Walking pilgrimage
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| Member

Walking pilgrimage

Hello everyone,

First post on india mike. I am trying to find information on walking from one buddhist pilgrimage site to another, eventually walking to them all. I am wondering if anyone has done this, or has any information about doing it. I would start in Varanasi and do a loop basically of all the sites. I have traveled through north India, but ever done anything like this. I imagine it would involve a lot of highway walking, which is not so nice. Thanks in advance.

10 Replies

| Maha Guru Member
Which Buddhist Pilgrimage sites do you plan to visit? Those in and around Gaya?
| Gone.......!
No personal experience of walking to all the sites but I'd assume quite a bit of walking. Atleast 500-550 kms of walking on major roads and highways.

The following map and itinerary will give you a rough idea of the routes and sites.

Buddhist Circuit

Buddhist circuit
| Member
I plan to visit the four Major sites; Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Lumbini and Kushnagar. Then some of the smaller sites like Nalanda, Rajgir etc... I have alittle less than two months. Thanks so much for that map. Yes I imagine it will be a great deal of walking! probably at least a months worth...I am planning for this coming February...as in a month from now.
| 10 yrs in India
Ajahn Sucitto, the abbot of Cittaviveka monastery in England has done it, with a kappiya (assistant). They wrote two books together about the experience. The first is called Rude Awakenings. A tell-tale title. Have a look at them here

I know they also got robbed on the way, even though he is a monk with practically no possesions. And got lost in the jungle somewhere. I did not read the whole of the two books yet, just some chapters.

See here for maps about the Buddha's tours, and other ressources


This book might be of a little help, though not specifically for a walking tour.
Middle Land, Middle Way by S. Dhammika

I am doing a tour in March 1-18, 2013, with a monk. If you want to be in touch, I have contact info in my profile. But we start in Bodhgaya. We might meet somewhere.

Be aware that in February it is still quite cold in the region.
| Senior Member
Well walking around from one place to another would not be a very nice option as many of the places are far apart and it would not be considered safe to travel on foot.Hopefully if you can find easier modes of transport like railways or roadways that would be really more comfortable and convenient for you also its not sure whether you may get proper accomodation on your way to various places if you do go walking.Do plan your trip carefully and Hope that you would have a nice trip in India.
| Member
For sure ti will be quite cold, however I enjoy the cold and I'd rather it be cold than hot! Thanks so much atala for the book sites..it seems that as I go deeper in to the idea of this journey thee more daunting it becomes! That is usually the case I think. Atala are you doing a walking pilgrimage? what places are you going to? We could meet for sure.
| 10 yrs in India
Not walking, no, taking whatever transportation is meaningful, mostly cabs, probably, decided on the spot. We are spending a 3-4 days in Bodhgaya, then go to Rajgir for 2-3 days, visit the sites around there, then via Nalanda to Patna, probably only one night there, then on via Vaishali and Kesariya (place where the Buddha spoke the Kalama-sutta and other Discourses) to Kushinagar, 1-2 nights there, then on to Lumbini, a few days there, then to Savatthi (Shravasti), and finally Sarnath.

I have have done the circuit before, but this time it is more detailed, including places that I have not been to before.

Actually Ven. Sucitto did his tour 20 years ago. Different time. Considering that this region was one of the richest, if not the richest of all of India at the time of the Buddha, and centuries after, it comes now as almost a shock that it is devastatingly poor today. Maybe not the Patna area, but the rest. Also in U.P.

When I was the first time in Savatthi I went by mistake into town; I missed the bend to the Jetavana site. I have never seen such misery and poverty in all of India, and I have seen a lot of rural India. I think that part, the poverty everywhere, that makes a walking tour difficult. In Rajgir for instance there are parts which you are not supposed to walk through, for fear of robbery.

You must know that you are risking your life. Maybe that's what you want, die on pilgrimage. (I guess you know that the Buddha said that one who dies on the pilgrimage to these places would go to a heaven, probably because you are always thinking of the holy places and the presence of the Buddha there and thereby purify your heart.) But you could also survive mutilated.

Maybe what you could do, is plan the whole thing spread out to several years. That's what people do with the Way of St. James through Europe, heading to Santiago de Compostela in Portugal. You could start in Lumbini and walk to Kushinagar, take these 120 or so miles (via Gorakhpur) for this year as a start. If you find in Kushinagar, you want to do more, then you do more and head for Kesariya and Vaishali.

I'd say the stretch Lumbini to Gorakhpur and on to Kushinagar is relatively the safest on the whole circuit (not considering Gaya to Varanasi, which you probably would not walk anyhow, is it?) There you have good size towns for the night, and people who speak English ( i suppose you don't speak Hindi?!). Then you have gathered enough experience to judge whether you are up to the more difficult parts.
| Member
That sounds like a really great plan! No I don't want to die on this pilgrimage, or get mutilated. I have visited a few of the sites we are talking about via rickshaw and cab and so forth, so I know it's not so nice a place to walk, and that it's also quite lawless. It sounds right, that the stretch closest to the Nepal border would be a good place to start. It's funny that you mention the camino in Europe. I have been looking in to that walk. Basically I am looking for a similar walk but in the Buddhist tradition. A meaningful walk that isn't dangerous, save the obvious dangers of long distance walking, done alone. It's tough to plan such a walk in a place like India! Thanks for your thoughts!
| Maha Guru Member
I have heard this guide by Eicher is good: Walking with the Buddha - Buddhist Pilgrimages in India. The guide can be ordered online at http://maps.eicherworld.com/MapsGuid...ravel%20Guides
The site also has two other buddhist trail guides: The Buddhist Trail in Himachal and Buddhist Circuit in Central India. (http://maps.eicherworld.com/mapsguid...ravel%20Guides)
I personally have not gone through these books, but trust Eicher maps to be one of the best on this field in India..
| Member
Hello Jalb,

Did you actually walk the sites? If so, I would like to get some information from you.


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