January 24th, 2008 (part 2)
About 12 km north of the Mahabodhi Temple, up on a small ridge, is the Dungeshwari Cave, where Siddhatha spent years in severe penance as an ascetic until he was finally emaciated and skeletal.
I had to dodge some local children, hanging out to pray on visitors for money, then climb up the hill to the cave. A small temple was at the top, in front of the cave, and inside was a statue of the emancipated Bodhisattva, but the man sitting there collecting donations put me off a little. It was an interesting place, mostly just to say I was there, but over all I wasn't very impressed. I made my way back down, sprinting past the children, as they tried to grab ahold of my arm.
The drive to the cave passed through a few small villages that I thought driving through was just as interesting as any of the other attractions. That said, I fully realize seeing other people's harsh reality is much more romantic than experiencing my own...
Back in Bodh Gaya, I walked to the section where many of the international monasteries are built, to "the Great Buddha", an 80 ft./25 meter tall Buddha, seated in meditation, consecrated in 1989 in the presence of the Dalai Lama.
Impressed, I walked back towards the Mahabodhi Temple, for one final visit.