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BodhGaya

THE HOLIEST SITE FOR BUDDHISTS

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BODHGAYA

115 Km SE from Patna

Total Population

30,990.

More tourism information:

Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation

Bir Chand Patel Path,

Patna.

PIN-800 001. Bihar. India.

Email: bstdc@rediffmail.com, bstdc@rediffmail.com /
Web Site: http://bstdc.bih.nic.in
Tel: 91-0612-2225411, 2506219.

THE HOLIEST SITE for Buddhists from all over the world, Bodh Gaya is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. The focal point of the town is the Mahabodhi Temple, whose soaring pyramidal spire dominates the landscape. The temple is enclosed on three sides by a 1st-century BC stone railing, carved with lotus medallions and scenes from the Buddha's life, and includes the sacred Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha meditated before he attained enlightenment.

The original temple at this spot was a circular stupa, built by the Mauryan king Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, but a major reconstruction in the 7th century AD gave the temple its present form. In the 12th century, it was severely damaged by Muslim invaders, but faithfully restored in the 14th century by Burmese kings, who also added the replicas of the main spire at each corner of the temple. Then, as Buddhism went into near eclipse in northern India, the temple site was flooded and silted over, and effectively "lost" for centuries. Some Burmese Buddhists rediscovered it in the late 19th century. The temple ruins were then excavated and restored.

Today, Bodh Gaya once again flourishes as an international centre for Buddhism. Temples and monasteries built by various countries, including China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Bhutan and Nepal, dot the town. The Thai Temple is the most picturesque, while the modern Japanese Temple is remarkable for the 25m (82ft) high Buddha statue that towers in front of it. The Bhutanese and Tibetan Monasteries are filled with colourful murals and prayer wheels, and both are always thronged by red-robed mon.

In the courtyard around the Mahabodhi Temple, monk meditate at the stupas, novitiates have their heads shaved, and pilgrims pray before the Bodhi Tree. For three weeks during the winter, a tented city spring up around the temple, a thousands of monks and pilgrims congregate here for the Monlam Chenm Prayers, often presided over by the Dalai Lama and other venerate figures from the Buddhist world.

The Sacred Bodhi Tree

According to local lore, the original Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) was cut down by Emperor Ashoka's wife he she was jealous of the time he spent at his Buddhist devotions. The emperor then revived the tree by nurturing its roots with gallons of milk, and built a protective stone railing around it. The tree that stands today is said to come from the same stock as the original tree. Ashoka's son Mahindra took a sapling from the original tree to Sri Lanka on one of his religious missions. The tree flourished there.

Pretshila Hill (12 km, Gaya):

This hill adds to the beauty of Gaya. It is about 10 kms from the Ramshila hill. Just below the hill is the Brahma Kund. After taking bath in this pond people go for the 'Pind Dan' which involves performance of religious rites and offering donations and charity for the peace of souls of one's parents and ancestors. On top of the hill the Queen of Indore, Ahilya Bai, built a temple in 1787popularly known as Ahilya Bai Temple. This temple has always been an attraction for the tourists due to its unique architecture and magnificent sculptures.