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  • Writer's pictureKatie

Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur

If you want to experience a place that's even more calming and tranquil than the most remote locations in the world, then traveling to the Buddhist equivalent of the Vatican should be on the top of your list. The Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur in Bangladesh, India, is where the Buddhist monks of the area gathered to discuss some of the most important things about the religion. It became one of the most significant intellectual hubs globally. Now nature has taken it back and made it one of the most beautiful ruins.

The Temple Was The Setting For Change In Buddhism

After Buddha died, his followers did everything in their power to carry on his teachings, but there was a small number of them, and they needed help. So the Indian emperor Ashoka made it his mission to spread the religion. Over the centuries, it traveled throughout Asia, but Buddhism had become fractured. Like every religion, Buddhism evolved from follower to follower, and new things were being written about it.

The Buddhist monks needed a place to question and converse about the most profound issues about the religion. They decided to build the great monastery of Paharpur in the 8th century in Bangladesh. Together, they tried to fill in the cracks of their broken faith at this peaceful monastery, the crowning jewel of Buddhism and one of the world’s most important intellectual centers until the 12th century. With all these minds in one place, it gave rise to a new branch of Buddhism called Vajrayana, which spread through Asia faster than the original form.

The temple itself is in the shape of a cross, not the typical shape of Buddhism temples, and sits at the center. It's made of brick and terracotta, and there are walls around the perimeter that make it look like a walled-in garden. An aerial view reveals a perfect geometric masterpiece and an artistic creation that continues to astound its visitors. It embodies the wealth of knowledge it used to house and the wealth of the Pala Dynasty, which ruled for four hundred years, and its head and benefactor, King Dharma Pala Deva.

You can walk the same pattern of walkways as the monks did centuries ago; in fact, they walked the quadrangle once at sunrise and again at sunset and meditated and studied in between their walks. They weren't permanent residents, however. Many monks would come and go, and the temple acted more like a retreat and a place to talk, meditate and learn more.

Even now, after centuries of decay that have eaten away at the bricks, it is still one of the most peaceful places on Earth. To truly take in its beauty, it's best to visit between October and March when there is little to no rain. Two things you might need are really good walking shoes and an open mind to take in all the learning you'll be doing. Everything else we can take care of, all you need to do is take in the beauty.

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