Mahabodhi temple (also called the MahabodhiMahavihar), is a Buddhist temple situated in the city of Bodh Gaya (which is known for being a Buddhist religious Centre) in the east Indian state of Bihar .
It was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and marks the location where Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism is said to have attained enlightenment before he founded Buddhism. The name of the temple literally translates to "Great Awakening Temple". The temple is also of significance to Hinduism, as Gautam Buddha is said to be the 9th and the most recent avatar of Lord Vishnu (one of the three supreme gods in Hinduism) to have walked on earth.
The temple is sprawled in an area of 4.8 hectares and is 55 meters tall. The revered Bodhi Tree is to the left of the temple and is considered as the direct descendent of the actual Peepal tree under which lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The original temple was constructed by Emperor Ashoka, who took Buddhism to seek peace and solitude from war, conquests, and sufferings. The temple went under many restorations and repairs since then but still has kept its aura intact. The ancient architecture and the solace around the temple will enchant you and make you visit again and again.
According to Buddhist scriptures in around 589 BCE, when young prince Siddharth Gautam once saw death and the sufferings of the world, to which he was oblivious for a long time, he couldn’t bear it. Wanting to find the answers to his inner questions and in a quest to end all the sufferings and pain in the world, he walked and reached the banks of the Phalgu River in Gaya. He sat under a Peepal tree in meditation for three night and three days straight and attained enlightenment and the tree then came to be known as the Bodhi Tree. He then walked to several countries and continents to spread his teachings and knowledge. The Bodhi Tree is the exact place where Emperor Ashoka built a temple, dedicated to Gautam Buddha.
It is said that the Bodhi Tree sprang to life at the same moment when Buddha was born. According to traditions, a lotus is said to emerge at the spot when a Buddha is born, and it will flower according to the number of Buddhas that are expected to be born. According to the Jatakas, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment, the Bodhi Tree, must be the navel of the earth, as no other place on the planet could have taken the weight of Buddha’s enlightenment. It is also believed that when the world will crumble, the Bodhimanda will be the last spot to fade away and the first to emerge when the world will come into existence again.
The temple was built by Emperor Ashoka in around 260 BCE near the spot where the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’ stood, which is the same spot where Gautam Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
One of the oldest and most majestic structures made completely of brick, the original structure of Mahabodhi Temple was made of bricks and was covered with stucco, which, being a not so durable base, stood the odds of timeline of the temple’s inception. Standing since the Gupta period for several centuries, the temple has gone through many wears and tear because of the new environment and climate. In the year 1883, the temple went through a very scientific and meticulousrestorationwhich was undertaken by the famous British archaeologist, Sir A. Cunningham, J.D.M. Beglar, and the renowned Indian archaeologist Dr. Rajendra Lal Mitra.
Furthermore, on the auspicious occasion of 2500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations, the Government of India made further repairs on the ancient temple and developed its premises. The temple has undergone several repairs and expansions to keep its unparalleled beauty and the historical sentiments intact.
Mahabodhi temple was bult by Maurya emperor Ashoka, and it was much rebuilt and restored in later years. It is built entirely in brick. The main temple wall is around 11 m high and manifests classical Indian temple architecture of those times. The temple has entrances from east and north, and a low basement with molded designs adorning it, and numerous images of the Buddha as well.
A gold-painted statue of Buddha built by the Pala kings of Bengal is placed in the sanctum shrine of the ancient temple and is made of black stone.The statue of Buddha is seated in the Bhumisparsa Mudra aasana or the ‘Earth touching posture’. The temple complex is enclosed by two different types of railings on all four sides of about two meters high which are made from sandstone and dates to 150 BC. The railings have illustrations of Goddess Laxmi being bathed by elephants and of God Surya (Sun) riding a chariot being drawn by four horses.
The newer railings are made from unpolished granite and are said to be constructed during the Gupta period. These have carvings of stupas, garuda (eagles), and lotuses made out on them. In 2013, the upper part of the temple was covered with gold which was gifted by the King of Thailand along with the devotees of Gautam Buddha .
Mahabodhi temple is open to visitors between 5 AM and 9 PM every day, on all days of the week.
No entry fee is charged for entering the temple itself. However, if visitors want to use a camera to click photos, they need to pay INR 100, and visitors who need to use a video camera need to pay INR 300.
Bodh Gaya is near Bihar state’s capital city Patna (around 96 kms), which is well connected to cities across India as well as other parts of the world. The city can be reached by air, rail, or road.
A historical and religiously significant temple, feel the solitude and enchanting vibes from the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, and get closer to Lord Buddha while sitting peacefully at the place where he attained his enlightenment.