VAJRA VIDYA INSTITUTE
SARNATH, VARANASI, INDIA 

Founded by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche


GENERAL INFORMATION & VVI SEMINAR INFORMATION
(updated October 2010)

ABOUT SARNATH & VARANASI
SARNATH is a major Buddhist pilgrimage site (also known as Deer Park) and is located 10-km northeast of Varanasi. This site is where the Buddha gave the first teachings known as the Four Noble Truths and is known as the place where The Buddha turned the First Wheel of Dharma. The Vajra Vidya Institute is located just behind Deer Park. The Park is a large and beautiful area with tree, flowers, lawns and a small zoo. The ancient 34 meters high Dhamekh Stupa is located in the park along with the ruins of the ancient monasteries. Adjacent to or near the park are monasteries and temples of different schools of Buddhism from Japan, China, Thailand, Burma and others. The Indian Buddhist society called Mahaboudhi Society maintains the park. The Mahaboudhi Temple within the park has a tooth relic of the Buddha. The area of Sarnath is peaceful with few cars on the roads. It is very easy to get around Sarnath on foot or by bicycle rickshaw. The Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies, a university for Higher Buddhist studies of all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism is also located in Sarnath.

VARANASI, known as the Holy City, is a major pilgrimage place for Hindus. The Ganges River, which flows through Varanasi, is sacred to Buddhist and Hindus alike. On the Ganges, the many temples and burning ghats for cremations make it is a very interesting place to visit. Varanasi is very crowded with air pollution. It is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Varanasi is very famous for silk and is where traditional Tibetan silk brocade is being made. The city is also well-known for it’s traditional music and dance schools. The famous Benares Hindu University and Sanskrit University have students from all over the world. However, Varanasi, while being interesting, is not peaceful like Sarnath.

HOW TO GET THERE
Varanasi can be reached by air, train or bus from major cities in India. Most people fly first to Delhi and then get a connecting flight to Varanasi. The Varanasi airport is about 1-hour’s drive from Sarnath. There are several airlines flying from Varanasi to Delhi. Airlines flying every day are Indian Airlines, Jet Airways & Sahara Air. Thai Airways operates a direct flight from Bangkok to Varanasi and Gaya. Train from Delhi takes around 18 hours and is often delayed. Sarnath is approx. 15-20 minutes by car from Varanasi. Between Kathmandu and Varanasi ,Air India has flights four times weekly.

Many airlines fly to Delhi from Europe, USA and all over the world either directly or on connecting flights.

When reaching the Varanasi Airport or the city of Varanasi , take a taxi to Sarnath. When you reach Sarnath, go to the backside of Deer Park. The area is known as Kajoohay. If the driver doesn’t know, then ask someone directions to Kajoohay or the “Big Tibetan Temple” or “Big Mandhir” (temple). It is, by far, the largest one in the area and is well known to the local people

MONEY

It’s advisable to change money at the airport bank on arrival in Delhi or Varanasi to get Indian rupees for taxis etc. and some funds to last for some time so you don’t need to go to the bank for awhile. The rate for the Indian Rupee to U.S. dollar is approx. 44 rupees to one dollar. You can probably get Indian Rupees from banks in your country. There are banks in Sarnath (and of course in Varanasi if you need to change more money later). There’s some ATM machines now and there is one bank that does credit card withdrawals. Most convertible currencies can be exchanged but U.S. dollars are best. Pound sterling, Canadian dollar, Deutchmark can be exchanged. It’s best to bring traveler’s cheques for most of your money for security reasons and some cash for easy exchange. Some advisors say to get traveller’s cheques in $20’s. This is seems, from my experience, to be not so practical. $50’s and $100’s are better.

VISA
You must get an Indian visa at an Indian Embassy in your own country before arrival in India. It is not possible to get visa at the airport. Ask only for a tourist visa. Do not request a visa for study as it can be complicated. Most Indian Embassies issue a six month multiple entry visa. In some countries it’s possible to get a long-term visa (10 years in U.S.) if you have traveled previously to India. If you are travelling to Nepal, you can get a one-month or two month visa for Nepal at the airport that can be extended at the immigration office in Kathmandu. The cost of the visa is $30 US for one month.


Information on hotels and guesthouses:

Vajra Vidya Guesthouse
During the seminar: $15 daily, including meals
Double Occupancy. (If available, single rooms at $20 daily including meals.)
Rooms in the monastery: $10 daily, including meals.

There is a small guesthouse at a Nyingma nunnery next door to the VVI. If not enough room at the VVI, people can also stay there. We don’t have information at this time about how to reserve. One would need to go there and check.

