2013-09-25-BodhiTreeMonksBodh Gaya is the most holy place on Earth for the followers of the Buddhist faith all over the world. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela. King Ashoka was the first to build a temple here.

Buddha was born 563 BC in Nepal on the following auspicious Baisakhi purnima. As Siddhartha, he renounced his family at the age of 29 his gaining enlightenment in 534 BC and travelled and meditated in search of truth. After meditating for six years at Urubela (Buddhagaya) in Gaya, he attained Buddhatva or enlightenment. According to Buddhist traditions, circa 500 BC Prince Gautama Siddhartha, wandering as an ascetic, reached the sylvan banks of the Phalgu, near the city of Gaya. There he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree (Ficus religious). After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddhartha claimed to have attained enlightenment and insight, and the answers that he had sought. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience. After seven weeks, he travelled to Sarnath, where he began teaching Buddhism.

Disciples of Gautama Siddhartha began to visit the place during the full moon in the month of Vaisakh (April–May), as per the Hindu calendar. Over time, the place became known as Bodh Gaya, the day of enlightenment as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree.

The history of Bodh Gaya is documented by many inscriptions and pilgrimage accounts. Foremost among these are the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims Faxian in the 5th century and Xuanzang in the 7th century. The area was at the heart of a Buddhist civilization for centuries, until it was conquered by Turkic armies in the 13th century. The place-name, Bodh Gaya, did not come into use until the 18th century CE. Historically, it was known as Uruvela, Sambodhi, Vajrasana or Mahabodhi. The main monastery of Bodh Gaya used to be called the Bodhimanda-vihāra (Pali). Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple.

Mahabodhi Temple

The complex, located about 110 kilometers from Patna, in history Contains the Mahabodhi Temple with the diamond throne (called the Vajrasana) and the holy Bodhi tree. This tree was originally a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, itself grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree.

It is believed that 250 years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha, Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya. He is considered to be the founder of the original Mahabodhi temple. It consisted of an elongated spire crowned by a miniature stupa and a chhatravali on a platform. A double flight of steps led up to the platform and the upper sanctum. The mouldings on the spire contained Buddha images in niches. Some historians believe that the temple was constructed or renovated in the 1st century during the Kushan period. With the decline of Buddhism in India, the temple was abandoned and forgotten, buried under layers of soil and sand.

The temple was later restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the late 19th century. In 1883, Cunningham along with J. D. Beglar and Dr Rajendralal Miitra painstakingly excavated the site. Extensive renovation work was carried out to restore Bodh Gaya to its former glory. It has a height of 55 meters which can be viewed from a distance of 11 km.

Other Buddhist temples

Kittisirimeggha   of Sri Lanka, a contemporary of Samudragupta, erected with the permission of Samudragupta, a Sanghārāma near the Mahābodhi-vihāra, chiefly for the use of the Singhalese monks who went to worship the Bodhi tree. The circumstances in connection with the Sanghārāma are given by Xuanzang (Beal, op. cit., 133ff) who gives a description of it as seen by himself. It was probably here that Buddhaghosa met the Elder Revata who persuaded him to come to Ceylon.

Several Buddhist temples and monasteries have been built by the people of Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam in a wide area around the Mahabodhi Temple. These buildings reflect the architectural style, exterior and interior decoration of their respective countries. The statue of Buddha in the Chinese temple is 200 years old and was brought from China. Japan’s Nippon temple is shaped like a pagoda. The Myanmar (Burmese) temple is also pagoda shaped and is reminiscent of Bagan. The Thai temple has a typical sloping, curved roof covered with golden tiles. Inside, the temple holds a massive bronze statue of Buddha. Next to the Thai temple is 25 meter statue of Buddha located within a garden which has existed there for over 100 years.

Mahabodhi Temple: The temple stands in the east to the Bodhi Tree Animesh Lochan Chaitya: It is believed that the Buddha spent one week here looking towards the great Bodhi tree out of gratitude, without twinkling his eyes.

Bodhi Tree: The present Bodhi Tree is probably the fifth succession of the original tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Vajrasana, the seat of stability, is a stone platform on which the Buddha is supposed to have sat in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi tree.

 Chankramana: This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha’s meditative perambulations during the third week after pious enlightenment. It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.

Ratnagarh: The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed that five colors came out of his body.

Other Treasures of Bodhgaya: 80 ft Statue of the Buddha, Lotus Tank, Buddha Kund, Rajayatana, Brahm Yoni, Chinese Temple & Monastery, Burmese Temple, Buddhist Monastery of Bhutan, International Buddhist House & Japanese Temple, Thai Temple & Monastery, Tibetan Monastery, Archaeological Museum. Sujata village (2 kms), Dungeshwari Hill (Prag bodhi) (22 kms by road), Maitraya Project (3 kms).

