisy crowds of people vehicles and cows, people constantly coming up wanting me to buy something, crumbly buildings and homes, and even snaggle-toothed beggars wearing dirty rags and holding outstretched hands (which is actually a rare sight for me in India).
Varanasi (formerly known as “Benares”) is situated along the banks of the Ganges river, in North India. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, older than most of the major world religions, and the oldest in India. Mark Twain apparently said, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Wikipedia also says that it is the holiest city in the Hindu and Jain religions, is the spiritual capital of India, and is often referred to as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning”, and “the oldest living city on earth”.