Bodh Gaya – Where Buddha attained Nirvana
Bodhgaya to a Buddhist is what Mecca to a Muslim. It is the very place where 2,500 ago Lord Buddha attained Nirvana (enlightenment) during his quest for knowledge. The pious place is the starting point of Buddhism, where the seed of this religion was sowed which gradually grew to a full-bloomed tree stretching its branches and twigs across all over the world. Today around six percent of world’s total population follows this religion.
The sacred place, Bodh Gaya is located in the Gaya district of Bihar. Here we are providing a quick guide of the main visiting sites of Bodh Gaya.
The magnificent Mahabodhi Temple started to get concrete shape in the third century; when the great Mauryan King Ashoka visited the place and built a small shrine at the very spot where Lord Buddha attained supreme knowledge. The later history of the temple is somewhat obscured. It is said that following rulers of Ashoka developed the shrine step by step and this led to the final form of the architecture of Mahabodhi.
The structure of the temple is laid on a basement of 15m square which rises to a height of 52m in a conical structure with slender slopes and architecture. Four towers elegantly stand at the four corners of the temple to the same height. Whole structural design is poised and balanced to every angle to the observer.
The temple includes a diamond throne shrine with a canopy supported by four pillars over a stone representation of Vajrasana (the seat of enlightenment). There is a lofty image of Lord Buddha in the ‘touching the ground pose’, inside the temple. The image is believed to be 1700 years old and is faced east, where Buddha did his meditation. There are a large number of stupas of all sizes built in the courtyard in past course of time. The temple also contains ancient railings, among which Animesh Lochan Chaitya is considered most consecrated and important.
The serenity and the spirituality prevailed in the atmosphere of the temple can be felt at once you enter the place. The significance of this most revered site among Buddhists made it listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The temple remains open from 5 AM to 9 PM.
The Bodhi Tree
The Bodhi Tree, situated at the back of the main temple of Bodh Gaya is the descendant of the large Bunyan Tree where Buddha meditated uninterruptedly for seven days without moving from his seat. During the second week he practised walk meditation. To mark this act, parallel to Mahabodhi temple on its North side, a jewel walk, Chakramanar was built as a low platform which is embellished with nineteen lotuses. According to the legends wherever Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up from the very spots.
There were many trees grown across the world from the seeds of the ancient and original Bodhi Tree. One of such tree is in Sri Lanka which was grown out of the sapling of Bodhi Tree carried by Sanghmitra, daughter of Ashoka in 3rd century BC. The present Bunyan tree in Bodh Gaya is grown from the sapling of this Bodhi Tree of Sri Lanka.
Other tourist attractions of the place include the Sun Temple which is famous for its ‘Chhat Puja’. One of the major holy place situated nearby, is Pretshila Hill where people swarm for ‘Pind Dan’ (Hindu rites for departed souls). On the top of the hill sacred Ahilya Bai Temple is situated, which constitutes Barabar Caves. The magnificent sculptures of the caves, depicting the life of Buddha are carved out of the rocks.
After the independence of India, Bodh Gaya has been developed as an important international pilgrimage centre. Buddhists from all around the world including Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand and Tibet have established their monasteries and temples within the proximity of the Mahabodhi temple. The site of the Nirvana attracts international Buddhist congregations from all across the world. Devout devotees can be seen walking on the streets, offering prayers in a variety of language, doing meditation and seeking insight. Emerging as a strong inspiration in the modern world, Bodh Gaya is spreading the messages of Buddha in the entire world.