Sun Temple (32 km): It is a famous temple of the Sun God at Deo and has a beautiful architecture similar to the Konark Temple in Orissa. This place is famous for the ‘Chhat’ festival which is held in the month of October-November.

Pretshila Hill (12 km, Gaya): This hill adds to the beauty of Gaya. It is about 10 kms from the Ramshila hill. Just below the hill is the Brahma Kund. After taking bath in this pond people go for the ‘Pind Dan’ which involves performance of religious rites and offering donations and charity for the peace of souls of one’s parents and ancestors. On top of the hill the Queen of Indore, Ahilya Bai, built a temple in 1787popularly known as Ahilya Bai Temple. This temple has always been an attraction for the tourists due to its unique architecture and magnificent sculptures.

Vishnupad Temple (12km, at Gaya): In 1787 Queen Ahilya Bai built the Vishnu temple on the banks of river Falgu. The temple has some great architecture and design which attracts devotees and tourists alike. A 30-meter high octagonal tower overshadows this temple.

Barabar Caves (41 km): It is an important archaeological site. The caves carved out from solid rocks bear details of the life of the Buddha. The interior of these caves is chiseled to a wonderful polish. The carvings in the caves reflect the skill with which these caves were carved out. These caves were built in the 3rd century and are fine examples of the skill which the Indian mansion had attained at that time. These caves of Mauryan period are rightly considered to be the origin of Indian cave architecture. It was here in these caves where the Buddha had meditated for some time and concluded that the ultimate knowledge cannot be attained through mortification of the flesh.
Other Excursions: Dungeshwari (12 km), Muchalinda Lake (3 km), Gaya (12 km), Rajgir (80 km), Nalanda (96 km), Pawapuri (114 km).

Temple Timings

Mahabodhi Temple:                  5 AM to 9 PM

Other Monasteries:            5 AM to 12 Noon and 2 PM to 6 PM

Air: The nearest airport is at Gaya 7 Kms and Patna 135 kms. Indian Airlines and Sahara Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow and various other cities.

Rail: The nearest railway station is Gaya (17km).

Road: Bodhgaya is well connected by road to Gaya (17km), Nalanda (101 km), Rajgir (78 km), Patna (135km), Varanasi (252 km), Calcutta (495km)

Local Transport: Taxis, Tongas, Auto Rickshaws, Cycle Rickshaws are available.

Bus : Regular direct bus services are available from Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation run buses from Patna- Bodhgaya route twice a day.

Where to Stay

Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation runs three hotels – Siddhartha Vihar, Buddha Vihar and Sujata Vihar and has a Tourist Information Centre in its sprawling tourist complex campus.

Excursions 

Sun Temple (32 km): It is a famous temple of the Sun God at Deo and has a beautiful architecture similar to the Konark Temple in Orissa. This place is famous for the ‘Chhat’ festival which is held in the month of October-November.

Pretshila Hill (12 km, Gaya): This hill adds to the beauty of Gaya. It is about 10 kms from the Ramshila hill. Just below the hill is the Brahma Kund. After taking bath in this pond people go for the ‘Pind Dan’ which involves performance of religious rites and offering donations and charity for the peace of souls of one’s parents and ancestors. On top of the hill the Queen of Indore, Ahilya Bai, built a temple in 1787popularly known as Ahilya Bai Temple. This temple has always been an attraction for the tourists due to its unique architecture and magnificent sculptures.

Vishnupad Temple (12km, at Gaya): In 1787 Queen Ahilya Bai built the Vishnu temple on the banks of river Falgu. The temple has some great architecture and design which attracts devotees and tourists alike. A 30-meter high octagonal tower overshadows this temple.

Barabar Caves (41 km): It is an important archaeological site. The caves carved out from solid rocks bear details of the life of the Buddha. The interior of these caves is chiseled to a wonderful polish. The carvings in the caves reflect the skill with which these caves were carved out. These caves were built in the 3rd century and are fine examples of the skill which the Indian mansion had attained at that time. These caves of Mauryan period are rightly considered to be the origin of Indian cave architecture. It was here in these caves where the Buddha had meditated for some time and concluded that the ultimate knowledge cannot be attained through mortification of the flesh.

Other Excursions: Dungeshwari (12 km), Muchalinda Lake (3 km), Gaya (12 km), Rajgir (80 km), Nalanda (96 km), Pawapuri (114 km).