The life of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is associated with the small town of Bodhgaya. It is one of the four holiest cities of Buddhist faith. The Mahabodhi temple is the main attraction of this town and is located near the spot where Lord Buddha attained spiritual enlightenment. Bodhgaya is not only an important Buddhist pilgrim center, but it is also an important center for the study of Buddhism.
Mahabodhi Temple and other monasteries are the major attractions in Bodhgaya. Places associated with the life and times of Lord Buddha are located inside the Mahabodhi complex including the Bodhi Tree and a pond where according to legends, Lord Buddha mediated for few days.
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Gaya is located at a distance of 105 km from Patna in the state of Bihar. Buddha Gaya is located 7 miles south of Gaya and is one of the well visited Buddhist pilgrimage centers of the Indian subcontinent.
The Mahabodhi Temble is located at the place of Lord Buddha's enlightenment. The temple has a 50m (170 ft) tower. The present temple was restored around 1880. There have been several other temples on this site. A previous temple was destroyed by the Muslims in the 11th century. Parts of the intricately carved railings to the south and west of the temple are very old. Some of the railings are original and parts of the railings are reproductions. In the inner sanctuary there is a huge Buddha. In the center of the temple there is also a Siva-linga that was installed about 860. This temple is also sacred to the Hindus because Lord Buddha is the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The Bodhi tree here is said to be a descendent of the tree under which Budhha attained enlightenment. A sapling of the original bodhi tree that the Buddha sat under was carried by Emperor Ashoka's daughter (Sanghamitta) to Sri Lanka. That tree is at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. A cutting from that tree was planted in Budha Gaya when the original tree died. Under the tree is a red sandstone slab that is said to be the Vajrasana, the diamond throne, that Buddha sat on and attained nirvana. The tree is located behind the temple and is about 80 feet high and about 115 years old.
Vajrasana, the seat of stability. Buddha supposed to have say in meditation gazing east, under the Bodhi Tree, where the Vajrasana, the stone platform is kept.
This marks the sacred spot of the Buddha's meditative perambulations during the third week after pious enlightenment. It is believed that wherever the Buddha put his feet lotus sprang up.
It is believed that the Buddha spent one week here looking towards the great Mahabodhi Tree out of gratitude, without twinkling his eyes.
The Buddha spent one week here, where it is believed that five colours came out of his body
The Mohanta's Monastery, located right next to the Mahabodhi Temple, is a Shaivite monastery. It is said that Adi Sankaracharya spent days here in a heated debate with buddhist philosophers.
At the Tibetan Mahayana Monastery (1938) there is a large Dharma Chakra, or wheel of law. It is believed that you will be freed of sin if you spin this wheel three times in succession from left to right. It is a 10m high metal drum painted gold and red.
Budha bathed in the nearby Niranjana (now called Lilanja) River after attaining enlightenment. The Niranjana River is about 250m east of the temple. Prince Siddharta crossed this river to reach the Bodhi tree.
Buddha Jayanti Festival
The Budha Jayanti festival in May, celebrates the appearance day of Buddha, the day he got enlightenment, and the day he left his body. It is the biggest festival day here.
Since 1953, Bodh Gaya has been developed as an international place of pilgrimage. Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan and Japan have established monasteries and temples within easy walking distance of the Mahabodhi compound. The site of the enlightenment now attracts Buddhists and tourists from all over the world. At any time during the cooler months between December and March, a visitor to Bodh Gaya can observe a continual stream of Indian and international pilgrims walking the roads or arriving in buses, circumambulating the temple, performing prostrations and offering prayers in a multitude of languages. For those who aspire to awaken their full potential, Bodh Gaya today is truly a field vibrant with the potentiality of enlightenment. Enriched by devotion of Buddhists of all traditions, this holy site is emerging as a powerful inspiration to the modern world, awakening people of all nations to the real possibility of enlightenment.
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