Bodh Gaya Travel Guide

Mahabodhi Temple


The complex, located about 96 kilometers from Patna,  contains
the Mahabodhi Temple with the diamond throne (called the Vajrasana) and
the holy Bodhi tree. This tree was originally a sapling of the Sri Maha
Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, itself grown from a sapling of the original
Bodhi tree.

It is believed that 250 years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha,
Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya. He is considered to be the founder of
the original Mahabodhi temple. It consisted of an elongated spire
crowned by a miniature stupa and a chhatravali on a platform. A double
flight of steps led up to the platform and the upper sanctum. The
mouldings on the spire contained Buddha images in niches. Some
historians believe that the temple was constructed or renovated in the
1st century during the Kushan period. With the decline of Buddhism in
India, the temple was abandoned and forgotten, buried under layers of
soil and sand.

The temple was later restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham as part of
his work for the British Archaeological Society in the late 19th
century. In 1883, Cunningham along with J. D. Beglar and Dr Rajendralal
Miitra painstakingly excavated the site. Extensive renovation work was
carried out to restore Bodh Gaya to its former glory.

 

history

According to Buddhist traditions, circa 500 BC Prince Gautama Siddhartha, wandering as an ascetic, reached the sylvan banks of Falgu River, near the city of Gaya. There he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa). After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddharta attained enlightenment and insight, and the answers that he had sought. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating and considering his experience. After seven weeks, he travelled to Sarnath, where he began teaching Buddhism.

Disciples of Gautama Siddhartha began to visit the place where he had gained enlightenment during the full moon in the month of Vaisakh (April-May), as per the Hindu calendar. Over time, the place became known as Bodh Gaya, the day of enlightenment as Buddha Purnima, and the tree as the Bodhi Tree.

The history of Bodh Gaya is documented by many inscriptions and pilgrimage accounts. Foremost among these are the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims Faxian in the 5th century and Xuanzang in the 7th century. The area was at the heart of a Buddhist civilization for centuries, until it was conquered by Turkish armies in the 13th century.