BODH GAYA

BODH GAYA

BODH GAYA

Contents

Introduction

History

.  Records

.  Main Attractions

.  The Mahabodhi Temple

.  The Bodhi Tree

.  Vajrasana

.  Animesha Lochana Chaitya

.  Sankamana

.  Ratanaghara

.  Ajapala Nigrodha Tree

.  Muchalinda Sarovar

.  Rajayatna Tree

.  Meditation Park

.  Oil Lamp House/Joss Stick Spot

.  Mahabodhi Book Shop

.  Library

.  Daily Routine of the Mahabodhi Temple

.  Festivals

.  Restoration of Bodh Gaya

.  Address and Tel No

.  General Information

.  Temple Timings

.  How to Reach

.  Where to Stay

Conclusion

Introduction

Bodh Gaya is the holiest and the most important pilgrim centre for the Buddhists as it was the place where Prince Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th Century BC attained Nirvana or enlightenment and became the Buddha. Born in the lap of luxury he soon realised the impermanence and illusory nature of life and left the palace in search of truth. All Buddhists who wish to achieve success in their spiritual quest visit the Bodh Gaya and pray to the Buddha for faith and devotion in their endeavour. It is said that the state of Bihar got its name from ‘Vihara’ meaning monasteries which abounded there.

History

Siddhartha Gautam left the palace with his five friends and practised severe penances abandoning food and water for six years at the village of Uruvela on the banks of the Nairanjana River which is close to the present day Bodh Gaya. But realising that this only harmed the body and prevented the mind from progressing he decided to adopt the Middle Path. Begging for food barely enough to sustain the body he sat under a Bodhi tree and decided not to rise again until he had attained enlightenment. Later on as his teachings spread more of his followers wanted to see the place and understanding that this could further nourish the faith already aroused the Buddha too encouraged such visits. Thus the tradition of pilgrimage in Buddhism began. By the 2nd century BCE the name Uruvela was slowly replaced by Sambodhi, Vajrasana or Mahabodhi and it was only from the 18th century that the name Bodh Gaya came into use.

Records

As Buddhism spread there are records of pilgrims coming from all lands to India to visit the Bodh Gaya. In the 11th century, records show Acharya Dharmakirti from Sumatra making a pilgrimage at the holy sites of Buddha . Fa Hien the first Chinese monk to visit Bodh Gaya had recorded his epic journey which later inspired hundreds to follow in his footsteps the most famous of them being Huan Tsang who stayed in India from 630 to 644 and recorded for posterity much detailed and accurate information about Bodh Gaya. Another pilgrim Dharmasvamin who was a Tibetan scholar and monk bequeathed much information on Bodh Gaya in 1234. Sri Lankan history has records of many famous monks coming to Bodh Gaya at various times. There was denegeration and destruction by Muslim armies and slowly only desolation and ruins remained. Several restorations and renovations were carried out later.

Main Attractions

The Mahabodhi Temple

  

About 250 years after Buddha’s Enlightenment, Emperor Ashoka who embraced Buddhism visited the site and is considered the founder of the Mahabodhi temple. The temple’s architecture is beautiful and was constructed with the main intent of making it a monument and not a receptacle for the relics of Buddha. The basement of the present temple is 15m in length and breadth and its height is 52m which rises in the form of a slender pyramid tapering off from a square platform. The top of the temple has Chatras which symbolize sovereignty of religion. Four towers gracefully rise on its four corners. There is a huge Buddha image inside the temple in the Bhumisparsha Mudra or ‘Earth touching’ pose. The image is said to be 1700 years old and is made of blackstone and built by the Pala Kings of Bengal and is facing East exactly at the place where Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana.

The Bodhi Tree

  

Situated to the west on the back of the main temple there is an ancient Peepal tree (Ficus Religiosa) or Bodhi tree where Buddha attained enlightenment on the full moon day of Baisakh Poornima. The present tree is said to be a descendent of the original tree as it was destroyed a few times in the past by man made miseries and natural calamities. Seeds from the original sacred tree are said to have been taken and planted in many countries in monasteries and homes of pilgrims to be venerated there.

Around the Mahabodhi temple and Bodhi tree there are two types of quadrangular stone railings with four bars including the top piece around 0.2m high and they can be distinguished from each other in style and material used. The older set is made of sandstone and is dated to approximately 150 BC while the later structure is constructed from coarse granite and is probably of the Gupta period(300-600 AD). The older set has scenes depicted on it like the purchase of the Jetavana Monastery by Anathapindika at Shravasthi, Surya riding a chariot drawn by four horses, Lakshmi bathed by elephants etc. The later set has figures of Stupas, Garudas etc. Lotus motifs are used in these railings.

Vajrasana

The Diamond Throne or Vajrasana is the seat of Buddha’s enlightenment. It was built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC and is made of red sand stone. The Buddhacharita written by Ashvaghosha refers to this as the Navel of the earth. Fa Hien the Chinese monk mentions that this is the seat of enlightenment of all Buddhas, past and present.

Animesha Lochana Chaitya

It is situated on the North East of the Maha Bodhi temple and is the place where the Buddha spent the second week in standing meditation posture gazing at the Bodhi tree with motionless eyes for one whole week.

Cankamana

The Buddha spent the third week in meditation in this place practicing the walking meditation or Cankamana or ‘Cloister walk’. The spot where the Buddha placed his feet while walking is marked by a raised platform with lotus flowers.

