The Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where Siddhartha Gautama, 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.
The Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya is located on the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. The Mahabodhi Mahavihara has now been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on the 27th June 2002.
Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya around 260 B.C. and constructed a small temple near the Bodhi tree. An inscription datable to 1st – 2nd century A.D. mentions that the temple of Asoka was replaced by a new one.
Fahien first makes reference to the main temple and the Bodhi tree in 404-05 A.D. Hieun Tsang, who visited the site in 637 A.D. mentions the presence of walls surrounding the Bodhi tree, within which stood the Mahabodhi temple nearly 160 feet tall and a large fine sanctuary. Several additions and alterations took place and the present temple may be datable to the 6th century A.D. The temple fell into disuse in the 13th century A.D. after the conquest of this region by the Delhi Sultanate. During the 19th century, the Burmese kings made certain repairs which were continued by the British in 1880-84.
The temple is one of the few early monumental brick structures to have survived in eastern India. Its enormous central tower (55 m tall) is a 19th century renovation faithful to the earlier towers that existed on the site. The tower comprises numermous horizontal bands of mouldings and arch motifs that extend upward to an amalaka topped by umbrella-shaped forms, recalling the umbrella motifs found at Buddhist stupas dating back to the time of Asoka and earlier. Around the central tower are four smaller towers added at the end of 19th century that mimic the form of the central tower.
The most important of the sacred places is the giant Bodhi Tree, to the west of the main temple, a supposed direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which Buddha spent his First Week and had his enlightment, and the Jewel Walk, marking the place where the Buddha is said to have practiced walking meditation for seven days after his enlightenment.