Bodh Gaya - The Land of Enlightenment
THE LAND OF ENLIGHTENMENT
Holding extreme religious importance to the Buddhists, Bodhgaya lies13 km south of Gaya, beside the river Phalgu. It was here, that the Lord Buddha sat under the Banyan tree and attained enlightenment, and a descendant of that original tree still flourishes there today.
Bodhgaya is small and quiet town, which is the most important of all the Buddhist sites in the world.The Maha Bodhi temple of Bodh Gaya is one of the important places of worship for the Buddhists. Apart from being a vital Buddhist centre, it is also a significant archaeological site. Devout Buddhists and tourists from all over the world visit Bodhgaya, to study Buddhism and the art of meditation, or to simply absorb the aura of solemn splendour that surrounds the place.
Marking the holy spot of the enlightenment of the Master, this site is looked upon with greatest sanctity and became a flourishing Buddhist establishment with numerous temples, stupas and monasteries.
According to tradition a large number of shrines and memorials were erected at the site to commemorate the incidents before after enlightenment but only few now can be recognised. Of the earliest shrines, traditionally attributed to Asoka, only vajrasana or the sandstone throne with the characteristic Mauryan polish and decorative designs has survived and is seen beneath the holy Bodhi tree.
To the Sunga period belongs a portion of the sandstone railing carved with bas-reliefs, typical of the age. The remaining portion of the railing pertains to the Gupta period. The main brick-built shrine known as the Mahabodhi temple which appears to have been originally erected in circa 2nd century A.D., is encumbered with the heavy renovations, the four corner-towers being an arbitrary addition of circa 14th century. Its central tower, standing on a high plinth, is about 55m high and is a straight-edged pyramid of seven storeys, relieved by pilasters and chaitya-niches, substantially agreeing with its description left by the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang. The remaining shrines and stupas mostly belong to the Pala period (9th to 12th century).