Ratanaghara

The Jewel House or Ratanaghara is the place where Buddha spent his fourth week of meditation. It is situated in the north west of the temple and the Buddha is said to have meditated here reflecting on Pratitya Samutpada or the Law of Dependent Origination. During that period a ray of six colours is said to have emanated from his body and the flag of the Buddhists are designed based on these colours.

Ajapala Nigrodha tree

This spot marks the place where Buddha spent his fifth week of meditation after his Nirvana and where he delivered a discourse on the equality of mankind.

Muchalinda Sarovar

In this place the Buddha spent his sixth week of meditation. It is said that during this time a severe storm broke out and seeing the Buddha getting drenched the King of Snakes in the lake named Muchalinda came out of his abode to protect the Buddha with his hood against the wind and heavy rains.

Rajayatna Tree

This is situated to the south of the temple where the first lay devotees of the Buddha namely Tapassu and Bhallika who were two merchants from Myanmar(Burma) offered rice cake and honey to the Buddha while he sat in meditation and later took refuge in him and his teachings.

Meditation Park

It is situated at the south east of the temple and it contains meditation huts, discussion courts, two huge prayer bells, two water fountains besides a lotus pond.

Oil Lamp House/Joss Stick Pot

At the south side of the temple to protect the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi tree against pollution, there are special arrangements consisting of seven glass houses for lighting oil lamps and a brass joss stick pot for incense.

Mahabodhi Book Shop

At the entrance of the Mahabodhi temple there is a book shop containing books on religion, Buddhist literature, art, culture, society etc.

Library

There is a library which contains a large number of books of different religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Christianity etc. Apart from religion there are books on various topics and in different languages.

Daily Routine of the Mahabodhi Temple

5 am- Opening of the Mahabodhi temple

5.30 am to 6 am- Sutta chanting and meditation

10 am- Offering of rice kheer(rice pudding made of rice, milk and sugar)

6 pm to 7 pm- Sutta chanting and meditation

9 pm- Closing of the Mahabodhi temple

For pilgrims who wish to carry out all night meditation or any other special request, permission will have to be taken from the temple authorities.

Festivals

Buddha Jayanti- Vaisakh full moon day in the month of May every year

Kathina Civra Dana- October month

Ambedkar Jayanti- April 14th

Monlam Puja and Peace Ceremony- Dec to Feb

Bauddha Mahotsava- 15th-17th January

Restoration of Bodh Gaya

The Mahabodhi temple has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The inception of the Bodh Gaya committee has resulted in vast improvements being made to the temple and the various structures in its precincts. New Stupas have been erected and existing structures have been repaired. Gilded images in the niches of the temple have helped in rejuvenating some of the lost splendour described by Hsuan Tsang in his records.

Address and Tel no

Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee

P.O Box 2, Buddhagaya 824231

Gaya, Bihar, India

Tel- 0091-631-2200735, Fax- 2200777

Email-mahabodhi@hotmail.com  bodhgayatemple@gmail.com

General Information

  • Temperature (Max./Min.) Deg C: Summer 47/28 Winter-28/4
  • Rainfall:186 cms (Mid-June to Mid-September)
  • Altitude:113 Meters
  • Best Season: October to March.

Temple Timings

Mahabodhi Temple: 5 AM to 9 PM

Other Monastries: 5 AM to 12 Noon and 2 PM to 6 PM

How to Reach

Air: The nearest airport is at Gaya 7 Kms and Patna 135 kms. Indian Airlines and Sahara Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow and various other cities.

Rail: The nearest railway station is Gaya (17km).

Road: Bodhgaya is well connected by road to Gaya (17km), Nalanda (101 km), Rajgir (78 km), Patna (135km), Varanasi (252 km), Calcutta (495km)

Local Transport: Taxis, Tongas, Auto Rickshaws, Cycle Rickshaws are available.

Bus : Regular direct bus services are available from Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi. Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation run buses from Patna- Bodhgaya route twice a day.

Conducted Tour : Chartered buses or taxis are arranged from Ranchi and Patna by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation.

Where to Stay

Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation runs three hotels – Siddhartha Vihar, Buddha Vihar and Sujata Vihar and has a Tourist Information Centre in its sprawling tourist complex campus. There is Hotel Bodhgaya Ashok run by Indian Tourism development Corporation and there are several other private hotels in the town.

Tourist Bungalows:

  1. SiddharthVihar,Bodhgaya,Gaya-8242312200127.
    Phone:0631-2200445
    Rooms available: AC Rooms, Non-AC Rooms
  2. SujataVihar,Bodhgaya,Gaya-8242312200127.
    Phone:0631-2200445
    Rooms available: Dormitory Beds available only
  3. BuddhaVihar,Bodhgaya,Gaya-8242312200127
    Phone:0631-2200445
    Facility Available: Restaurant, CTV, Conference Hall, Coach/Car Parking.
    Rooms available: Dormitory Beds and Conference Hall is available.

Conclusion

Bodh Gaya has developed as an international place of pilgrimage. Buddhists from other countries like Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Japan have established temples and monasteries within easy walking distance of the Mahabodhi compound. Prayers and prostrations are offered in a number of the languages with faith and devotion and this holy site is a powerful inspiration to the modern world awakening people of all nations in their search for truth and enlightenment.

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