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Mahabodhi Temple – Take a Historic Journey Through the Birth Place of Buddhism

10 mins. read

At the centre of Bodhgaya, Bihar, India, stands the magnificent Mahabodhi Temple, a sacred site deeply respected by Buddhists worldwide. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is not only a testament to the rich history of Buddhism but also a pathway to calm your senses. The Mahabodhi Temple complex is one of four divine sites connected to the life of the Buddha, particularly his pathway to enlightenment. Let's go on a journey to explore the history, significance, and beauty of this Buddhist Temple in India.

History of the Mahabodhi Temple

The Mahabodhi Mandir is a place where Buddha attained enlightenment. This holy spot of the “Great Awakening” became a place of worship for tourists to accentuate faith in the Buddhist culture. The Emperor Ashoka relayed the intention of establishing the area as a monastery and shrine. He built a diamond throne to locate the exact place where Buddha’s enlightenment took place. The Pala dynasty produced many of the sculptures seen in the temple's niches, many of which date to the eighth century. Regarded as an exquisite illustration of Indian brickwork, the temple had a significant impact on the evolution of subsequent architectural customs. What’s more! The history of Mahabodhi temple, according to the ancient Jataka tales; the temple forms the navel of the earth, and no other place can support the weight of Buddha’s attainment. Over the centuries, the temple has undergone several renovations and additions, but its essence remains unchanged.

Architecture and Design of the Mahabodhi Temple

The architecture of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple is a stunning blend of various styles, including Indian, Burmese, Tibetan, and Chinese. The main temple structure stands tall at around 52 metres and is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. The main temple hall is built in a traditional Indian style and is 11 m in height. The basement is ornate with honeysuckle carvings and geese patterns. A classical arched shikhara capped by a notched stone disk structure and a vase-like element made up of stone is placed on top of the temple. Tourists are greeted by the four Mahabodhi Temple Buddha statues in small pillar chambers. The main face of the temple faces east, with nooks containing the idols of Buddha. When tourists reach the inner sanctum, one is greeted by the 5 ft. height Mahabodhi Temple Buddha statue, which resembles Buddha holding the earth, signifying his achievement of enlightenment. Moreover, while taking a stroll through the temple, witness the four smaller towers, each symbolising Buddha's life: his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death.

The Sacred Bodhi Tree Inside the Mahabodhi Temple

The most important of the sacred places is the giant Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple. Located near the west part of the facade is a descendant of the original tree in the same area. It is said that Buddha spent his first day of enlightenment under the tree. This tree is popular among pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Along with this, the sacred figs from the original tree are grown in Sri Lanka, said to have been sent by King Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. Similarly, it is believed that Emperor Ashoka’s wife, Queen Tissarakkha, brought a sapling from the original Bodhi tree to Sri Lanka, from where it was later brought back to Bodhgaya. Several other sacred figs worldwide are also thought to be descendants of the original Bodhi tree situated at the Mahabodhi
Temple, Bihar.

Significance and Spiritual Importance of the Mahabodhi Temple

In Buddhists, the Mahabodhi Temple is a pilgrimage site that represents the road to spirituality. The main complex not only showcases the main temple but also borders other shrines and meditation spots for pilgrims. Every year, lakhs of pilgrims and travellers from various backgrounds gather to pay homage to the Buddha and to seek a path towards enlightenment. Can it get any better? Within its boundaries, pilgrims engage in meditation, contemplation, and introspection, seeking a deeper understanding of themselves. The aura of the place echoes a vibration within our souls and increases personal growth and spiritual elevation for those who visit. In the yesteryears, discussions held within the sacred walls of the Buddhist Temple gave rise to sacred literature and art, that shaped the very fabric of religion. Also, this guides pilgrims and travellers every year to visit this holy place of tranquillity.

