Bodhgaya is the place where the wandering Prince Siddhartha, who left his kingdom, sat under a fig tree to meditate. It’s the place where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment after seven weeks of meditation and became Gautama Buddha. Bodhgaya, which is 12 kms away from Gaya city, attracts visitors all year round. Hindus and Buddhists visit Bodhgaya with much reverence to either seek blessings or explore the intriguing artefacts.
Here are 12 interesting facts about the sacred city of Bodhgaya:
1. The Mahabodhi temple complex is one of the first Buddhist temples to be built entirely on brick. It has been a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists for well over two thousand years. Though it is considered that king Ashoka (died in 232 BCE) built the Mahabodhi temple complex, the structure dates from the Gupta Empire (5th–6th century).
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2. The Central tower of Mahabodhi temple is about 55 meters tall. During the 19th century the tower was renovated several times.
3. The site contains a descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The other holy Bodhi trees are in Sri Lanka and they are believed to be propagated by the original Bodhi tree. Saplings from these trees were planted in Hawaii, California, and Chennai.
4. The lotus pond and several ancient stupas in the temple complex are believed to be associated with seven weeks spent by Lord Buddha at different locations in Bodh Gaya. It is believed that he spent his sixth week near the lotus pond.
5. There are many different forms of rituals that are performed every day at the temple. However, the highest form of ritual is to walk around the Bodhi tree one lakh times and offer prostration. It is believed that several monks do this every day and that too at one go.
6. It is said that king Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya to establish a shrine and monastery but they are nowhere to be seen today.
7. The Mahabodhi temple complex is UNESCO World Heritage site and all its artifacts are under legal protection.
8. There’s a throne under the Bodhi tree exactly at the site where the lord Buddha reached enlightenment. The throne is thought to have been placed by king Ashoka of the Maurya Empire.
9. Since Mahabodhi temple is the most revered place for the Buddhists, it is the most replicated Buddhist architecture. One can find replicas of Mahabodhi temple in Myanmar, Thailand and China.
10. In 2013, the upper portion of the temple was covered with 289 kg gold, which was gifted by the King of Thailand and Thai devotees. The installation was done with the approval of the Archaeological Survey of India.
11. It’s uncommon to find decorated statues of Lord Buddha. However, in the Mahabodhi temple complex, one can find a statue of Buddha covered in gold. The statue is always covered in a bright orange robe.
12. Orange coloured flowers or lotus with leaf with are recommended as offering in the temple.
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