bodhgaya

Bodhgaya, called Uruvela until renamed, is the cradle of Budhism. The earliest inhabitants of Uruvela were Neolithic people living in village Taradih living some 4500 years ago. A land of mango and Jamun groves, here in the 6th century BC, the prince SiddharthaGautam of Kapilvastu attained supreme enlightenment underneath a Peepal tree, to be called Bodhi tree later,and came to be called asTathagat Buddha.
Within two centuries of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the name Uruvela fell into disuse and was replaced by four other names: Sambodhi (complete enlightenment), Bodhimanda (area around which Buddha attained enlightenment), Vajrasana (the diamond throne), and Mahabodhi (great enlightenment).

In the 3rd century BC, the Emperor Asoka visited Bodhgaya and had the Vajrasana constructed with Baluva stones. Around 2nd century BC, the Sunga rulers laid railing around the Bodhi tree. A monastery and Sujatastupa were also built around this time. In the 5th century BC, a magnificent Mahabodhi Temple was constructed here.

A monastery was built by the king Meghavarman of Sri Lanka for his monks. The front pavallion was added to the temple by king Sado. In the 7th century AD, the King Sasanka of Gauda destroyed the Bodhi tree and it was replanted by the King Purnavarnam and he erected stone railings around the temple. Hieun Tsang also came to Bodhgaya for pilgrimage. The King of Myanmar (Burma) carried out the repair works to the temple.
The glory of Bodhgaya began to fade after the 12th century AD gradually and the Holy land went into oblivion by the end of the 16th century AD. A recluse named GossainGhamadGiri established a SaiviteMatha in the secluded place that it had become, but no attention was paid to arrest the decay of the temple. As a result, the temple fell apart in the 19th century AD.

The King of Mayamar (Burma) once again tried to conserve the temple but could not persist for long. Finally, in 1880, a massive conservation exercise was undertaken by Sir Alexander Cunningham.
This was followed by a struggle for possession of the Mahabodhi Temple between the Mahanta of Bodhgaya and Buddhists under AnagarikaDharmapala. Eventually, in 1949 the Bodhgaya Temple Act was passed and in 1953 the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) was set up. BTMC is managing the Bodhgaya Mahabodhi Temple since then.

MAHABODHI TEMPLE

The Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya is located 115 kilometers south of the state capital of Bihar, Patna and 16 kilometers from the district headquarters at Gaya in the eastern India. It is one of the four holy sites associated with the life of Lord Buddha, particularly to his attainment of Enlightenment. The temple complex has a total area of 4.8600 ha and its height is 50 meters.

The Mahabodhi Temple was the first temple built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC when he erected the Vajrasan, but its present form dates back to the 5th century BC. Today, the complex comprise of the grand temple, the sacred Bodhi Tree, the Vajrasana and other 6 sacred sites, surrounded by numerous ancient Votive stupas, and demarcated by a well maintained network of inner, middle and outer boundaries and three levels of inner pathways. The seventh sacred site, the MuchlindSarovar, is located outside the enclosure to the south.The main entrance to the Temple complex is from the east, but it does have gates in the west, south and the north too.
The main temple wall has an average height of 11 meters and it is built in the classical style of Indian temple architecture. It has entrances from the east, a live entrance in the north for its first floor, and a low basement with mouldings decorated with honey suckle and geese design. Above this lies a series of niches containing mini images of the Buddha.Further above, there are mouldings and chaityas niches, and then the curvilinear shikhara or tower of the temple surmounted by the amalaka and kalash.

At the four corners of the parapet of the temple are the four statues of Buddha in small shrine chambers. A small tower is built over each of the shrines. The temple faces east and has small forecourt on either side containing statues of the Buddha. A doorway leads into a small hall, beyond which lies the sanctum, containing a 5 feet high statue of seated Buddha hold earth as witness to his achieved Enlightenment. Above the sanctum is a small hall with a shrine containing a statue of Buddha, where senior months gather to meditate.

From the east, a flight of step leads down through a long central path to the main temple and the surrounding area, associated with events that followed the Buddha’s enlightenment, together with votive stupas and shrines.
The Vedika surrounding the Mahabodhi Temple is currently made of concrete and painted. The original pillars were made of granite and sandstone and can be found placed inside the ASI Museum in Bodh Gaya.