Amazing Facts About the Mahabodhi Temple

  1. Built Entirely by Bricks: The Mahabodhi Mandir is one of the few temples built entirely with brick from the late Gupta period. An architectural wonder that influenced the significant temple preparations in India.
  2. A Unesco World Heritage Site: The temple complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2002. Since then, all of its religious artefacts and belongings are legally protected.
  3. 55 Metre-Long Central Tower: The Mahabodhi Mandir's central tower rises to a height of about 55 metres. It has been renovated several times and is surrounded by four smaller towers.
  4. Dedicated Areas of Enlightenment: Several areas of interest to pilgrims are situated around the complex, including the Lotus Pond, ancient stupas, and the Bodhi tree, which are visited by tourists and devotees alike. These places are associated with the seven weeks that Buddha spent to gain enlightenment. This temple houses several ancient Buddhist monasteries and shrines, some of which date back to the 7th century BCE.
  5. Last Point of Destruction - A slab is constructed on the spot where Lord Buddha meditated. It is said that if the world gets destroyed, the slab region will be the last place to get destroyed. And, when the world re-forms, the slab would be the right region to form.
  6. Golden Gift from Thailand: An unknown fact about the Mahabodhi temple is that in 2013, 289 kilogrammes of gold were plated over the tallest portion of the temple. That’s right. With permission from the Archaeological Survey of India, the gold was installed as a gift from the King and devotees of Thailand.

Mahabodhi Temple Ritual and Timings

Every year, thousands of devotees and visitors flock to the Buddhist Temple in India to take in the sacred rites and the deeply spiritual atmosphere that permeates this hallowed location. Here are some of the timings from the Mahabodhi temple:

Darshan Timings:

  • 5:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • 2:00 am – 9:00 pm

Ritual Timings at Mahabodhi Mahavihara

  • 5:00 AM: Commencement of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara, the main shrine.
  • 5:30 AM to 6:00 AM: Sutta chanting and meditation session.
  • 10:00 AM: Offering of Kheer, a rice pudding prepared with rice, milk, and sugar.
  • 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM: Shrine closed for darshan (worship and viewing).
  • 6:00 PM to 6:30 PM: Sutta chanting in the Mahayana tradition.
  • 6:30 PM to 7:00 PM: Sutta chanting in Pali.
  • 9:00 PM: Closure of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple for the day.

Places to Visit Near the Mahabodhi Temple

Dungeshwari Hills

A popular destination for tourists each year, Mahakala Caves is another name for this location. Numerous Buddhist and Hindu temples can be seen in this lovely, picturesque area. Within one of the caverns is the idol of the Hindu goddess Dungeshwari, as well as a gold-encrusted sculpture of the Buddha. Get away from the rush of everyday life and visit these lovely hills.

Vietnamese Temple

The Vietnamese government erected this exquisite temple. Reviving Buddhism in India was the temple's primary goal. The temple features distinctive archaeological architecture that combines Vietnamese and modern elements. The principal feature of the temple is the Mahabodhi Temple Buddha statue located therein. Don't forget to explore the surrounding gardens, which enhance the temple's splendour.

Muchalinda Lake

It can be found close to the main temple. It is thought that during the storm that occurred while Gautam Buddha was meditating, Snake King Muchalinda provided him with protection. It's a pretty calm area. The entire narrative is also depicted on a structure in the middle of the lake. When you visit the Mahabodhi temple, you really must see the lake.

Visiting the Mahabodhi Mandir is not just a journey to a historical site, it is a spiritual experience that has the power to transform lives. Whether you are a devout Buddhist or want to know the history of Mahabodhi temple or are simply a curious traveller; a visit to this sacred place is sure to leave a lasting impression on your mind and soul. Book Bodhgaya tour packages before visiting the place. Consider the temple's timing and explore the various Bodhgaya tour packages available to make the most of your journey to this sacred site.

May 13, 2024

Author

Veena World
Veena World

We are an Indian travel company founded in 2013 and excel at domestic and international tour packages including guided group tours, specialty tours, customized holidays, corporate MICE travel, inbound travel and destination weddings.

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