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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for 5 Facts about Mahabodhi Temple You Didn't Know About - the legends behind the ancient temple
Joanna James Joanna James
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5 Facts about Mahabodhi Temple You Didn't Know About - the legends behind the ancient temple

The Mahabodhi Temple is said to be the place where Buddha reached enlightenment - sacred to Buddhist, thousands of pilgrims visit here yearly. Here are a few little-known facts you may not have heard.



The seat under the Bodhi Tree (Fig tree) is known as the Bodhimanda, and is said to be the exact spot where Buddha attained enlightenment. According to traditional Buddhist beliefs, when the world reaches its end, the Bodhimanda will be the last to disappear from existence, and the first to appear during recreation. The present Bodhi tree is a descendant of the original tree which Buddha sat under.

Hence, the tree is held in reverence, with monks and pilgrims paying homage to it, offering prayers and flowers several times a day. According to myth, if a Bodhi tree doesn't grow on site, then the ground around the Bodhi tree will be devoid of all plant life, and no one will be able to walk near the site.


Visions by the river

The Buddhist chronology known as the Jataka Tales, claims that around 2500 years ago, when the Buddha visited the location, a Bodhi tree was surrounded by a mandala formed by a pale silver sand ridge. Grass and creepers that surrounded the tree were strained toward it as if bowing to a deity. In addition, the Niranjana River flowed near the area, and when the Buddha sat down and faced the water, a heavenly vision sprang forth through the trees. While the chronicles say he never returned to the site ever again, he numbered it as one of four locations worth visiting for inspiration.


Celestial statues

The temple is filled with beautiful statues that draw not just pilgrims, but even travellers who are staying at a nearby hotel in Bodhgaya, such as the Oaks Bodhgaya, and keen to view the ancient temple. According to one story, once construction of the temple was completed, there was confusion regarding what statue to place within. One day, a stranger appeared claiming he could create the perfect statue. He requested that scented clay and a lamp be left inside the sanctum and the door locked for six months. His request was met, but the impatience of the people led them to open the doors just four days before the time period ended. Inside, a statue of immense beauty was found, however a small apart was unfinished. Many days later, a monk who had slept inside the sanctum dreamt that the Lord Maitreya told him it was he who built that statue.


The Buddhist emperor

The founder of the temple, Emperor Asoka, was known for his fiery temper. He was even referred to as Asoka the Fierce in his lifetime, but his experience during the famed Kalinga war in 261 BC changed him. After seeing so much death and destruction, he turned to peace and became a Buddhist. He took up the mantle of the propagator of Buddhism, and sent his two children to the island of Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism.



In Hinduism, Buddha is revered as the 9th incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, the Hindu deity of preservation.

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