Mahabodhi Stupa- What to look for if you are visiting without a guide!
Culture survives not in history books or past papers, but in the smaller details of age-old monuments that have stood the test of the times. The Buddhist monuments serve as the testimony of a great belief. They establish a dialogue between Buddhism and today’s generation revealing the extent to which humans are linked.
Mahabodhi Stupa stands as a true symbol of Buddhist art and culture which is probably fading away nowadays. Let’s recall the greatness of this monument while journeying through its history and its importance in today’s world.
Mahabodhi temple- Where and why
If you ever desired to witness the origin of religion as great as Buddhism, you may love visiting Bodh Gaya. The religious state is believed to be the home of the enchanting tree under which Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment. Also, this religious place host’s one of the most famous pilgrimages of the religion in the name of the Mahabodhi Temple.
Established as a UNESCO world heritage in the year 2002, Mahabodhi Temple was once the Great Awakening temple of the Buddhist religion. Marking the grounds where Buddha formulated his philosophy, the temple is the spiritual heart of Bodhgaya. Most parts of the temple are rebuilt in the present century and restored from the ancient concepts of designs and marking.
The heart-melting highlight of the temple is a 50-meter pyramidal spire. This inner sanctum of the ornate structure holds a 10th-century 2m gilded seated Buddha image. You might feel startled to know that four original sculpted stone railings that surround the temple are still there as an emblem of the ancient art. This date back to the Shunga or Sunga period (2nd to 1st century BCE)
How to visit Mahabodhi Temple
The temple is located in Bodhgaya which is a popular place and about 90 km away from Patna. Patna is an important city of the Bihar state of India. The easiest way to reach here is by train which will drop you at the Gaya station well connected to popular places like Patna, New Delhi, Varanasi, Kolkata, and Puri. For flight lovers, the nearest airport is Patna which is 100 km away. Taking the road medium is another great option. You may visit Bodhgaya from Gaya (only 12 Kms ride). For those coming from Patna, the travel is 178 km via Nalanda and Rajgir. At times, the diversion of visitors towards this temple increases and hence, it is always best to make advance bookings for the trains so that you reach the desired date. When exploring options, you should also consider The Mahaparinirvan Express which takes tourists on an eight-day seven-night spiritual tour across different Buddhist monuments in North India, including Mahabodhi temple.
When visiting here, you should take note that you might be asked to walk barefoot as it is a holy place. It is best to leave your belongings including cell phones, shoes or wallets in a locker located 50m to the west side of the entrance. The security is unpatrolled here. The visiting timings are from 5 am to 9 pm. You might need to pay a nominal fee if you wish to click pictures and take your camera inside.
The tour – don’t miss the details of this resurrected temple
Mahabodhi Temple, being an important part of Buddhist cultural history offers more than your eyes can witness. The scenic view is not enough to compare its architecture and inner beauty. Yes, you need to see it close enough to immerse in the centuries-old culture of Buddhism. The 6th century AD old building has seen various modifications, starting from one carried out by Emperor Ashoka 800 years earlier. The temple was razed by foreign invaders in the 11th century. From there on, it underwent several major restorations.
Various tourists and pilgrims from all parts of the world, religion, and life love coming here and they find solace that is hard to come by these days. When you visit, it is obvious to soak up the positive atmosphere of this sacred spot. You may start the tour by strolling around the inside perimeter. This is in the temple compound which is built in an auspicious clockwise pattern. Simply delight your eyes watching the sea of maroon, yellow and white dressed Tibetan monks performing the endless prostrations on their respective prayer boards. If you wish to inhale those sacred vibes, you may spend time in the Meditation Park located in the temple grounds.
Things to look for in Mahabodhi Temple complex
The Bodhi tree
Whenever you visit a place as surreal as Mahabodhi Temple, you will always have a center point where you will feel the spirits of the temple rising from within. The Bodhi Tree is the first such thing to look for when visiting this serene temple. This is the tree where Buddha got enlightenment which you might already know. What you might not know is that the original tree was destroyed by medieval invaders but its sapling was brought back to Mahabodhi to grow. And it has stood since then. The crawling branches, the spellbinding shade, and a tranquil ambiance is never a thing to miss here.
