Bodhgaya

Bodh Gaya Travel Blog

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Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.

“I walked through town, past the various monasteries, temples and shrines. When I came to the main temple, where the Bodhi tree is, I paused for a moment. Hundreds of pilgrims were walking around the temple, chanting mantras, spinning prayer wheels, doing prostrations and offerings. A group of Tibetans seemed to be performing a ritual near the tree; the smell of incense filled the air and the sound of bells and gongs greeted me out on the streets where I stood watching the scene.”

Dharma Punx – Noah Levine

 

Of the four major places to be visited in a Buddhist pilgrimage (Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar), Bodhgaya is without a doubt the most important one since this is the place where Siddharta Gautama gained enlightenment while meditating under the bodhi tree and thus became the Buddha.

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
He spent seven more weeks in the area of Bodhgaya before continuing to Sarnath (which we visited yesterday) to preach his first sermon to his five monk friends. All of this happened around 500 BC and since that age Bodhgaya developed into a major Buddhist centre until the invading Turks destroyed it in the 11th century.

 

Buddha's first sermon in Sarnath had dealt with the Four Noble truths, the first of which is 'there is suffering'. Waking up at eight we could only confirm this statement. Although we had slept ten hours we felt like the Magdha express train had run across us ... or worse, had suffered another massive delay while stopping on top of us. My whole body was aching, I was still tired and at breakfast I found that my appetite had completely disappeared. Fortunately all of these discomforts would quickly disappear to the background when seeing the magical sight that was awaiting us that morning.

 

Bodhgaya is a very small town, so we took a ten minute walk to the main attraction, the Mahabodhi temple.

Buddha statue inside Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
This remarkably formed 50 meter high spire houses a Buddha statue and is surrounded by several smaller stupas and shrines. The temple is believed to be built on the exact spot of the

Buddha's enlightenment and a second generation descendant of the original Bodhi tree. Monks from various countries, each with its own colour of robes, meditate, prostrate and pray in the gardens around the temple.

 

When we started the clockwise kora around the outer path we quickly discovered that we had picked a good day for our visit. At the back of the temple an important Tibetan lama, seated in a throne beneath a branch of the Bodhi tree, was leading an elaborate prayer session. Hundreds of Tibetan monks surrounded him and young novices were handing out chapatti and butter tea to everybody, including Bart and myself. I was anxious to see the look on Bart's face when he sampled the butter tea for the first time and was highly amused to see the disgusted grimace after his first sip.

Mani stones at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
As most people he considered it the vilest stuff he ever drank in his life. Fortunately a conversation about cameras he started with a Thai monk quickly made him forget about the mixture of hot water and butter.

When the prayer session, which will remain a vivid memory for a long time, had ended the leading lama left his throne and we were able to confirm that we weren't dealing with the Dalai Lama. Security was tight, but not 'that' tight.

 

We continued our kora and proceeded to the inner path around the stupa. After having a look at the Buddha statue inside we walked around the spire and quickly came upon the bodhi tree. A perfect spot to spend ten minutes of meditation. Unfortunately there were no fallen leafs to be found and plucking them was strictly prohibited, so I wasn't able to take two home with me for myself and Andre, a travel companion from my Ladakh trip who had asked me to arrange one for him.

 

Last spot we visited at the temple ground was the Muchalinda lake, which was spanned with prayer flags and had a statue of the Buddha covered by a big cobra (naga) in the middle.

Prostration at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
According to legend the Buddha had spent several weeks of meditation here after gaining enlightenment. When a heavy thunderstorm broke out a huge cobra had protected him, covering him like an umbrella. Oh well, I guess every religion needs their share of myths.

 

After leaving the Mahabodhi temple we had one more failed attempt to upload some pictures to the blog in a cyber café. This time it resulted in somewhat of a disaster since a virus on the PC seemed to delete all shots from Bart's memory card. We decided not to try this again in India. People would simply have to wait a week to see the visual aspect of our journey. Bart was rather taken by the fact that he lost his 'people pissing in public' collection, but within a few hours he had already built up a substantial new one.

