The Mahabodhi Temple complex is one of the four holy places related to the life of Lord Buddha and is particularly known for the attainment of enlightenment. The first temple was constructed by Samrat Ashoka in the 3rd century BC and the present temples were built during the 5th or 6th century BC. It is the place that is said to have attained enlightenment by Lord Buddha here.
Among the four places held most sacred by Buddhists, the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, located about 115 km south of Patna, is the most visited. The other three, Lumbini, where he was born; Kusinagar, where he attained Mahaparinirvana; and Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon, are equally important, but Bodh Gaya is special. It is here Siddharth the restless and inquisitive prince turned Buddha, the enlightened.
The Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa or Peepal tree) under which the Buddha is believed to have meditated and attained enlightenment is located within this temple complex and venerated.
Enlightment of Lord Buddha
Around 2500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha left his home at the age of just 29. Leaving his wife Yashodhara and son Rahul asleep at night, he set out in search of knowledge.
After wandering around for days and nights, Young Siddhartha reached near Gaya and found himself near a large peepal tree on the banks of the Niranjana River.
Something about the tree called out to him. He made a resolution. ‘I shall sit under this tree and meditate upon my questions. And I shall not move until I have my answers. Even if my skin rots and my body decays, I shall not budge till I see the light,’ he decided.
After renouncing the worldly fascination and wandering in search of knowledge,
He attained divine knowledge on the full moon day of Vaishakh month after 5 years of rigorous spiritual practice. Thus he was called Gautama Buddha from Prince Siddhartha. The sacred Peepal tree is today known as Bodhivriksha.
After attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha enlightened the world with his knowledge and inspired people to follow the path of righteousness. This holy land of Lord Buddha has been communicating his teachings in the public since the past times till today.
In his travelogue of the Chinese itinerant Xuanzang, the sacred Buddhist temple of Bodh Gaya finds mention as the ‘Mahabodhi Temple’.
Mahabodhi Temple Architecture:
The ‘Mahabodhi Temple’ is considered to be the most ancient and unique temple in the world. Its architecture attracts tourists immensely. The height of this temple is about 160 feet which is very grand to see.
Emperor Ashoka built the first temple near Bodhi tree during the 3rd Century BCE, almost 300 years after Buddha’s period (566-486 B.C.E). The temple was later rebuilt, and the present structure is datable to the late Gupta period — 6th century CE. Fahien and Hieun Tsang, the Chinese travellers who visited in 5th and 7th century respectively, recorded the existence of the Bodhi tree and the railing around it.
The temple was under worship until the 13th century when it fell into disuse. By that time Buddhism had declined in influence.
Grandeur remains such a staring tourist. Four dome is built to balance the temple at all the four angles of this temple. Which adds to the grandeur of the temple.
The sanctum sanctorum of the Mahabodhi Temple is approximately 47 feet in length and 49 feet wide in width. The outer wall of the temple is very beautifully decorated. Small statues are placed around the walls of the temple.
Statues of Lord Buddha in various postures are present on the temple’s floor. The sanctum sanctorum of the Buddhist temple houses the Padmakara posture of Lord Gautama Buddha. It is said that he used to sit and meditate on this place.
The structure slowly went to seed. Only during the 19th century, archaeologists and antiquarians began taking proper notice of Buddhist sites. In 1861, British archaeologists conducted excavations in the Mahabodhi complex and later restored the temple.
The existing structure, which is 55 m tall, is among the oldest brick Buddhist temples in India and occupies an area of 5.5 acres. The temple, the Bodhi tree, and six other sacred spots — together spread over 12 acres — constitute the core heritage zone. This historic area was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 for its cultural and archaeological significance.
His footprint is also inscribed on the nearby rock. The green cast from the Bodhi tree also enhances the beauty of this temple.
Places to visit in Bodhgaya – Bodhgaya
Apart from the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, it is worth seeing many things related to Lord Buddha, which are explained in further detail.
Buddhist tree – BODH GAYA TREE
The holy Bodhi tree is located in the courtyard of the Mahabodhi Temple. It is said that no tree will be so popular in the world, as is the ‘Bodhivriksha’ of Bodh Gaya. There were attempts to destroy this tree many times.
First of all, this tree was cut by the wife of Emperor Ashoka. Because that Emperor Ashoka became envious of the immense reverence and devotion to this tree.
Shashank, the ruler of Bengal, set the tree on fire for the second time. Third time fell in 1870 due to storm. It is said that ‘Bodhivriksha’, presently located in the Mahabodhi temple complex, belongs to the fourth generation of his dynasty.
The plinth is inscribed on the side of the Bodhi tree, which is considered to be the footprints of Lord Buddha. This place is called Vajrasana. Lord Buddha spent a week at this place.
After that, he stood and watched the Bodhivriksha for seven days without blinking, which became known as Animesh Lochan.
This Vajrasana has been made even more lavish and attractive by the Sri Lankan government with a gilded railing and umbrella. On the southern side of the Mahabodhi Temple is a lake known as Kamal Sarovar or Muchhaling Sarovar. The beautiful trees and plants around the lake add to its beauty.
Apart from the Mahabodhi Temple, the main attraction of Bodh Gaya is the newly built huge statue of Lord Buddha. About 80 feet high and 51 feet wide this statue was built by the Buddhist organization of Japan.
This statue always attracts the attention of the tourist. This huge Buddha statue is constructed from the pink stones of Chunar. About 16,300 small sculptures are placed in the interior of this statue.
These idols have special significance in Buddhism. It took 4 years to build this statue and it cost about 1 crore rupees. This statue was unveiled by the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist guru in the year 1990.
Along with this, the ‘Temple built by the Government of Thailand’ attracts everyone’s attention. This temple was built in 1967. A 200-quintal iron dharmachakra is located in the temple complex itself.
In this Dharmachakra, the teachings of Gautama Buddha are engraved. It is believed that by rotating this Dharmachakra, there is freedom from sin. Apart from this, among other sightseeing are Buddhist monasteries built by various countries.
How to reach Bodhimandir?
As we know, Gaya is connected to every part of India by air, rail and road. Taxis, auto-rickshaws and buses are also available from Bodh Gaya from Gaya station.
Patna descends by air from where Bodh Gaya is easily accessible. Gaya to bodhgaya distance is about 15 km from Gaya to Bodhgaya.
But if you get down at Patna Airport, the distance of Bodh Gaya from here is about 90 km. is. By the way bodhgaya airport has also started operating aviation-foreign aircraft.
You can visit other temples like the Vishnupad temple, Vietnamese Temple, and tourist attractions also.