Bodhgaya: Site of Buddha's enlightenment
The city of Bodh Gaya is located in the district of Gaya which is one of the districts of Bihar. This ancient place of Bodh Gaya has several contradictions in its name. According to the one inscription, at the time of Buddha, the name of the place was Uruvela because of the presence of sand. After passing around two centuries of Buddha's Enlightenment, this place was called by four names - Sambodhi, Bodhimanda, Vajrasana and Mahabodhi.
Each and every name has different connotation broadly associated with the life history of Lord Buddha. The name of Sambodhi refers to "complete enlightenment" whereas Bodhimanda refers to the spot under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Vajrasana simply means the "Diamond Throne" where Lord Buddha sat to attain the Enlightenment and the name of Mahabodhi is most enduring name which stands for "great enlightenment". However, with the passage of time, the place came to be known as the Bodh Gaya and the tree where he attained Enlightenment as Bodhi Tree.
Bodh Gaya is located about 13 km from Gaya, 450 km west of Calcutta, and 90 km south of Patna.
Mahabodhi Temple - The World Heritage Site at Bodh Gaya
The Mahabodhi Temple is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha and the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini and Sarnath. It is believed that Ashoka the Great visited to the site of Bodh Gaya after 250 years of Buddha's Enlightenment and he laid the foundation of Mahabodhi temple. But after the decline of Buddhism this temple was abandoned which was later restored by "Sir Alexander Cunningham along with J.D. Beglar and Dr Rajendralal Miitra" who worked for British Archaeological Society in 19th century. In 1949, the Government of Bihar passed an Act by which the Government makes itself responsible for its protection, management and monitoring. It was in 2002, the Mahabodhi Temple nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the following justification. It is one of the earliest existing temples of India; it provides exceptional records for the events associated with the life of Buddha; it is built entirely in brick.
Pilgrimage Attractions of Bodh Gaya
Besides Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya offers many other pilgrimage sites to visit. The present initiative of the Bihar Government on the vision and operationalization of the Nalanda University is a milestone in the process of Bihar Renaissance – the revival of the past glory of Bihar. The devout Buddhists from all over the world visit here to study Buddhism. However, the tourist attractions of Bodh Gaya are Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment; almost all the Buddhist countries have their architectural representative in the form of Temples at Bodh Gaya. Some of the temples or monasteries of other countries are Thai temple, Tibetan temple, the Burmese temple, Japanese temple Chinese temple, Bhutanese temple, Vietnamese temple, Korean temple, Taiwanese temple, Sri Lankan temple, and Nepalese temple etc. Some other attractions are Vajrasana, Chankaramana, Arimeshlochana, Ratnagar, Archaeological Museum, the Mohanta's Monastery, Tibetan Mahayana Monastery etc.