The Golden Buddha Guesthouse
With attached bathrooms, private garden and restaurant. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the institute or you can take a bicycle rickshaw. Bicycles can be rented nearby. The Guesthouse restaurant is nice but service is very slow. The downstairs rooms are dark and a bit scruffy but cool. The new upstairs rooms have only one double-size bed in each room. I cannot really recommend it because each year the quality of this place goes down and it’s badly managed.
To reserve contact the owner: John Upadhyaya:
johnupadhyaya@rediffmail.com
Phone: 91-542-587933 or 311030 (home)

Jain Paying Guesthouse
Located near the park with seven rooms with common bathroom at around $5 a day without meals. There is one room with bathroom and hot water. They cook very good vegetarian meals. .   
Contact owner:  Dr. Jain at jpgh@rediffmail.com      Phone:  0091-542-585621- www.visitsarnath.com

Adarsh Guest House
This is a new small one, very close to Sarnath Park. It’s located at S.14.78 Shiv Temple Road (near the Japanese Buddhist temple. It has only eight rooms with attached bathrooms. No restaurant
Phone: 0091-542-585673 Fax: 585379 or mobile: 0091- 98380-45385

Other
Some of the other monasteries in the area have attached guesthouses which are very basic.
There are many decent hotels in Varanasi from medium prices (around $12-$25 a day). There are also a number of budget hotels. If you are interested check “The Lonely Planet Guide to India”.

For more luxurious accommodation there’s the Taj Gange (5 star). Previously, some participants stayed at “Clarks of Varanasi” which is a 3 star hotel and very comfortable with swimming pool etc. Discounted room price was around $40 - $50 a day. Phone: 91-542-348501 Fax: 348186 clarkvns@satyam.net.in

WEATHER & CLOTHING
The weather can vary from cool to hot so bring light clothing and sandals for Sarnath. In late February or even into March, it can be a bit cold at night and in the morning so bring a some warm clothing as well. If you plan to travel to Dharmsala , Darjeeling District, Sikkim or Nepal you will need some warmer clothing and a light jacket and umbrella.

OTHER TRAVEL
If travelling to or from Nepal, there is an Indian Airlines flight about three times weekly from Varanasi to Kathmandu (see “How to Get There”). From Varanasi, Bhoudgaya can be reached by train or by car within one day. To get to Dharmsala people generally travel from Delhi and go either by air (3 flights a week), train or bus. You can get to Sikkim by flying from Delhi to Bagdogara in the Darjeeling District or by train to Bagdogara and then bus to Gangtok, Sikkim. Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche’s monasteries are in the Darjeeling district and can also be reached from Bagdogara (near Siligaree). Airfare between Delhi and Varanasi and Kathmandu/Varanasi is about the same – around $72 one way. Kathmandu to Delhi is $142-one way. Several airlines fly daily between Varanasi and Delhi daily and are approx. $72 one way.

There is a Thai Airways direct flight from Bangkok to Varanasi.

We have long distance phone service (STD) and fax in the Institute. There is also a photocopy machine. STD rates to USA/Canada are 13 rupees per min.
There are also communications offices in Sarnath for e-mail (some have broadband) long distance telephone calls, faxing, photocopying etc.
We don’t have e-mail available for participants at the VVI.

COMMUNICATIONS
We have long distance phone service (STD) and fax in the Institute. There is also a photocopy machine. STD rates to USA/Canada are 13 rupees per min.
There are communications offices in Sarnath for e-mail with fast internet service, long distance telephone calls, faxing, photocopying etc.
We don’t have e-mail available for participants at the VVI.

MEDICAL CARE
Medical care is not as good as Kathmandu but there are doctors of western and herbal medicine as well as homeopathic doctors. Now there’s a Apollo Hospital in Varanasi which is quite good.There are many well-stocked pharmacies with most types of ordinary medicines. Many pharmaceutical companies in Europe and America are in partnership with Indian companies. We have a small medical clinic at the VVI with medicines. There’s two monk health practitioners, a doctor from Varanasi who comes three times weekly and often visiting doctors from the west.

LAUNDRY
There is a laundry person who comes to on the VVI Guesthouse and picks up laundry. It’s delivered, washed and ironed the next day. The hotels also have laundry services.

WHAT TO BRING

  • A small flashlight for power outages and walking at night (you can buy flashlights in India but they are not as good).
  • mosquito repellent for evening
  • medicines and vitamins that you take regularly
  • tapes and tape recorder if you wish to tape the teachings. CD’s of the teaching will be available in Boudha.
  • Our guest house has hangers but if staying elsewhere, a few hangers if you need them
  • a few clothepins etc. if you will be doing small laundry yourself.

THE VAJRA VIDYA BOOK AND GIFT STORE SELLS MOST DHARMA ITEMS, THANKAS, STATUES, BOOKS AND TEXTS.  THERE IS ALSO A COFFEE SHOP RUN BY THE MONK’S WELFARE ASSOCIATION (VERY POPULAR!)  Soap, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, mineral water, batteries, camera film, notebooks, pens, chocolate bars, cookies and snacks are available in VVI coffeeshop. There’s also stores across the street from the VVI and in the nearby village of Sarnath. Fruit sellers everywhere.



Return to Main Menu