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           Mahabodhi Temple

The Mahabodhi temple is located in Budh Gaya, which is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage spot in the Gaya district of Bihar, eastern India. Budh Gaya is, in fact, the holiest of the Buddhist sites all over the world. It is here that Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. The Mahabodhi temple is the center of attraction of Budh Gaya. This temple is among the best known tourist attractions in Bihar, and is visited by numerous Buddhist pilgrims as well as tourists from all over the world. It is a major part of tourism in Bihar.

The original temple at this spot is believed to have been constructed by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. The location of the temple is said to be on the very spot where the wandering prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment almost 2500 years ago. The present structure is a reconstruction of the original temple, probably in the 7th century AD. The temple was seriously damaged by Muslim invaders in the 12th century. It was repaired and significantly remodeled in the 14th century under patronage from the Burmese kings. Major excavations carried out in the 19th century brought out much of the temple that was buried under silt deposited over centuries.

The temple is surrounded by a stone railing which dates back to the 1st century BC. The temple is also greatly revered due to the presence of the Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment after meditating for 49 days. This tree, however, is not the original Bodhi tree, but is a sapling from a tree in Sri Lanka which is said to be a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree.

The spire of the temple soars to 54 meters (177 feet). It goes up in tiers and is topped by an umbrella shaped finial. The gateway of the temple features Buddha’s teachings inscribed in granite. This gateway dates back to the 8th century AD. The Chakramana is yet another important feature of the Mahabodhi temple. It is the sacred place where Buddha used to walk while deep into contemplation during his stay here.

The Vajrashila is a red sandstone seat which marks the spot where Buddha sat in meditation. It is a greatly revered spot for the Buddhists.

The most famous attraction of the Mahabodhi temple’s interior is the gilded stone image of Gautama Buddha. It is located in the main sanctum of the temple which is reached through the main entrance of the temple. The statue is dated around the late 10th century AD. The calm look on the face of the statue creates a peaceful and serene ambience inside the sanctum.

Dusk is the best time to visit the temple, when lamps and prayers combine to create a surreal and pious atmosphere in the temple complex. The Buddha Jayanti, held in May, is the most auspicious occasion and the perfect time to visit the Mahabodhi temple.

To know more about the Mahabodhi temple and other Buddhist sites in India, log on to touristplacesinindia.com.

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