Connection to Hinduism
The second thing to look for in Mahabodhi Stupa is the connection between Hinduism and Buddhism displayed in a crafty feast. You will find beautiful sculptures and paintings of Hindu Gods like Lakshmi. The sculpture of Sun God of Hindu riding his horse chariot it one popular spot.
The lotus pond
The lotus pond near the Bodhi Tree is another splendid example of holy spirits of this place. The passage around the pond has carved lotus stones. It is believed that Buddha spent seven weeks of his life meditating near this pond. He even performed walking meditation. The amazing fact is that you can still see the faded footprints of Lord Buddha. Embark on that pilgrimage around the pond and you shall feel the spirit of Buddha within yourself.
The eternal slab
The beliefs and rituals flow through every spot in this place. It is believed that the spot where the tree is growing is the navel of the earth. As much as this seems true, you might love the fact that there is a slab placed on the position where Buddha used to meditate under the tree. It is said that when the world will get destroyed, only the slab will remain. This spot will form the basis of a new world originating from that very point where the slab is placed.
The more time you spend in the Mahabodhi temple, the more conjured you will feel in a relaxing state of mind. While these facts may increase your curiosity hormones, you need to actually visit the place to believe that it is all nothing but real.
Saving the monument
As with all monuments, the Mahabodhi Temple is in grave danger of losing its authenticity due to various factors threatening its foundation. Though considered as world heritage, we can’t deny that only a few original parts of the temple remain. This is because of tons of resurrection it has undergone. Still now, the Giant Bodhi tree is facing a catastrophe. It is slanting on one side and getting support from the temple walls. Needless to say, this might cause serious damage to the temple. Plans are going on to substitute the tree with its clone. But when will that happen, is still unknown.
If we have the will power, we can spread force the government authorities to continue to force a ban on any type of construction on the property. This can be done by posting forums and spreading awareness. You may join hands with our websites and lead the cause yourself. Everything starts with a little initiative and you can take your first baby steps by sharing this article with your friends, family members and anyone you know. Spreading the word is the best way to start. You can even help increase the legal state of the property by spreading the word about the importance of the Mahabodhi temple. Consequently, the protection of the landscape surrounding the property can also persevere as a cultural landscape deal.
The fears faced by this important temple are much more serious than we can imagine. Some argue that a Delhi tourism corporation is setting eyes on this temple to turn it into an amusement park, where foreigners would be shown the ancient pilgrimage spot with a game of golf. Turning a Buddhist shrine into a 5-star international tourist site never seems an ethical deal.
The monument needs saving and we all have to work on it. By spreading the word about this enchanting shrine, and letting everyone know about its importance in the ancient Buddhist culture, we can contribute to reviving it probably from its few last breaths. As much as possible, every one of us should visit the temple and if not, simply look at our website to find more info about saving the monument. You will love the work we are doing to save Buddhist monument.
The core spirit of Buddhism lies in their believers, the Buddhists. The Buddhists keep their faith alive by visiting their pilgrimage. And the pilgrimage or temples remain awake, thanks to the belief of people visiting them. This is a cycle that cannot be broken by any means. If it does, Buddhism might not prevail.
Buddhists have strong faith that Mahabodhi temple is indestructible. They believe that it will remain even when the entire world is destroyed. But is it actually true? Probably not! The modern invasion and environmental factors can ruin it if nothing is done on a short note. If we humans are starting to believe that nothing is sacred, then we are probably losing the basis of humanity.
So, wait no more, start spreading the awareness and let us know your views in the comment section. As a dedicated Buddhist community, we are giving our best to let everyone know about saving the monuments that are the epitome of Buddhism. You may reach us out for any type of concerns.