Mahabodhi Temple, Gaya, Buddhists holiest place - a world heritage site

Mahabodhi Temple, Gaya, India Thousand Wonders
Mahabodhi Temple  Travel Bharat

Mahabodhi temple, that has been around since 260 BCI, is the holiest place of worship for the  Buddhists of not only India but also of other countries. Mahabodhi Temple is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Everyweek  Buddhists in thousands visit this temple of historical and cultural importance. Located in the Gaya district of Bihar, the main object of veneration is the sacred Bodhi tree  in the temple complex. It is believed to be spot  where Buddha used to meditate for transcending the cycle of reincarnation. Since he got the enlightenment here,  it is  considered as the holiest spot in the complex. A statue of Buddha made of  polished sandstone was installed by  Emperor Asoka, one of the greatest warriors of India,  in the third Century B.C. Prior to coming to this place, Buddha was a rich prince by the name of  Siddhartha Gautam and enjoyed all the trappings of a royal life, At one point of time he was fed up with his affluent life and began to see the other side of the world, sufferings, pain, poverty, etc.    He questioned the inequality of lives existing in the world. Driven by curiosity and urge to find answer, he renounced his rich royal life, family, etc.,  and came over  to the forested banks of the Phalgu river, near the city of Gaya, India. There he sat in meditation under a peepul tree (Ficus religiosa or Sacred Fig) which later became known as the Bodhi tree. Buddhist scriptures mention that, after three days and three nights, Siddharta attained enlightenment and the answers that he had sought. After prolonged meditation he attained Nirvana. In that location, Mahabodhi Temple was built by Emperor Ashoka in around 260 BCE.

Mahabodhi Temple.

The Mahabodhi Vihar (literally: "Great Awakening Temple"), is  simply a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Bodh Gaya  is about 96 km (60 mi) from Patna, capital city of Bihar state.

 The Buddha then is believed to have spent the succeeding seven weeks at seven different locations/spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience. Several specific places at the current Mahabodhi Temple relate to the traditions surrounding these seven weeks.  The temple was built directly to the east of the Bodhi tree, supposedly a direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree. Legend has it that, a Bodhi tree sprang up on the day  Gautama Buddha was born.

Buddhametta in Mahabodhi Temple.  Wikimedia Commons

In roughly 250 BCE, about 200 years after the Buddha had  attained Enlightenment, Buddhist Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya with a view to establishing  a monastery and shrine on the holy site. The new Mahabodhi temple included a diamond throne called the Vajrasana to mark the exact spot of the Buddha's enlightenment. Emperor Asoka is considered the Mahabodhi temple's founder, but  the current structure dates from the 5th–6th century.

 After the decline of the dynasties that patronized Buddhism, the new religion  slowly faded  following White Hun and the early Arab Islamic invasions such as that of Muhammad bin Qasim. Later in the 12th century, the Muslim Turk armies invaded Gaya and in the wake of it, the temple fell into disrepair and was almost abandoned.


Mahabodhi temple, peepel tree. TripAdvisor

01. This heritage site includes  several places where Lord Buddha had meditated after attaining  enlightenment. It is said there is a place in the heritage site where  Buddha  stood meditating for a week without moving his eyes.

02. In the 13th century, it is believed (?), Burmese Buddhists built a temple with the same name and modeled on the original Mahabodhi Temple.

03. During the 11th century and the 19th century, it was the Burmese rulers who  undertook  the restoration of the temple complex and surrounding wall.

04. Thanks to the Colonial administration. Having understood the historical value of this most important site that gave a popular religion to the world, in the 1880s, British colonial government of India began to restore Mahabodhi Temple under the direction of Sir Alexander Cunningham. In 1885, one Sir Edwin Arnold visited the site and under guidance from Ven. Weligama Sri Sumangala published several articles drawing the attention of the Buddhists to the deplorable conditions of Buddhagaya. Ultimately, after, independence, the site was recovered from the Hindu Mahant and the state of Bihar built the temple. 

 Mahabodhi Temple's central tower rises 55 meters (180 ft) and is made of brick. It  is one of the oldest brick structures to have survived in eastern India. It is considered to be a fine example of Indian brickwork, Timings : 5 am to 9 pm. cameras and video are allowed.