Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya Overview
Situated about 13 kms from Gaya, it is one of the important places of worship for the Buddhists and is also a significant archaeological site. It is 15 metres square and rises to a height of 52 metres. There is a big statue of Lord Buddha inside with his hands touching the earth. The focal point of Bodhgaya is the Mahabodhi Temple.
A high pyramidal spire crowns the Mahabodhi temple, inside which, is a large gilded image of the Buddha. The temple is believed to be standing on the site of a shrine, erected by Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. Legend has it that the Bodhi tree growing here is the direct descendant of the original tree under which the Buddha sat, mediated and attained enlightenment. A sapling from the original tree was taken to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitra (Emperor Ashoka’s daughter), when Ashoka took Buddhism to the island. A cutting of this tree was brought back to Bodhgaya, when the original tree here died. A red sand stone under the tree is said to be the Vajrasan, or diamond throne, on which the Buddha sat. The architecture of this temple is unparalleled in North India. It is believed that in the 3rd century B.C Emperor Ashoka built this temple
Towards North of the Bodhi Temple is a platform with foot impressions of Buddha. Apart from the ponds and platforms, there are many temples built by various nations like the Tibet temple, the Japanese, the Thai, the Lankan and the Bhutan temple. These temples are a major attraction for the tourists and devotees who visit Bodh Gaya. The 170 feet high Mahabodhi Temple stands east to the Bodhi Tree with Chatras on its top. It has been learnt that UNESCO has declared Maha Bodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya (Bihar) as a world heritage site. Animeshlocha Stupa is believed to be the place where Buddha spent one week looking towards the great Mahabodhi Tree out of gratitude, without blinking his eyes.
Built By : B.C Emperor Ashoka
Time Required : 2 hours
Cost : Rs20-Rs25
Open Time : 5:00 AM – 12:00 PM 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM.
The Mahabodhi temple, also called the “Great Awakening Temple”, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Bodhgaya, Bihar. It is a Buddhist temple that marks the location where the Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Lord Buddha holds a very significant place in the religious history of India as he is believed to be the 9th and the most recent incarnation of Lord Vishnu to have walked the earth. The temple spreads over an area of a whopping 4.8 hectares and is 55 meters tall. The Bodhi Tree is situated to the left of the temple and is believed to be the direct descendant of the actual tree under which Lord Gautam Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment and laid down his philosophy for life. The original temple was built by Emperor Ashoka after he turned to Buddhism in order to seek peace and solitude from war and conquests.
The great Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya in around 260 BC. During his visit, he constructed a small temple by a tree, which was the Bodhi tree- the tree under which Gautam Buddha was sitting when he attained enlightenment. An inscription dated back to between 1st century and 2nd century read that the temple built by Emperor Ashoka was replaced by a new one. Many monks and devotees can be seen performing countless prostrations to the tree. It’s a purificatory ritual, and some monks are known to do up to 1,00,000 prostrations at one time. The architecture of the temple and its overall silence and peace will surely enchant you as you visit it.
Mahabodhi Temple Architecture
A gold-painted statue of Buddha is placed in the sanctum shrine of the ancient temple and is made of black stone. It was built by the Pala kings of Bengal. The Buddha is seen seated in the Bhumisparsa Mudra aasana or the ‘Earth touching posture’. The Mahabodhi temple is surrounded by two distinct types of railings on all four sides, and they are about two meters high. The old railings are made from sandstone, date back to 150 BC, and have illustrations of Goddess Laxmi being bathed by elephants and of Lord Surya riding a chariot that is being drawn by four horses.
The newer ones are made of unpolished granite and are believed to have been constructed in the Gupta period. They have carvings of stupas or reliquary shrines, ‘garudas’ or eagles and lotuses made out on them. In 2013, the upper portion of the temple was covered with gold, as a gift from the King of Thailand and the devotees of Lord Gautam Buddha.
Mahabodhi Temple History
The original structure was made primarily of brick, covered with stucco, which is not a very durable base when compared to stone. Nonetheless, the original structure has impressively survived many years, against the odds of its lifeline. In fact, it is one of the oldest and most imposing structures made entirely out of brick standing from the Gupta period.
Given the centuries that have passed since its construction, it is bound to be affected by the new environment and inevitable wear and tear. In 1883, a very detailed and thorough scientific renovation was carried out on the temple, under the guidance of the famous British archaeologist, Sir A. Cunningham, J. D. M Beglar and renowned Indian archaeologist Dr Rajendra Lal Mitra. Subsequently, on the occasion of the 2500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations, the Government of India undertook further repairs of the ancient temple and expanded its premises. Hence, the temple has undergone several restorations, renovations and repairs in the interest of retaining its unparalleled beauty.
How to Reach Mahabodhi Temple
The nearest railway station to the Mahabodhi temple is Gaya Railway Station, at a distance of 16 km. You can take an auto from here to the temple, and it will cost you approximately INR 80 to INR 120. There is rarely a shortage of auto rickshaws, so bargaining is not just possible but is advised.
Taking a bus to the Gaya Bus Stand, which is only 12.4 km away is also a convenient and pocket-friendly option. You can even hail taxis and autos from anywhere around the city, and you will not have a problem locating this extremely popular attraction at all.
Carved out beautifully using the sandstone blocks and red granite, the statue of Giant Buddha aka Great Buddha is a major tourist attraction in Bodhgaya. The statue represents Lord Buddha meditating in a seated position. It is nearly 64 feet tall and was built by 12,000 masons. The construction took seven years to complete. The Great Buddha Statue was inaugurated by the fourteenth H.H Dalai Lama in 1989.
Why Is It Famous?
1) Great Buddha Statue is the first ever and the tallest statue of Lord Buddha built in India.
2) The humongous structure is partly hollow and houses 20,000 Buddha idols made up of bronze.
3) This idol of Buddha is located in the peaceful and lush green surroundings. During Buddha Poornima, this entire monument is decorated beautifully.
4) The idols of the disciples of Buddha are also carved around the monument.
Best Time To Visit:-
The Giant Buddha is visited between a stipulated time period. People are allowed to carry the cameras for photography and no fee is charged for the same. Since it is a religious site, it is recommended that a visitor should not carry any item made up of leather inside.
Nearest Railway Station – Gaya Junction Railway Station
Nearest Airport – Gaya Airport