The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.The Mahabodhi Vihar (Literally: “Great Awakening Temple”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.Bodh Gaya (located in Gaya district) is located about 96 km (60 mi) from Patna, Bihar state, India.Images of the site include Avalokiteśvara (Padmapani, Khasarpana), Vajrapani, Tara, Marichi, Yamantaka, Jambhala andVajravārāhī.Images of Vishnu, Shiva, Surya and other Vedic deities are also associated with the site.The site contains a descendant of the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment.

Temple Construction

In approximately 250 BCE, about 200 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, Buddhist Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya in order to establish a monastery and shrine on the holy site. The new Mahabodhi temple included a diamond throne (called the Vajrasana) to mark the exact spot of the Buddha’s enlightenment. While Asoka is considered the Mahabodhi temple’s founder, the current structure dates from the 5th–6th century.One scholar, however, considers the building “largely a nineteenth-century British Archaeological Survey of India reconstruction based on what is generally believed to be an approximately fifth-century structure.” Prior to that, there seems to have been a pyramidal structure perhaps built in about the second century (Kuṣāṇa period). Knowledge of it comes only from a small, circa fourth century terracotta plaque found at modern Patna. It is significant that this version does not have the upper terrace with the small temples in the four corners. These small temples, although not used as such today, probably reflected certain esoteric traditions in Buddhism that were emerging more and more into less esoteric contexts by the late fourth and early fifth century. The pyramidal temple probably replaced an open pavilion that had been constructed around the tree and the Asokan platform. Representations of this early temple arc found at Sanci, on the toraṇas of Stūpa I, dating from around 25 BC, and on a relief carving from the stupa railing at Bhārhut , from the early Shunga period (c. 185-c. 73 BC).

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

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