Bodhgaya in Bihar is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center globally. It was in Bodhgaya, that Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. In addition to Buddhists, people of other faiths also throng to this pilgrim spot throughout the year. Bodhgaya is also the place where individuals perform rites for appeasement of their departed ancestors.
This holy place is conveniently accessible by rail and road. Gaya the nearest railway station is at a distance of approximately 17 km is well connected to all important cities in India. There are regular bus services operating between Gaya and Patna, Varanasi, Rajgir, and Nalanda. From Gaya railway station tourists can proceed to Bodhgaya in taxis, auto-rickshaws, horse-drawn carriages and cycle rickshaws.
The Maha Bodhi Temple
The Maha Bodhi Temple stands on a square basement of 15 meters and is in the shape of a slender pyramid of height 52 meters. At the base from where the spire starts tapering, there are four small towers at the corners of the square. Inside the temple Lord Buddha is represented sitting in a meditative posture with his right hand touching the ground. This idol seated in `bhumisparsha mudra' (touching the ground) is supposedly around 1700 years old. The idol facing east is erected exactly at the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.
When Emperor Ashoka visited Bodh Gaya after about 250 years of Lord Buddha's enlightenment, he erected a diamond throne shrine at the spot. Ashoka is believed to be the founder of the Maha Bodhi temple, and a Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya.
The Bodhi Tree
After gaining Enlightenment, Lord Buddha continued meditating under the Bodhi tree without any movements. He is believed to have practiced walking in meditation during the second week. Chankramanar, a `Jewel Walk' with 19 lotuses was built parallel to the Maha Bodhi Temple representing this meditation walk. Animeschalochana, a stupa, was constructed on the northern side of Chankramanar representing Lord Buddha's contemplation of the Bodhi Tree.
The Bodhi tree behind the temple is considered a descendant of the original tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. A quadrangular stone railing of 20 cm height surrounds the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi tree. The railing is constructed of two stone varieties: older sandstone dating back to around 150 B.C., and a later class belonging to the Gupta period of 300AD - 600 A.D.