The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of four sacred locations associated with the life of the Lord Buddha, specifically his achievement of Enlightenment. Emperor Asoka constructed the first temple in the 3rd century B.C., and the current temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It dates from the late Gupta period and is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely of brick that is still surviving in India. It is considered to be the spot where the Buddha acquired enlightenment.
FACTS ABOUT MAHABODHI TEMPLE
• The city of Bodh Gaya is located in Bihar's Gaya district.
• It is one of the four sacred sites associated with the Lord Buddha's life, particularly his achievement of Enlightenment.
• Around 260 B.C., Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya and built a small temple beside the Bodhi tree.
• The 160-foot-high brick Mahabodhi temple was constructed during the first and third century A.D.
• The temple is spread out over about 4.8 hectares.
• In 404-05 A.D., Fahien (a Chinese visitor) mentions the main temple and the Bodhi tree for the first time.
• Hieun Tsang noted the presence of walls surrounding the Bodhi tree, behind which stood the Mahabodhi temple approximately 160 feet tall and a vast magnificent sanctuary, when he visited the site in 637 A.D.
• The sacred Bodhi Tree is the most important of the sacred sites (Ficus religiosa ). This tree, located to the west of the main temple, is thought to be a direct descendent of the original Bodhi Tree, where the Buddha spent his First Week and attained enlightenment.
• The Animeshlochan Chaitya (prayer hall) located to the north of the central route, on a raised elevation, where the Buddha is said to have spent the Second Week.
• The Buddha spent the Third Week strolling 18 paces back and forth near the north wall of the main temple in an area known as Ratnachakrama (Jewelled Ambulatory).
• Ratnaghar Chaitya, near the enclosure wall to the north-east, is where he spent the Fourth Week.
• On the centre route, immediately after the east entry stairs, there is a pillar that marks the location of the Ajapala Nigrodh Tree, under which Buddha concentrated during his Fifth Week, answering Brahmins' questions.
• He spent the sixth and seventh weeks adjacent to the Lotus Pond to the south of the enclosure, and the eighth and ninth weeks under the Rajyatana Tree, which is now marked with a tree.
THE MAHABODHI TEMPLE'S DECLINE AND RESTORATION
Following Huna invasions and early Arab Islamic invasions like as Muhammad bin Qasim's, Buddhism decreased as the empires that patronised it fell. In the northeast of the subcontinent, the Pala Empire saw a remarkable rebirth (where the temple is situated). Between the 8th and 12th centuries, Mahayana Buddhism flourished under the Palas. After the Palas were defeated by the Hindu Sena dynasty, Buddhism's standing in India began to decline once more, until it became practically extinct.
Burmese Buddhists built a temple with the same name in the 13th century, modelled after the original Mahabodhi Temple.
The temple complex and surrounding wall were restored by Burmese monarchs between the 11th and the 19th centuries. Under the leadership of Sir Alexander Cunningham and Joseph David Beglar, the then-British colonial government of India began to renovate Mahabodhi Temple in the 1880s. Sir Edwin Arnold visited the site in 1885 and, with the help of Ven. Weligama Sri Sumangala, produced several articles in which he called attention to the appalling situation in Buddhagaya.
PRESENT STATUS OF MAHABODHI TEMPLE
Following India's independence, the Bihar state government gained responsible for the temple's conservation, management, and monitoring. The state government shares such obligations with the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee under the Bodh Gaya Temple Act, 1949. According to the statute, the Committee must be made up of four Buddhist and four Hindu members, with the head of the Sankaracharya Math monastery serving as an ex-officio Hindu member.
The Chairman of the Committee can now be the Gaya District Magistrate, even if he is not Hindu, thanks to a 2013 amendment to the Bodhgaya Temple Management Act. The governor of Bihar is a member of the Advisory Board, as are twenty to twenty-five additional members, half of whom are Buddhists from other countries
The Mahabodhi Temple was designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in June 2002. Under the Treasure Trove Act of 1878, all religious treasures discovered in the area are legally protected.
The temple's highest part was plated in 289 kg of gold in 2013. The gold was a gift from Thailand's King and worshippers, and it was installed with the Archaeological Survey of India's consent.