After flying back from my side trip to Nepal, I had two more world heritage sites in India to visit before finally moving on eastwards. To get to this one from Delhi took two flights, a train, one night in a grim hotel (the cigarette ends in the bathroom drain were the pièce de résistance) and a tuk tuk ride through the countryside.
Bodh Gaya is held to be the site of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment and is a huge draw for pilgrims. I however stayed 11km away at Gaya, partly because that’s where the nearest railway station is located but mostly because it is not advised to do the journey between the two after dark. This is a less economically developed part of India, with a history of corruption and neglect by national government and a reputation for rural banditry.
The focus of Bodh Gaya is the Mahabodhi Temple, a tall pyramidal brick structure that dates from the 5th or 6th century but which was extensively reconstructed in the nineteenth.
Behind the temple is a sacred bodhi tree, the leaves from which worshippers pounce on when one falls to the ground. It is supposed to be a cutting of a tree in Sri Lanka that was itself a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha sat meditating.
The temple’s grounds are not extensive nor as crowded as I expected, despite the presence of quite a few pilgrims who appeared to be sleeping and worshipping amongst the surrounding stupas.
After I had wrung all the entertainment I could out of the temple and its associated religious souvenir stalls (and sampling the wares of a really fabulous lassi seller), my tuk tuk driver took me on a tour of the other Buddhist temples in town, each associated with a different country and built in the appropriate architectural style. There is also a massive modern Buddha statue, sitting in a little park by itself.
On the ride back to Gaya, I noticed many walls covered in these, which I worked out are drying patties made with animal dung, used as fuel.
For the Lego model, there was little choice but to build the whole Mahabodhi Temple (here’s another view of it).
So here is a very tiny scale model showing a side that conveniently doesn’t include the entry structures.