 

After walking around among the souvenir market where Tibetan refugees sold their stuff (and discovering a big warehouse called 'Tibetan Refugee Market' that seemed to have little whatsoever to do with Tibetans), we decided to visit some of the temples in Bodhgaya.

Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Since this town is so important to Buddhists, nearly all countries with a substantial Buddhist population have their own temple in Bodhgaya. We saw temples built by Vietnam, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Japan.
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Each had its own style and atmosphere. Most impressive was the Thai temple with a stunning gilded Buddha statue resembling the one I had seen in Pitsanuloke years ago. Also worth mentioning were the spacious brownish interior of the Japanese Indosan Nipponji temple and the three-dimensional murals of the Bhutanese temple.

 

To still Bart's hunger (I still didn't have much appetite) we stopped at the Om Restaurant, which proved a bit more dodgy than the information in the Lonely Planet and Wikitravel had us expect. I only ordered some tomato egg soup that also contained some unidentified floating objects, closely resembling fish scales. I suggested the momo's to Bart, so he could get a taste of Tibetan cuisine. He liked them (even though it was the steamed variety I personally dislike) but was to stuffed to finish them all. We gave the remaining spinach-cheese momo's to a family of beggars outside, a good habit that Kirsten had once taught me.

 

One of the last things we visited before the sun was setting was the big 25 m high sitting Great Buddha Statue that the Dalai Lama had revealed in 1989.

Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
It was surrounded by ten standing statues of his disciples.

 

The bright sun, extensive walks and our far from recovered health had exhausted us, so back in the hotel we first relaxed a couple of hours, took showers, sampled the dinner buffet (again, I only had some soup and naan) and retired to bed with a book at nine.

Usquert says:
Hi Ed, thanks for remembering the Bodhi leaf, too bad you didn't get one. But hey...life is suffering and that can be ended by eliminating craving. This was another lesson in Buddhism for us ;)

By the way....Happy Newyear to you and Bart!
Posted on: Dec 31, 2008
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Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha statue inside Mahabodhi Tem…
Buddha statue inside Mahabodhi Te…
Mani stones at Mahabodhi Temple, B…
Mani stones at Mahabodhi Temple, …
Prostration at Mahabodhi Temple, B…
Prostration at Mahabodhi Temple, …
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgay…
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhga…
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgay…
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhga…
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgay…
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhga…
Young monk at Mahabodhi Temple, Bo…
Young monk at Mahabodhi Temple, B…
Discussing cameras at Mahabodhi T…
Discussing camera's at Mahabodhi …
Young meets old at Mahabodhi Templ…
Young meets old at Mahabodhi Temp…
Bodhi tree, Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh…
Bodhi tree, Mahabodhi Temple, Bod…
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Machalinda lake, Bodhgaya, India.
Machalinda lake, Bodhgaya, India.
Ed at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, …
Ed at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya,…
Bart at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya…
Bart at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgay…
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Streets of Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha statue inside Vietnamese te…
Buddha statue inside Vietnamese t…
Mandala inside Tibetan tempel, Bod…
Mandala inside Tibetan tempel, Bo…
Momos for Bart, Bodhgaya, India.
Momo's for Bart, Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha Wallpaper in the Chinese …
'Buddha Wallpaper' in the Chinese…
Chinese tempel, Bodhgaya, India.
Chinese tempel, Bodhgaya, India.
Thai temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Thai temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha statue inside Thai temple, …
Buddha statue inside Thai temple,…
Buddha statue inside Thai temple,B…
Buddha statue inside Thai temple,…
Tibetan temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Tibetan temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Chalk drawing at Tibetan temple, B…
Chalk drawing at Tibetan temple, …
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, Ind…
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, In…
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, Ind…
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, In…
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, Ind…
Great Buddha statue, Bodhgaya, In…
Japanese temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Japanese temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Bhutanese temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Bhutanese temple, Bodhgaya, India.
Bodh Gaya
photo by: Stevie_Wes