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Time Required : 2-3 hrs

Entry Fee : No entry fee except the ones charged for camera and video equipment

Timings : 5:00 AM - 12:00 PM, 4:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya Overview

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.

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The Bodhi Tree of Enlightenment

Bodhi Tree
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Young prince Siddharth Gautam saw the sufferings of the world and couldn't bear it. In a quest to end all the sufferings and pain in the world, he reached the forested banks of the Phalgu River in Gaya. He sat in meditation under a pipal tree, and after being in a deep meditative state for three nights and three days straight; Siddharth Gautam attained enlightenment and the pipal tree came to be known as the Bodhi Tree. This is where Emperor Ashoka built a temple, dedicated to commemorating the great Gautam Buddha.

They say, the Bodhi Tree sprang at the same moment that Gautam Buddha was born. Traditions say that a lotus will emerge at the spot when a Buddha is born, and it will flower in accordance with the number of Buddhas that are expected to arise. According to Buddhist mythology, if at any point in time there is no Bodhi Tree at the spot, the ground around the tree will be barren of any plants for the distance of one royal karisa; and no being, not even a being as strong as an elephant, can pass through this area.

The Jatakas say that since Buddha gained attainment here, this must be the navel of the earth; because no other place on the planet can support the weight of Buddha's enlightenment. It is also believed that when the world is destroyed, the Bodhimanda will be the last spot to disappear and the first spot to reappear when the world emerges into existence again.

Mahabodhi Temple Architecture

Mahabodhi Architecture
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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.

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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.

Tips For Visiting Mahabodhi Temple

1. Don't miss the sight when a number of monks and devotees worship together around the bodhi tree.
2. No cell phones are allowed inside the temple

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.

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