Mahabodhi Temple Complex

The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the few surviving examples of early brick structures in India, has had significant influence in the development of architecture over the centuries. The Maha Bodhi Temple, one of the holiest sites of Buddhism, marking the spot of the Buddha’s enlightenment (bodhi). It is located in Bodh Gaya (in Bihar state, northeastern India) on the banks of the Niranjana River.

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 Temple marks the most holy spot in creation for Buddhism. It is considered the navel of the earth, the place that will disappear last at the next end of the world and the place that will appear first at the next recreation of the world. That gives a sense of the immense importance placed on Buddha’s Enlightenment experience.

The Mahabodhi Temple is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built in brick that still survives today. The ground level of the temple is 45 meters square, stretching up in a pyramid shape that ends in a smaller square platform. The central tower of Mahabodhi stands 180 feet (54 meters) tall. The brickwork on the outside of the temple depicts scenes from the life of the Buddha. The sacred Bodhi tree stands to the west of the above temple. It is known as the pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) in India. It is believed that this tree is the direct descendant of the original tree under which Lord Buddha meditated.

The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the few surviving examples of early brick structures in India, has had significant influence in the development of architecture over the centuries. The sculpted stone balustrades are an outstanding early example of sculptural reliefs in stone. The 4.8-hectare (11.9-acre) complex also includes ancient shrines and modern structures built by Buddhist devotees. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002.