Bodh Gaya where the famous pilgrimage place of Buddhists the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is situated. It is around 110 kms from Patna and 16 kms from Gaya. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela. King Ashoka was the first to build a temple here.
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex consists of the Temple and six other sacred spots, including a lotus pond, where the Buddha meditated after attaining Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree (the Bodhi Tree is in fact the most prominent of these seven sacred spots). The Temple is a 50-metre high, imposing ancient structure of the 5th/6th century, built in the classic style of the Indian temple.
Also many Buddhist temples and monasteries have been built by the people of Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam around the Mahabodhi Temple.
Best time to visit Bodh Gaya
October to March is the best season to visit Bodh Gaya. March to May are summers where temperature race to 47 degrees. Monsoons are from June to August and its humid. Winters temperature dip to 4 degrees.
The main season for people to visit Bodh Gaya is from November to February
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A Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India is located close to the temple. Some portions of the original railings believed to have been made by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd Century BC and other pieces found at the site are installed in this museum. Besides, the Hindu monastery called the Ghammanda Giri Ashram also has many large sculptures of the Buddha and other Buddhist deities which were found at the Temple site. Visitors and scholars can visit this institution as well to see this legacy from the past.
The Mahabodhi temple faces the east which is the direction in which the Buddha faced as he sat and meditated under the Bodhi Tree. The Bodhi Tree grows behind the temple. It is known to be a direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree (botanical name ficus religiosia, commonly called the Pipal Tree in India) under which the Buddha meditated. In front of it and extending out behind the sanctum of the temple is the Vajrasana or the seat made on the spot where the Buddha sat and meditated to search for the truth of human existence and to free mankind from his bondage of birth and death. Through the passage of several centuries the Bodhi Tree has flourished, become feeble and revived again with the help of grafts made by the efforts of its devoted patrons.
Besides the Mahabodhi Temple, there are seven other sacred spots associated with the weeks which followed the Buddha’s enlightenment. These mark the spots where the Buddha meditated upon the wisdom he had attained.
According to legend the first week was spent under the Bodhi Tree.
In the second week Buddha stood at a spot to the front and right of the Bodhi Tree and meditated deeply upon the Tree. A ‘chaitya’ or prayer hall was built upon this spot which is called the Animeshlochan Chaitya.
The Buddha spent the third week walking 18 steps back and forth near the Bodhi Tree. It is said that lotuses sprang up under his feet. This path lies close to the north wall of the Temple and is referred to as the Ratnachakrama or the Jewelled Ambulatory. Stone lotuses raised on a platform mark his steps.
The Buddha spent the fourth week meditating in a spot marked today by the Ratnaghar Chaitya. Here he sat for seven days and saw the course of his future career. The chaitya lies to the north-west of the temple.
In the fifth week he meditated under a tree called Ajapala Nigrodh. A pillar is erected on this spot which lies to the east of the temple. Here the Buddha is said to have answered the queries of Brahmans (persons of the priestly class) and convinced them it was good actions and not birth which made one a true Brahman.
The Buddha spent his sixth week at the Muchalinda Pond on the southern side of the temple. A violent storm broke out as he meditated. The Naga (serpent) king of the lake called Muchalinda came out of his abode and held his hood over the Buddha’s head in order to protect him. This comprises the second division of the Temple Complex and is an integral part of the Mahabodhi Temple Site. Pathways connect the main temple to the Lotus Pond and it is an essential part of the route which pilgrims take when visiting the Temple.
Lastly, he spent the seventh week under the Rajyatana Tree which lies close to the temple to its south-east. It is said that two merchants offered the Buddha his first meal here after he had spent these seven weeks in meditation. These merchants were also his first two disciples. This spot is marked by a tree which has a signage recording the historical importance of the place.
How to reach Bodhgaya
By Air : Bodh Gaya International Airport is situated 7km from Bodh gaya
By Rail : Gaya railway station is 13 kms from Bodh Gaya
By Road : AC Buses have been introduced by BSTDC between Patna - Bodhgaya via Rajgir. A special Caravan Service called Wonder on Wheel between Patna and Bodhgaya has been introduced by Bihar Tourism Deptt.
Taxis and buses are not required for travel within Bodh Gaya. The best way to move around is on foot since the important sites are located within walking distance. Cycle rikshaws are available and are the favourite means of transport here.
This is a 3 day cultural extravaganza held in January in Bodhgaya where cultural groups from Sri Lanka, Bhutan etc present programmes for entertainment. People from all over the world come here during this time.
Stone Railing, Bodhgaya
Remains of a massive stone railing are at present found enclosing the great Temple on three sides along its plinth. The western side of railing provides with a small entrance facing the Bodhi tree. The total height of the railing from ground level is about 10 ft. Part of the railing is of sandstone while part is of granite. The railing bears carvings such as sculptured panels, medallions, and other ornamental patterns, those on the sandstone portion differing materially from those on the granite portion. The former contain relieves representing scenes from the Buddha’s life, the sacred tree, the wheel, the stupa, the Gaja-Lakshmi, the sun-god with his horse-drawn chariot and human figures like kings, merchants, devotees etc. The latter contain mostly ornamental motifs such as the eagles, chaityas-etc. carved in the characteristic of the Gupta period.
Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
It is the most sacred Pipal Tree (ficus religiosa) under which Prince Siddhartha became Buddha “the Enlightened One”. It is believed to have continued to exist since the days of the Buddha. According to Buddhist tradition, the queen of Emperor Ashoka, Tishyarakshita, destroyed the tree out of rage but the Emperor immediately revived it. King Sashanka of Bengal again uprooted it but the King Purnavarman of Magadha revived it soon thereafter. The present tree is believed to be the fourth or fifth generation offspring of the original.
Vajrasana or the Diamond Throne is a polished platform made of gray sandstone. It was perhaps placed by the emperor Ashoka underneath the Bodhi tree against the Western Wall of the great temple. It represents that place where Lord Buddha sat in deep meditation and attained the Supreme Enlightenment.
The Jewel Walk Shrine, Bodhgaya
According to Buddhist tradition, Buddha walked to and fro near the sacred tree for seven days, immediately after attaining the Supreme enlightenment. The spot where he so walked appear to have become sacred quite early and a shrine was built over it in about 1st century B.C.
Close to the south of the Great Mahabodhi Temple is a sacred tank named after Nagaraja Muchalinda (the serpent king) who, according to tradition, protected Lord Buddha from storm and rains while he was engrossed in a deep meditation after attaining the Supreme enlightenment.
The village lies in Bodhgaya block on the bank of the river Niranjana about 14 kms. south of Gaya. According to Buddhist tradition, Lord Buddha on his penance and eventual enlightenment was offered here Kheer (rice pudding) by a village maid, Sujata. There is a mound on the village known as Sujata Kutir, said to cover the site of her original home. This is a Buddhist site and religious place for Buddhists.
The village is situated about 5 kms. to the southeast of Manda hills. Site of a large town and of a Vihara, as well as a tank was observed here to the north of the town site. The ruins of the Vihara and of the Buddhist temples are nowhere found fully described. However, the numerous sculptures collected from these ruins were kept arranged
under a modern shed erected by the Central Archaeology Department. They represent mainly Buddhist and Shaiva divinities. Some of the images, however, bear inscriptions from the style of execution of their carvings they maybe assigned to the medieval period (i.e. 9th to 12th Centuries A.D.). Two of the inscriptions, it may be added, refer to
the name Sri Gunacharita that was obviously the ancient name of the place.