Bodh Gaya – Vishnupad and Mahabodhi Temples
Located 12 Kms away from Gaya City, in the Gaya district of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is known for the Vishnupad and Mahabodhi Temples, where Lord Buddha is believed to have obtained awakening (Bodhimandala). Earlier the main monastery of Bodh Gaya was called Bodhimanda – Vihara but later it came to be known as Mahabodhi Temple Complex. The name Bodh Gaya came into use after the 18th century, before which it used to be called Mahabodhi, Sambodhi, Uruvela or Vajrasana. The best of the year to visit Bodh Gaya is from October – February.
How to Reach
Travel facilities are provided by the Bihar State Tourism Development from Patna to Bodh Gaya. Buses going to Bodh Gaya are available from Kolkata and Varanasi. One can also take a train from Kolkata. The Gaya International Airport is 7kms away from Bodh gaya. It is also referred to as the Bodh Gaya International Airport.
Bodh Gaya experiences a hot summer season with the maximum temperature reaching 41-44 °C. It experiences plenty of rainfall and the climate becomes pleasant but also humid. The winters are cool and pleasant.
Bodh Gaya History
It is said that in the year 500 BC, in Circa, Prince Gautam Siddhartha was wandering and reached the banks of the river Phaglu, which is near Gaya city. He sat under a tree (Bodhi) and meditated. After meditating for three nights and three days, he said that he had obtained an enlightenment and he had the answers to all the questions which were disturbing him. He spent seven weeks in neighbouring areas at different places and meditated. After this period, he went to Sarnath and started preaching Buddhism.
Gautam Siddhartha’s followers started visiting him during Vaisakh (April- May) on full moon days. Gradually, the place was known as Bodh Gaya, the day of awakening – Budha Poornima and the tree under which Gautam sat, as Bodhi Tree.
Many pilgrims have documented the history of Bodh Gaya through inscriptions. The accounts prepared by Chinese Pilgrim Faxian and Xuanzang in the 5th and 7th century provide significant information. The Turkic army conquered the place in the 13th century.
The Mahabodhi Temple
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is located 110kms away from Patna and it contains the famous diamond throne (Vajrasana) and the sacred Bodhi Tree. This tree was grown from a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka, which has also been grown from a sapling of the first Bodhi Tree.
Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya, 250 years after the awakening of the Buddha. Th original Mahabodhi Temple is considered to be founded by him. There is an elongated spire covered by a very small statue and a chhatri on an elevated platform. One needs to climb two flights of stairs to reach the platform. Historians also believe that the temple was renovated during the period of the Kushans in the 1st Century. The temple was buried under many layers of soil and forgotten after the decline of Buddhism in India. It is believed that Sir Alexander Cunningham restored the temple in the 19th century. Sir Cunningham excavated the site with the help of Dr Rajendralal Mitra and J.D.Beglar with great difficulty in the year 1883. They started the renovation and restored the temple.
Bodh Gaya is one of the four most significant places of worship for the Buddhists. This is so because there are four important places associated with the life of Gautam Buddha. They are Lumbini, Kushinagar, Sarnath and Bodh Gaya. The Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2002.
The Vishnupad Temple
The Vishnupad temple is located near Bodh Gaya, on the banks of Falgu river. It is believed that the temple is built on the footprints of Lord Vishnu. The footprints of Lord Vishnu are 40 cms long and it is imprinted over a solid piece of rock. This rock is called Dhrama Shiela. The temple displays the Shikhara style of architecture. It was built by Queen Ahilya Bai from Indore. The temple is not open to non-hindus. Many devotees visit the temple and worship the deity of Vishnu with flowers and milk. It is believed that by doing this one secures a place for themselves in spiritual world.