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URUVELA (BODH GAYA)

After years of such self-torture at Dungeshwari Hills, Siddhhartha was completely worn out. Siddhartha’s prolonged austerities proved utterly futile. The more he tormented himself, the farther his goal receded from him. He got increasingly convinced that such a path actually weakened his intellect and diminished his spirit, thereby distracting him from his goal. He conceived the idea of adopting a ‘middle path’, which was to later become the cornerstone of his teaching. Deciding to nourish his body sparingly, Siddhartha bathed in the river and accepted a bowl of rice-milk (Kheer) from the hand of Sujata, a young woman who lived in the neighbouring village, who thought that he is a tree deity. Siddhartha’s lips quivered and his mouth and throat moistened from the nourishing sweet dish.

The five companions who lived with Siddhartha for six years during his ascetic practices - were disappointed to observe Siddhartha receiving food from the hands of a woman. Disgusted to see Siddhartha’s perceived deviation from struggle and the prescribed norm of the time, they all left thinking that he has reverted to a life of luxury.

Seeing them leave him so easily, Siddhartha felt sorry for their lack of confidence but he did not worry being alone. He walked along the clear-flowing Niranjanariver and placed his bowl on it, solemnly declaring, “If this bowl floats upstream, I’ll become enlightened. The bowl indeed floated upstream. The bowl sailed diagonally across the river – and reached the other bank near the base of aawe-evoking peepal tree that would soon shelter his monumental accomplishment.

Siddhartha, bent on attaining his goal, sat down at the foot of the majestic tree and vowed to himself, “Here on this seat my body may shrivel up, my skin, my bones, my flesh may dissolve, but I will not move from this seat until I attain enlightenment.” Gently closing his eyes, in Vajraasana he turned his awareness inwards.

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Bodhi Tree and Vajrasana

The most important of the sacred places in the Mahabodhi Temple complex in Bodhgaya is the giant Bodhi Tree. Located on the west of the temple currently, the tree was supposed to be the direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree in Uruvela forest tract, under which Buddha spent his first week and had his enlightenment at the age of 35 in the year 531 BC.

Legends have it that the younger queen of Emperor Asoka, Tisrarsita got jealous of the Bodhi Tree and the mud Vajrasan platform in view of the Emperor Asoka’s increasing engagement to the tree and the site during his DhammaYatraKram in the 3rd century. Consequently, she attempted to get them destroyed post Emperor Asoka’s visit. But soon enough the tree sprouted.The Emperor Asoka then got the permanent Vajrasana of polished sandstone constructed with Baluva stones adjoining the west wall of Mahabodhi Temple for ensuring its longevity and to permanently mark the spot where Buddha sat and meditated. The Vajrasan is believed to be the seat where Buddha sat and attained his enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. The slab bears gold gild all around its surface and is now covered with religious cloth and golden canopy.

Currently, the health of the Bodhi Tree is monitored by the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. The Tree is surrounded by sandstone pillars and in the centre, a granite doorway is seen facing the west of the complex.

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Animesh lochana Stupa:

In the second week of his enlightenment, this is the high ground from where Buddha kept gazing at Bodhi Tree, which sheltered him during struggle, as a mark of profound gratitude.

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Canakanama or the Jewel Walk:

Buddha spent his third week after enlightenment where Canakamana stands. Granite stone lotus pots around 9 in number are located near the sandstone regular base. This is the stretch where Buddha is said to have done his walking meditation in the third week. Another belief is that certain deities who resided at the Bodhi Tree doubted attainment of enlightenment. To dispel their doubt, Buddha created a jeweled chamber (RatnaCamkamana) by using his psychic power and paced up and down for a week.

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Ratnagar Chaitya

In the fourth week, Buddha created a jeweled chamber (Ratnaghara) and contemplated the intricacies of the Abhidhamana (Higher doctrine). It is believed that six coloured rays – blue, yellow, red, white, orange, and a mix of all these emitted from His body. These colours form the basis of the Buddhis flag.

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Ajapala Nigrodha Tree:

In the fifth week, Buddha settled the question as to who can be rightly called a Brahmana under the non-existent AjapalaNigrodha tree, when he was questioned by a conceited Brahman.

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Muchalinda Sarovar

During the sixth week, while in meditation, Buddha experienced an untimely great shower and cold storm. The Naga (serpent) King Mucalinda came out of his abode, coiled in 7 tiers and spread his wide hood over Buddha to protect him from the elements.

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Rajayatana Tree

During the seventh week, Buddha was offered alms by two merchants, Tapassu and Ukkala from Ukkala (modern day Odhisa) and he enjoyed the bliss of emancipation under the Rajayatana tree.

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Votive Stupas

Over centuries, a multitude of Votive Stupas have sprung up along sacred spots – containing relics and various objects – built by kings, princes, merchants and lay persons. The shapes of these Stupas vary from bare hemisphere to those with tall and ornamented spires surmounting the medieval dome with elaborately carved bases.

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