State : Bihar
The Mahabodhi temple is an imposing brick structure
that is enclosed on three sides by an ancient stone railing. The
temple celebrates the birth of Buddhism, for it is under a tree
adjacent to this temple, that Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha
by attaining enlightenment.
The Mahabodhi temple has a giant pyramidal structure (sikhara) which
a height of 54 m. It has a quadrangular base and four spires at
the corners. It can be seen for miles around and distinguishes Bodhgaya
from other Buddhist centres. Inside it you will find a gilded image
of the Buddha. The bricks in the oldest part of the temple have
been fitted together without the use of cement. It stands at the
site of a shrine built by King Ashoka, who ruled over Magadha during
the 3rd century BC. The present structure was most recently renovated
in the 1880s, but is believed to have been rebuilt and restored
during the 6 and 7th centuries and again in the 11th Century.
Buddhists from other parts of the world have been closely linked
to this temple. During the 4th century, the Sri Lankan King, Sri
Meghavanna built a monastery in Bodhgaya. Another Sri Lankan monk
Mahanama visited the place in 588 AD and built a shrine with a
statue of the Buddha. The remains of this can still be seen near
the northern staircase leading to the temple. The monastery was
still there in the 7th century when Xuan Zhang travelled to India
and it was also recorded by Dharmasvamin, another traveller and
a monk from Sri Lanka, who visited the place in the 13th century.
Buddhists of Burma have had a long, close relationship with Bodhgaya.
Since the 11th century, they have donated large sums of money
and several Burmese kings have sent missions to Bodhgaya to carry
out repairs at the temple. Details of the first of these missions
can still be found in inscriptions at the Shway Sandaw Pagoda
in Prome, Burma.
In the 19th century, the British Lt Governor of Bengal, Sir Ashley
Eden appointed Sir Alexander Cunningham and J D Beglar to excavate
and restore the temple. This four-year project began in 1880,
and cost Rs 2,00,000, money raised mostly from overseas Buddhists.
The restoration by Beglar was based on a miniature model found
during excavation. There was a hue and cry about Beglar's lack
of understanding of Indian architecture and some believe that
his attempt actually damaged the ruins. In 1956 the temple was
renovated with the help of large international grants. Today the
restored temple looks majestic. However, in spite of its historical
significance, the temple has not yet been declared a protected
How to Reach
Patna is the nearest airport with regular flights to
Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai. Calcutta, 482
km, has an international airport.
Gaya is the nearest railway station. Several superfast
as well as express trains are available from Gaya. Gaya is on
the main Delhi to Calcutta line and there are direct trains to
Delhi, Calcutta, Varanasi, Puri and Patna.
Bihar State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) has bus services
to Gaya, Patna, Nalanda and Rajgir. The main bus stand is opposite
the Mahabodhi Temple. Private buses and taxis are also easily