Varanasi, India. Just to change the religious focus a bit, the last stop on our trip to Varanasi was to nearby Sarnath, sacred to all Buddhists.
It was here that the historical Buddha, who lived from about 563 to 483 BCE, first taught the dharma, the nature of reality regarded as a universal truth taught by the Buddha, or in other words, the teaching of Buddhism.
He came here in 528 BCE, about five weeks after having obtained enlightenment, and spoke to his five disciples. The larger than life re-creation is a bit off-putting, but the religious fervor is quite evident.
It sits in a small pavilion donated by a generous family, and seems so calm, compared to the Hindu decorative style.
The most impressive part of the park is the Dhamekh Stupa, the largest surviving monument at Sarnath, built around 500 CE, and thought to mark the place where Buddha delivered his sermon. Excavations have shown an even earlier stupa was in place there at 200 BCE.
And then there was the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar Temple, built in 1931, connecting the foundations of seven older monasteries. There are frescoes of the life of the Buddha on the walls and a simple altar.
There were many pilgrims from Sri Lanka yesterday, and there was a general air of happiness all around. It just seemed like a happy place.
We are moving on to less holy territory, but maybe some of the religious exuberance we have seen will have a positive effect!