I went to Vaishali and Kesariya by taxi yesterday (Thursday, 17 December 2009). It was a long day with some minor hassle at the end when the driver tried to cheat me by claiming I’d given a 500 rupee note when in fact I gave a 1000 rupee note. He didn’t get away with it because a 22 yo young man who the driver invited along to be an interpreter sided with me as a witness. The driver was upset with the young man but only with words. It was an unnecessary end to an otherwise good day.
The taxi fare was 1400 rupees for a journey under 200 km in one day and 7 rupees per kilometre after 200 km. So I paid 1730 rupees for the total journey. If you are taking a taxi in this way, it is vital to agree when and how the fare will be paid prior to departure. Also get agreements in writing with signatures from the driver/agent and yourself with copies of the documents for everyone. If there are problems, mention “police” and take out your mobile phone as though you are going use it. It is good to have a reliable independent witness as I did.
Vaishali is the location of the ancient capital of the Licchavis – possibly the first form of democratic republic or confederacy in India and one of the first in recorded history. Lord Buddha visited Vaishali many times and the many of the locals became followers at that time. At the time of Lord Buddha it may have been known as Vesaali.
Vaishali is about 50 km north of Patna. About half the road was sealed and the other unsealed half appeared to be having a major upgrade as we drove through. At the Vaishali site, I saw the a museum, two tanks of water (large rectangular ponds), Asoka pillar and the Ananda Stupa. I also paid respect to some of Lord Buddha’s relics located in a new Japanese built “World Peace Pagoda” at Vaishali.
To get to Kesariya, we then drove further north over 30 km or more of very rough bumpy and dusty roads crowded with the usual cows, goats, buffalo pulled carts, pedestrian farmers, children, dogs, bicycles, auto rickshaws (motorised 3 wheel open taxis), cars, trucks, buses
Kesariya is still not well known on the Buddhist pilgrim circuit and the Indian Government is currently upgrading access roads and building facilities on site to service the Buddhist pilgrims and other tourists expected to visit the place.
The stupa is very wide and tall. One side is currently exposed (cleared from trees, scrub and dirt).
On the side of this ancient and sacred stupa I noticed a lot of graffiti. There were Indian people’s names such as so and so was here or someone loves someone. These were probably inscribed with a key or other sharp object. There was no sign of any authorities protecting the site from such desecration.
However, I observed the construction of a ticket counter building and possibly what might become a small museum near the current main gate. I noticed a concrete fence was partially constructed around the stupa. I was told via an interpreter that a Japanese hotel will be built adjacent to the site.