Mahabodhi Temple is the most prominent place to visit at Bodh Gaya. The famous Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment lies in the Mahabodhi Temple Compound. The temple is known for its majestic Architecture having a basement of 48 square feet and elevation of 170 ft. Four towers on its corners rise gracefully giving the holy structure a poise balance. It can be seen for miles around and distinguishes Bodhgaya from other Buddhist centres.
Inside the temple there is a colossal image of the Buddha in sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand. The image is made up of Black Stone but has been guilded by Devotees.
It was built by Great Emperor Ashoka , who ruled over Magadha during the 3rd century BC. The present structure was most recently renovated in the 1880s, but is believed to have been rebuilt and restored during the 6 and 7th centuries and again in the 11th Century.
The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with large number of votive stupas. These stupas are of all sizes built during the past 2500 years ago. Most of them are extremely elegant in structural beauty. The ancient railings, which surround the temple, are of the first century BC and are among the very interesting monuments of the century.
Many of the structure inside temple was built by kings of Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Historical Records show that temple used to receive heavy grants from Buddhists Countries in the medieval period. To Buddhists it is revered as the holiest of holy places and acts as a Mecca for hundreds of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims every year.
In 1956 the temple was renovated with the help of huge international grants. Today the restored temple looks majestic. On June 27, 2002, the Mahabodhi Temple was declared a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site.
The great Bodhi tree inside the Mahabodhi temple is a descendant of original Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree was planted in Nineteenth Century from a sapling brought from Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka. Pilgrims tie prayer flags to its branches and meditate under it. Monks and devotees sit around the tree in the early hours of the morning (beginning at 4.30 am) to meditate and chant. You will be imbued with the sense of peace and serenity that is in the air, even if you are not meditating.
There is a large rectangular slab of polished red sandstone covered with a gold canopy called Vajrasana. This is the spot where Lord Buddha did attain his enlightenment. The top is decorated with an unusual geometric design that has faded considerably. Visiting monks decorate the place with flowers and place an urn on it to collect donations or offerings.
Animeshlochana Chaitya temple.
This is a mini Mahabodhi temple where Lord Buddha spent a week after attaining Enlightenment. He is supposed to have stood here without blinking eyes . Hindu pilgrims also frequent this spot since they worship Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu.
The Mahabodhi temple remains open from 5 AM to 9 PM