The Mahabodhi Temple or the Buddha Temple in Bodhgaya as it is colloquially known is one of the earliest Buddhist temples of India dating back to the late Gupta period. Sprawling over 5 hectares, this awe-inspiring temple is about 24 m in height, making it a spectacular sight. Standing tall and proud in the middle of the town with its lush green lawns, iconic sandstone structure, intricate carvings and arch motif, the Bodhgaya-Buddha-Temple leaves a lasting impression on the mind. For those interested in Buddhist pilgrimage tourism in India, it is a site that cannot be missed.
Let’s take a look at some unique facts about this temple that make it a must-visit place for every devotee of Lord Buddha.
- It marks the spot of enlightenment: Considered to be the most sacred place for Buddhist pilgrimage in the world, it is also known as the ‘Great Awakening’ Temple. Because Siddhartha Gautama attained supreme enlightenment at this spot and ascended to become the ‘Buddha’ or the ‘enlightened one’. Inside the temple is a magnificent gilded statue of Lord Buddha showcasing the moment of his enlightenment in his famous bhumisparsha mudra with one finger touching the earth.
- It was built in 260 BC: The first temple built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, it was made entirely of rock. Although ancient inscriptions suggest that the temple constructed by Ashoka was destroyed and replaced by a new temple, it still holds tremendous archaeological and architectural significance. The temple structure was finally completed in 7th century AD and it underwent several restorations, repairs and renovations after that. Built in the style of classical Indian temple architecture, the Mahabodhi Temple exercised tremendous influence in the development of brick architecture over the centuries.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: In the year 2002, the Mahabodhi Temple was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Consequently, all the religious artefacts associated with the place are protected. A sculptural masterpiece, it displays the architectural brilliance from an era gone by and houses several Buddhist stupas, idols and statues that are thousands of years old. As a well-known heritage site, the Mahabodhi Temple not only attracts visitors to Bihar but also promotes pilgrimage tourism in India.
- It preserves a descendant of the original Bodhi tree: The temple complex has several pieces of interest for the devotees such as the Bodhi tree, the famous lotus pond and numerous ancient stupas. Scholars believe that Lord Buddha spent seven weeks in Bodhgaya and all these places are associated with the time he spent there meditating. Standing quietly on the left side of the temple is the supposed direct descendant and probably the fifth succession of the original Bodhi tree, the ficus religiosa which has been preserved by monks; making it the oldest continually documented tree in the world. So, the Mahabodhi Temple is the ideal destination if you want to take a walk through history and feel the presence of Buddha come alive.
A much sought-after religious land, Gaya is strapped by hills on three sides and the river Niranjana or Phalgu on the fourth. The religious aura of the place coupled with its natural glory makes it a unique destination. This is why it is an integral part of the Buddhist Circuit that traverses all the important Buddhist places in India. If retracing Buddha’s footsteps and visiting the Buddha Temple in Bodhgaya and other Buddhism places is on your mind, then The Buddhist Circuit Tourist Train awaits your arrival. To know more about this unique deluxe tourist train, click here.