With the completion of the Holi—I was about to say that India recovered from the chaos but I should better say that it regained its wonderful chaotic functioning—I could finally leave Bodhigaya.
My next destination was Rajgir, where I arrived by bus, on a seat whose metallic edges scrapped my legs with each of the bumps, as many as grains of sands in the Ganges River.
Rajgir is what remains of the capital of a kingdom that existed at the time of the Buddha, the scenario of many of the stories and legends attributed to him. The city is nestled in a valley surrounded by five hills, one of which, known as Vulture Peak, has a special significance for being the place where, during the monsoon, Buddha retired to meditate and where he delivered some of his most important teachings, such as the Lotus Sutra.
I stayed in a room on the roof of a Burmese monastery. The first morning, at dawn, I went to one of the surrounding hills to sit in meditation. As the sun kept on rising, barefoot Jain pilgrims began to show up on the paths, whose procession I gladly joined.
That afternoon, realizing it was getting late to reach Vulture Peak as was my intention, I decided to return. That was the first of several mysteriously failed attempts to reach the sacred mount, as we shall see in the following posts.
On my way back, I peeked in a well that turned out to be a deep natural hot spring, where a crowd—I could only see heads—were soaking in sulphurous waters. It looked like a snapshot of the hells by Hieronymus Bosch… though they probably felt in the heavens.