Amazing Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya, Bihar (brief note) and the problem of encroachments in the ASI sites

/tall gopura with small ones, Bodh Gaya,

The Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar is one of the most important and ancient monuments in the world and it is an important center of Buddhism.

The Mahabodhi Temple (literally: "Great Awakening Temple"), an ancient but rebuilt, Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya,where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bodh Gaya 15 km from Gaya and is about 96 km (60 mi) from Patna has a descendant of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and has been a major pilgrimage destination of Buddhists for over two thousand years. Lots of tourists and Buddhists from SE Asia visit this holy site. The temple a symbol of spirituality and enlightenment carrying  immense historical and cultural significance. 

After Buddha's demise, Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire visited Bodh Gaya in order to establish a monastery and shrine on the holy site, Unfortunately, it does not exist today. There remains however the Diamond throne, which he had established at the foot of the Bodhi tree. The Diamond throne, or Vajrasana, is thought to have been built by Emperor Ashoka between 250 and 233 BCE,at the location where the Buddha reached enlightenment. It is worshiped today, and is the center of many festivities at the temple.

Bodh gaya Bodhi tree (Kolkata museum)

Above image: Bodh gaya, Bihar. this Bodhi tree is from the actual railing at Bodh Gaya. image Courtesy: Wikipedia - from the Kolkata Indian Museum in West Bengal. photo  taken by Anandajoti. .

In the temple complex  standing  in the east to the Mahabodhi Tree are two vertically tapering  straight-sided shikhara towers, the larger one is  over 180 feet tall with small towers on sides. The smaller one is behind has no small side towers (ma be missing?) Atop  the temple are Chatras which symbolize sovereignty of religion.  This type of architectural  style is being retained by the Jain and Hindu temples even to day and has  influenced Buddhist architecture in other countries, in forms like the pagoda.

Mahabodhi temple, Gaya stupa with finial, wikipedia

Mahabodhi temple, before 

1899 Mahabodhi temple,  after restoration 1800 wikipedia 

Above images:  The  design of truncated pyramid  with  stepped stupas was modelled after  Gandhara. The Mahabodhi Temple follow -ed  the Gandharan design of a succession of steps with niches containing Buddha images, alternating with Greco-Roman pillars, and top by a stupa, as seen in the stupas of Jaulian. The structure  crowned with a hemispherical stupa topped by finials, is similar to the stepped Gandharan stupas. Photo courtesy:  wikipedia- image by unknown person............

Bodh gaya, diamond throne built by Ashok wikipedia 

Above image: Bodh gaya, discovery of diamond (Vajra) throne built by Emperor Ashoka c 250 century BCE. photo courtesy: wikipedia - sir Alexzander Cunningham,

reconstructed Sunga railing, Bodh Gaya wikipedia

Above image: Reconstitution of the Sunga period pillars  (dating back to first century BCE) with pot shaped bases at Bodh Gaya, from archaeology (left) and from artistic relief (right). They are dated to the 1st century BCE. They were similar to those found in the relief work on  the gateway pillars Reconstitution done by Alexander Cunningham.

Bodh Gay original railing Kolkata museum wikipedia

Above image: Original Sunga railing, Bodh Gaya, Bihar -Kolkata courtesy: wikipedia- B. Ganguly.  

1880 image Bodh gaya Sunga railing

Above image: Sunga railing, Bodh Gaya Photo courtesy: wikipedia -Henry Baily Wade Garrick (1880 photograph). British Library on line.........

Bodh Gaya 2nd Cen.BC plaster copy of railing

This railing is a plaster copy and reconstruction of the 2d century BC original. The photo taken inside the railing, NE corner of the temple, The Sunga period. looking north. photo  courtesy: wikipedia.........

Yet another ancient features of the Sunga period are the railing around the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. They are made of  old sandstone posts dated to 150 BCE. these railing were extedde down the centuries and in the 7th CE were made of coarse granite. Many parts of the early railing were  dismantled and are now in museums, such as the Indian Museum in Kolkata, and now are replaced by plaster copies.

Despite odds, periodic maintenance of this most significant site related to Buddhism is a must and the beneficiary will be the posterity.


The problem of encroachment and illegal construction in the ancient sites under the ASI, Bihar: 

At countless important monument sites  encroachments by the people and unauthorized constructions are a menace;: reason: No stringent heritage laws are strictly enforced.  Severe punishments and hefty fine will act as deterrence and in the future such violations of laws won't occur.  Both the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state Heritage department fail to act swiftly against the violators and bring them to face the court. 

Bodhgaya and Gaya is  a treasure trove of one of the significant archaeological sites and ancient heritages, but inadequate steps to conserve them have exposed this and other related sites  encroachment and and damages. These problems have been around  for more than a decade. 

The ASI so far has not been able to bring under its "complete care" and management at least 20 heritage sites in Bihar because the  authorities concerned are yet to clear encroachments and unauthorized constructions in and around these places. There are  problems of encroachment in the area surrounding a rock inscription of Mauryan emperor Asoka at Chandan Hill (also called Ashik Pahari), 3 km south of Sasaram town.

According to   Goutami Bhattacharya, the superintending archaeologist of ASI (Patna circle),  district authorities, despite reminders, "have not taken requisite measures" to facilitate the upkeep and maintenance of these centrally protected sites. In the case of the police department they sit on the complains with respect to  illegal constructions in the restricted areas surrounding the protected monuments. The ASI officials are concerned about the ubiquitous apathy on the part of the district administrations which failed to take action against the culprits'. There is a total lack of cooperation and response from the local authorities. Their lack of action has set the roadblock for the AST ro proceed further.  

A boundary wall should be built around the protected site at the earliest to stop further violation, The same should be done at many sites to save the monuments from anti social people and real-estate mafias.