Bodhi Tree, Bodh Gaya

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Bodhi Tree, Bodh Gaya Overview

The Bodhi Tree, located 100 kilometres to the south of Patna in the north Indian state of Bihar, is perhaps the most prominent and respected sacred places in Buddhism because of the rich historical significance attached to it. It is under this tree that Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who later became to be known as the Buddha, attained enlightenment. It is believed that Prince Siddhartha had to sit and meditate under this tree for seven days. Later on, a shrine known as Animisalocana Cetiya was erected on the spot where he had sat down. A small temple was also built near the Bodhi tree in the 7th century.

The Bodhi tree is a frequently visited destination spot by tourists and is one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. In fact, the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, both of which are again significant places that find mention in the history of Buddhism, are believed to have been propagated from this tree here at Bodh Gaya. The aura of the Bodhi tree and the temple complex in which this tree is located have attracted sages, meditators and yogis to it ever since the time of the Buddha. Great and renowned spiritual figures like Buddhajnana, Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Nagarjuna and Atisha, have lived and meditated underneath the historically and religiously significant Bodhi Tree. Bodh Gaya is also popular for its UNESCO World Heritage Site- the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, which is just beside the tree. Religious people, as well as lovers of history, find this place especially fascinating.

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History of Bodhi Tree

If traditional accounts are to be believed, it was in the early part of the 4th century that Siddhartha Gautama saw the sufferings that prevailed in the world and wanted to be freed from them. Consequently, he sought out spiritual teachers, inquired of their knowledge, and practised various yoga asanas and meditation; but all in vain, since he was unable to achieve his ultimate goal of enlightenment.

Finally, guided by visions and following the footsteps of the Buddhas of the previous ages, the prince set out towards the ancient forests of Uruvela, which is the modern-day Gaya in North India. Siddhartha sat underneath the tree and called onto the Earth to witness the countless lifetimes of virtue that had led him to this place of enlightenment. He resolved not to rise again until he had attained enlightenment. Days and nights passed and finally, the prince became the Buddha or the 'Enlightened One'.

The Development of the Mahabodhi Temple around the Bodhi Tree

The site where the prince had sat down to attain enlightenment was later developed into a temple and monastery by Emperor Ashoka in around 250 BC, around 250 years after the Buddha attained enlightenment. The spot where the Buddha stood is marked by the Animeshlocha Stupa, or the Unblinking Stupa, and lies in the northeast of the temple complex.

According to legends, the Buddha often walked between the Stupa and the Bodhi tree, and lotus flowers sprung up along this route. This path is now known as the Ratnachakarma or the Jewel Walk. The temple built by King Ashoka was replaced by the present Mahabodhi temple in the 2nd century AD, and later refurbished in AD 450, 1079 and 1157, and then finally fully restored by the Burmese Buddhists in 1882.

Prayer Beads Associated with Bodhi Tree

An interesting feature of this place is the fact that prayer beads are formed using the seeds of the Bodhi tree. Pilgrims consider this act to be sacred because of the rich history and religious sentiment that is attached to this majestic tree. This activity is an opportunity to get close and be in touch with the Buddha and his enlightenment. Devotees mainly feel that by being a part of the bead making process, they are attaining the ethics and thoughts that the Buddha propagated.

The Bodhi Day Celebrations

The Bodhi Day is celebrated at this spot with great zeal and passion every year on 8 December. This entire day is spent in the dedication of the Buddha, and people from all across the country come together to celebrate Buddha's attainment of enlightenment underneath the sacred tree. Buddhists and followers of Dharma visit this place without fail and greet each other by saying "Budu Saranai!" which translates to "may the peace of Buddha be yours" in English.

Best Time To Visit Bodhi Tree

The best time to visit this place is from October to March, and indeed a lot of people from all across the world visit the place during these particular months to partake in the different sessions of Buddhism and spirituality. If you are planning to visit Bodh Gaya during this time, it is recommended that you pack light as well as woollen clothes.

Even though the summer months of March till June are scorching and the temperature is on a steady rise, pilgrims flock to this place during this time to celebrate Buddha Jayanti. So if you are a devout person, visiting the place in summers would be worth it.

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