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Tread reverently along the ancient path. Begin with the Mahabodhi tree where something strange happened-realization of truth or spiritual illumination. The tree still appears to radiate an aura of abiding serenity, spiritual solitude and peace. It is believed that the original Bodhi tree sprang up on the day of Siddhartha’s birth.
Tradition states that Buddha stayed in Bodhgaya for seven weeks after his enlightenment. Each week was spent in a different part of the temple complex.The first week was spent under the Bodhi tree. For the next seven days he remained standing and grazing uninterruptedly at the tree for having helped him in his quest. The spot is marked by Animeshlocha Stupa (unblinking shrine) in the north east which houses a standing figure of the Buddha with his eyes fixed towards the tree. The third week was spent in meditation walking to and fro from the tree to the unblinking shrine spot.
Lotus flowers are said to have sprung up in this place which came to be known as Ratnachakarma (jewel walk) and is marked by a recently made brick platform containing 18 lotus flowers representing the footsteps of the Buddha. The next week was devoted by Buddha to attain higher modes of exposition ie Abhi Dhamma Naya (deep meditation) where he sat cross legged. He emitted dazzling light from his body which can be seen incorporated in the Buddhist flag of white, yellow, blue, red and orange.
The fifth week of enlightenment was again spent in meditation under another tree. The sixth takes us to Muchalinda Lake where the serpent king Muchalinda dwelling at the bottom of the lake rose out to protect the master from a severe storm created by Maya (the god of chaos) to disturb the meditation. The Rajata tree marks the last week where Buddha decided to preach and thus save human beings from further sufferings.
For those willing to make extra effort a 6kms ride by car followed by an hours trek across the river Phalgu leads to the silent caves where Buddha is believed to have spent his ascetic life prior to enlightenment. Another excursion is Sujata Asthan where a young village woman approached Buddha and offered him a bowl of rice pudding. Soon Buddha acquired rich golden hue and white light emanated from his body.
Adjacent to the Mahabodhi tree is the truncated pyramidal temple soaring to a height of 170 feet dating back to the second century AD which ranks it among the oldest existing examples of sculpture and architecture. A flight of steps leads to the inner courtyard. Right in the centre stands the great temple perhaps the oldest and the most venerable of all Buddhist shrines. Giant lamps illuminate the entrance before the sanctum housing the massive gilded image of Lord Buddha in the earth touching pose. Between the temple and the tree is the diamond throne Vajrasana which marks Buddha’s seat of meditation. Nearby is the large stone with Buddha’s footprint Buddhapada.
The Bodhgaya archeological museum in Bodhgaya houses plenty of relics recovered from the old temple besides other objects excavated from the site. Most of the original sculpured pillars that formed the railing around the Mahabodhi temple can be seen here.
Where to stay
There are moderately priced tourist bungalows i.e. Hotel Sidharth Vihar and Hotel Buddha Vihar of Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation.
India Tourism Development Corporation has hotel Bodhgaya Ashok.
How to reach
- Air: Patna airport is 112 kms.
- Rail: The nearest rail head is Gaya (16kms)
- Road: Bodhgaya is connected by road to Gaya. 16kms to the Delhi-Calcutta Highway junction (on Grand Trunk Road) Dobhi-22kms and Patna 105 kms (via Jahanabad).