Mahabodhi Temple

Brief
The Buddhist Path begins with Faith, then Knowledge, then Experience, and finally Wisdom. Since the Path begins with faith, which can include devotion to the Buddha, in appreciation for the teachings, a good practice to complete some time in your life, is a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. This is the place in India where the Buddha attained enlightenment. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.


History
Bodh Gaya is associated with the enlightenment of Lord Buddha (566-486 B.C.). The sacred Bodhi tree under which he is believed to have attained enlightenment. The place is highly venerated by the Buddhists. Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya around 260 B.C. and constructed a small temple near the Bodhi tree. An inscription datable to 1st – 2nd century A.D. mentions that the temple of Asoka was replaced by a new one. The temple's principle relic is a distant descendant of the Bo tree under which the Buddha sat when his enlightenment took place. The site, having been sacred to Buddhists since the earliest days of the faith, is of unknown antiquity. Elements of the temple date from the 3rd century BC, but the present form of the temple is a reconstruction of a later form that would have been familiar to Hiuen Xsiang, the 7th centunry Chinese Buddhist pilgrim whose story is the basis of "The Monkey King" drama of literary reknown.

The Temple  

Architecture
The temple's architecture is superb but its history is shrouded in obscurity. It was constructed with the main intention of making it a monument and not a receptacle for the relics of the Buddha. On its four corners four towers gracefully rise to some height. Inside the temple there is a colossal image of the Buddha in the "touching the ground pose", bhumisparsha mudra. This image is said to be 1700 years old and is facing east exactly at the place where the Buddha in meditation with his back to the Bodhi tree was enlightened. The temple is one of the few early monumental brick structures to have survived in eastern India. Its enormous central tower (55 m tall) is a 19th century renovation faithful to the earlier towers that existed on the site. The tower comprises numermous horizontal bands of mouldings and arch motifs that extend upward to an amalaka topped by umbrella-shaped forms, recalling the umbrella motifs found at Buddhist stupas dating back to the time of Asoka and earlier. Around the central tower are four smaller towers added at the end of 19th century that mimic the form of the central tower.

Idol of Buddha
The Mahabodhi temple has a huge Idol of Buddha in the 'Bhumisparsa Mudra'. The temple is surrounded by a small pillars and delicate lattice work. These are a major attraction for the tourist who visit the place. To maintain the balance of the main tower there are four smaller towers. In the sanctum sanctorum, the huge image of Buddha looks mesmerizing in which he is sitting in a 'Bhumisparsh Mudra' (touching the ground). It is said that the image is 1700 years old and positioned in a manner that Lord Buddha faces the east.

The Bodhi Tree
Mahabodhi Temple along with Bodhi Tree completes the holy pilgrimage to Bodhgaya. Bodhi Tree is actually a fig tree, which grew from the original tree under whose kind shelter Lord Sakyamuni meditated and ultimately attained enlightenment. Owing to this, he became Buddha. Bodhi Tree is a significant part of Bodh Gaya, which is believed to grow on the day, Gautama Buddha was born. Under Bodhi tree, there is a platform embracing the footprints of Lord Buddha carved in stone. In its vicinity, a slab of red sandstone adorns the site. The Bodhi Tree which stands today is probably the descendant of the original Banyan tree. The Lord Buddha sat under the Banyan tree, on a stone platform, in Vajrasana, the seat of stability, and attained Nirvana (enlightenment).  To the left of the Diwan-I-Khaas is the Treasury or Ankh Michauli, once believed to have been used for playing the game, comprising three rooms each protected by a narrow corridor which were manned by guards.