BUDDHA GAYA – The place of The Buddha’s Enlightenment – Part 3

King Silakala of Srilanka, who reigned from 518 – 531 CE, spent his youth as a novice in one of the monasteries here.

Around 600 CE, King Shashanka ordered the Bodhi tree to be cut down since he was the great opponent of Buddhism. He also ordered the statue of the Buddha, placed inside the Vihara to be broken down. However the Bodhi tree as well as the statue of the Buddha was saved strategically by a loyal person of King Purnavarman, of adjoining kingdom. In 620 CE, King Purnavarman built a 24 feet high wall around the Bodhi tree. He also protected the Vajrasana.

Hsuen Tsang

Around 637 CE, Hsuen Tsang visited the Mahavihara. He mentions addition of the pavilion which was the donated by the Burmese King Sado. It was during this time that the great floods of river Neranjana (Falgu) caused a influx of sand in so large a quantity as to fill up the Vihara complex up to a height of 2 and ½ feet. Even the Vajrasana was covered with it and Huen Tsang mentions that it was difficult to locate the Vajrasana. Hsuan tsang details the Mahabodhi Mahavihara as 170 ft high made of bricks coated with plaster. There were niches in the temple, each containing a gilded statue and plaster work ornamentation. On the east side of the main temple was a 3 stories pavilion with gold and silver inlay decorated with pearls and prccious stones. On the either side of main entrance were 10 ft high statues of Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya made of silver. The Bodhi tree was surrounded by a 20 ft high wall built by King Punarvarman.

Apart from shrines marking the Buddha’s 7 weeks at Buddhagaya, Ashoka had built numerous stupas and pillars marking Sujata;s house, conversion of Kassapa brothers and of Matiposaka jataka. These stupas still existed till 18th century, when later on villagers found these stupas to be good source of bricks and eventually were destroyed. In one of the stupas, a wooden box was found containing various images made of lak.

The Mahabodhi Mahavihar required continuous repairs and renovations were made by unknown people who made inscriptions on the railings surrounding the main vihara. From the inscriptions, it can be seen that some unknown patron had donated 250 dinaras (gold coin of Gupta period) for repairs and 300 cows so that the ghee lamps can be lighted in the Mahabodhi Mahavihara till the’sun and moon’ exists.

In the 7th century, I Tsing visited Buddhagaya. He mentions that villages were donated and their produce for the monks.

Atul Bhosekar

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