Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Mahabodhi Complex, Bihar, Indian UNESCO site

My dear friend Brenda from New York has joined us in India....
She is the expert on Buddhism so we will once again have our very own tour guide...

Aaaahhhh, .....whether you're a Buddhist or not, the main thing to do in Bodh Gaya is just to absorb the vibe of the place where the Buddha attained awakening: the vapor trail of that energy is still in the air!

Brenda told us to show respect by
  1. Taking off our shoes before entering the inner parts of the main temple/stupa complex.
  2. Circum ambulating the stupa and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction.
  3. Preserving the peace and tranquility.
  4. Not climbing onto statues or other sacred object
Wow, there it is ....The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the earliest Buddhist temples built in brick that still survives today.

The ground level of the temple is 45 meters square, stretching up in a pyramid shape that ends in a smaller square platform.

The central tower of Mahabodhi stands 180 feet (54 meters) tall.

The brickwork on the outside of the temple depicts scenes from the life of the Buddha.

Inside the temple, there is the 1700 year old image of a seated Buddha touching the earth with his right hand (a gesture known as the earth-witness mudra). In this posture the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment.

The statue is of black stone but it has been covered in gold and dressed in bright orange robes.

The courtyard of the temple is studded with many smaller stupas and Buddha statues, some of which are several hundred years old.

Parts of the railing that surrounds the area are among the oldest elements of Mahabodhi Temple that survive today.

Immediately next to the Mahabodhi Temple is the Bodhi Tree.


The Bodhi Tree is known to botanists as Ficus religiosa (holy fig), a species of fig in the Moraceae family.

The Bodhi Tree that exists today is not the exact one that shaded the Buddha's meditation 2,500 years ago, but it may well be a direct descendant.

In the 3rd century BC, Emperor Asoka's daughter Sanghamitta brought a branch of the

Bodhi Tree to Sri Lanka and planted it there , where it still grows today.

According to one tradition, Asoka's wife destroyed the original Bodhi Tree out of jealousy over the time the emperor spent there!! Women!!

Other accounts have the tree destroyed in the 7th century. But most reports agree that the original tree was destroyed and replanted using a shoot from the Sri Lanka tree.

In early Buddhist art, before the Buddha image was used, the image of a tree was one of the symbols used to represent him.

Early pilgrims took leaves and seeds of the Bodhi Tree back to their monasteries and homes, and sacred trees throughout India and nearby countries are likely descendents of the Bodhi Tree.

Still today, it is customary to plant a Bodhi Tree in every Buddhist monastery to symbolize the presence of the dharma (Buddhist teachings).

At Bodhgaya, the Bodhi Tree is a favorite place for pilgrims to meditate and contemplate the Buddha's teachings.

Many also hang prayer flags or leave offerings at the sacred site.

So tell us Brenda, what happened after the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment?

During the first week after enlightenment, the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree experiencing the happiness of freedom and peace. He was free from disturbing thoughts, calm and blissful

During the second week, in thanks and gratitude to the tree that had sheltered him during his struggle for Buddhahood, the Buddha stood without moving his eyes as he meditated on the bodhi tree.

Following this example, it is the custom of Buddhists to pay respect to not only the original bodhi tree, but also to the descendants of the bodhi tree that still thrive today.

In the third week, the Buddha saw through his mind’s eye that the devas in the heavens were not sure whether he had attained enlightenment or not.

To prove his enlightenment the Buddha created a golden bridge in the air and walked up and down it for a whole week.

In the fourth week, he created a beautiful jewelled chamber and sitting inside it meditated on what was later known as the "Detailed Teaching" (Abhidhamma).

His mind and body were so purified that six coloured rays came out of his body — blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five.

Today these six colours make up the Buddhist flag. Each colour represented one noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for desirelessness.

The mixed colour represented all these noble qualities.

During the fifth week, while meditating under a banyan tree, three most charming girls called Tanha, Rati and Raga came to disturb his meditation.

They danced in a most seductive and charming
manner and did everything to tempt the Buddha to watch their dance. Yet he continued to meditate unperturbed, and soon they tired and left him alone.

The Buddha then went and meditated at the foot of a mucalinda tree.

It began t
o rain heavily and a huge king cobra came out and coiled his body seven times around the Buddha to keep him warm and placed his hood over the Buddha’s head to protect him from the rain.

After seven days the rain stopped and the snake changed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha. The Buddha then said:

"Happy are they who are contented.
Happiness is for those who hear and know the truth.
Happy are they who have good will in this world towards all sentient beings.
Happy are they who have no attachments and have passed beyond sense-desires.
The disappearance of the word "I AM " is indeed the highest happiness."

During the seventh week, the Buddha meditated under the rajayatana tree.
On the fiftieth morning, after seven weeks of fasting, two merchants came into his presence.
They were called Tapussa and Bhallika.
They offered the Buddha rice cakes and honey to break his fast and the Buddha told them some of what he had found in his enlightenment.

The Buddha wiped his head with his right hand and pulled out some hair to give to them.
These hair relics, called Kesa Datu, were later reputed to be enshrined by the merchants on their return home to what is now known as Burma, in the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

Sita says the tale of Lord Buddha and the cobra is so similar to that of Lord Krishna.....

The night of Lord Krishna was born, the birth was witnessed by heavy rains which led to the River Yamuna being flooded.

As soon as the feet of baby Lord Krishna were immersed in the river, the flow became normal and River Yamuna made way for the baby.

Then Sheshnag, the serpent formed an umbrella to save the new born baby from rain.....

Yes, Hindus believe that Lord Buddha is one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu

We have really enjoyed our day at the tranquil Mahabodhi Temple Complex.....

So tell us Sita, why is it a UNESCO world heritage site??

Sita says that the complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment.

It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.

It is one of the few representations of the architectural genius of the Indian people in constructing fully developed brick temples in that era, and it has had significant influence in the development of architecture over the centuries.

The site of the Mahabodhi Temple provides exceptional records for the events associated with the life of Buddha and subsequent worship, particularly since Emperor Asoka built the first temple, the balustrades, and the memorial column in the 3rd century B.C..

The present Temple is one of the earliest and most imposing structures built entirely in brick from the late Gupta period. The sculpted stone balustrades are an outstanding early example of sculptural reliefs in stone.

And now we are going shopping......


1 comment:

Natacha said...

Nice cards and a beautiful blog!