A lot happened during my short time in Bodhgaya, and so I am spreading this section of the travels over a couple of posts.

Arriving into Bodhgaya. In the distance the Mahabodhi Temple rises up above trees. Fields and dusty open ground in the foreground. A few people walking on a single track road through the center of the image.
Arriving into Bodhgaya with the top of the Mahabodhi Temple peeking above trees

One of the first things that we (myself and Ray, an American who I had met on the road and was currently traveling with) noticed on arrival in Bodhgaya was the number of people who walking around with patches over one eye. Clean white patches. It wasn’t just one or two, there were a lot of people with patches. There were crowds queuing for food and others just hanging around, waiting for something, but at that stage, I knew not what?

A group of people in white clothing walking in a line near some makeshift structures and a large tree, with greenery in the foreground.
A group of people walking past some covered, makeshift stalls

Once we were settled in our hotel, I went off for a wander around by myself. I stopped in a restaurant for something to eat and then went to take a look behind the Tibetan monastery. Each Buddhist nation has a monastery in Bodhgaya. Behind the Tibetan monastery there was a building which appeared to offer rooms for the lay Tibetans and other hill peoples. I felt a visceral buzz to be around these mountain people again, following my time trekking in Nepal.

A crowd of people, many wearing traditional Indian clothing, gathered outside a white two-story building with balconies where more individuals are standing or sitting. Some are queuing toward a tent, suggesting a possible event or distribution taking place. The ground is dusty
Crowds gathering in front of a building housing Tibetan people

I found out that a wealthy Indian businessman or men had paid for eye operations to be performed here in Bodhgaya. Apparently ten doctors were performing five to six hundred operations a day.That seems like a lot, but that is what I was told. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had offered the temple which was built for the Kalachakra Initiation in 1985 as an operating theatre for the doctors. Masses of tent like structures made up of bamboo frames covered by cloth surrounded the temple. The scene reminded me of what I had seen of refugee camps on television.

In front of the home for lay Tibetans were people waiting for food or to be operated on. I sat at a distance and as I started to blend into the background, took some pictures of the waiting people, and the food preparation.

A group of people, mostly women in colorful traditional clothing, gathered in a tight crowd with a couple of children and a small dog visible in the foreground.
Crowds gathering

A hot cauldron being stirred while men stand around in a large area covered demarcated with a bamboo frame, some covered
Food preparation

I started walking back to the hotel, passing a temporary and colourful archway with Tibetan people gathered around. I stopped to watch what was going on, not really wanting to leave. One monk had a sizable video camera on his shoulder. I got talking to a man from Darjeeling, Tamsin, who told me that the people gathered here worked in the handicraft stalls around Bodhgaya. They had closed up shop for a week in celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama having just been awarded the Noble Peace Prize.

Monk with camera with Tibetan and Indian people standing around
Monk with video camera

Tamsin told me that they were all off to dance and invited me along. I followed everyone to a field just behind the Mahabodhi Temple which is built on the sight commemorating where Buddha attained Enlightenment. I just appeared to be accepted. No questions. I just joined them.

On reaching the field a circle was formed, half with the women linking arms together and the other half the men together. Singing started, dancing as well - stamping of the feet while slowly moving backwards and forwards. While I had no idea what was being sung, I didn’t and don’t speak Tibetan, there was something deeply familiar to me about what I was joining in with. I was familiar with the moves. I was not one of these people but I felt at home around them and very comfortable. The joy of this crowd of people was infectious. I was so happy. I wrote in my journal,

I sat down to watch the other dances. We got together for a group video shot. Tamsin took a photo of me, I one of him, a couple of Tibetans jumped. Everyone was smiling/laughing, just so happy. Writing this I wish that it was happening now. A woman started started singing, competing with some far off speaker. People listened and then joined in then clapped, laughed, smiled.

I stayed there until dusk. I had to get back to the hotel and look for Ray. What a day it had been. When I left home a little over four months ago I had little idea really of what the reason was behind my trip. There was a pull to see Central Asia and the Himalayas, I wanted to set off on this journey, but if you had asked me to explain the “Why?" of the trip, I don’t believe that I could have named it. Now I was starting to feel as though I was coming home β€Œ(this I write on the back of a few other experiences that I had had earlier on in my travels, while in China, Tibet and Nepal). The sense of uncertainty of direction was going, replaced by focus and clarity. A murky clarity, but it was there.

I went to bed that night reflecting on how today had turned out. I was happy and looking forward to what would happen next. Tomorrow was the blessing of the new Buddha statue at the Japanese temple by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Me with Tibetan people in a field and the Mahabodhi Temple behind
Me with the Tibetans after dancing