Bodhgaya: Beyond the temple walls

I hesitated to make this post, but I finally felt the need to share the other side of this area that doesn’t make it to the “Incredible India” tourist posters.

Bihar is considered one of the poorest states in India. And if one ventures further than the markets and the temples in Bodhgaya, one will see that this village is one of the poorest areas in the state.

This is my third time staying in Bodhgaya, and yet this is the first time I’ve become aware of the magnitude of poverty here in this area. By chance or karma, I landed in a guesthouse that’s right in the middle of village life, so to speak. The guesthouse itself is better than some others I’ve stayed in, and is spotless. I feel safe enough here as well, and would even use the guesthouse again if I return.

But staying here and walking around the back streets has really opened my eyes. I’ve seen slums and other poor areas in India before. Yet here on a daily basis I’m now walking along streets with open drainage, trash, houses without solid doors or roofs, and probably without plumbing. I’m cold enough to be bundled in a fleece over-shirt and scarf, yet there are kids running around without shoes, and sometimes without pants.

All the tourist money coming into the area is obviously not reaching the people that live here, and my heart goes out to them. They seem so resilient, and still friendly, returning the smiles of the strange gori walking through their midst. I realize how very, very fortunate I am.


I’ve read some reasons why the poverty continues here despite the town garnering impressive incomes. I’m not from here, and given the state of politics in my home country, don’t feel qualified to propose any reasons or solutions. There are some charities that seem to be doing great work here, but help for most seems to be slow in coming.

My aim in this post is just to share some of the other side, and let you see what’s behind the tourist curtain.

Author: mettatsunami

In 2009 I was working full time in medicine, and living a life that was alienated from what I truly valued. While volunteering with a local hospice, I began to wonder: "What would I do differently if I had six months to live?". This began the impetus to change direction. While it has been a case of two steps forward, one step back in many ways, there has still been slow movement in the direction of a more authentic life. Since the pivotal decision to change direction, I have been a Buddhist nun, returned to lay life, changed Buddhist schools, returned to medicine part time, and then full time, quit again, traveled extensively, trained in yoga, spent time in several Buddhist monasteries, and am in the process of how to live according with Buddhist and yogic practice and values, and how to streamline this life into something worthwhile. In the Theravadan Buddhist practice, one of the daily reflections is "Has my practice born fruit with freedom or insight, so that at the end of my life, I need not feel ashamed when questioned by my spiritual companions?". That is my practice. My goal in this blog is to share the journey along the way.

10 thoughts on “Bodhgaya: Beyond the temple walls”

  1. Thank-you for this post. The seldom photographed and shared un-tourist but very real part of India. One must always recall the good fortune one has. And, then, do some good because of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s where I lived in 1984. At that time it was the poorest place in India. Functioning leper colony just 7 miles from the village. What is the foreign medical community like there? Take care Peter brown

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denise, I think it is good to share all the reality of all parts of the world. After my travels, volunteering and then daily seeing such poverty and war torn places on the news, it makes me crazy with all the consumerism of our country at this Christmas time. Every night as I lie in bed, I do think of those going to bed with no shelter and hungry. I am so grateful – and it is pure luck or misfortune to be born where we are. My problem is which charities to contribute to, versus purchasing unneeded presents……… there are so many trying and wanting to help. Thank you for again reminding all who are so blessed it feels better to give than to receive. Best wishes…. gail

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Peter, there are some clinics that provide free health care – not sure if they’re run by local providers or foreign. Had been thinking if I came back that I’d stay longer to do some volunteering. I bet you could write a book on your experiences here!


  3. Thank you for the reminder that behind the lovely landscapes and beautiful architecture is an India filled with poverty and people in need. It is an awakening that should touch our hearts and open our pocketbooks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I find it tough sometimes to make the view of a country balanced. It’s not all poverty here, but not all rainbows and unicorns either. My perspective also seems largely dependent on my mood, so I try to keep a balance in all things. Sometimes I’m even successful!-)

      Liked by 1 person

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