Buddhism is one of the top five religious doctrines in the world, in terms of number of followers. How did this ideology spread from a small corner of India to become so dominant? One of the first people we can thank for this was the ancient emperor Ashoka. Mahabodhi Temple. Located in Bodh Gaya, India, this is one of the most sacred sites in all of Buddhism, and one of Ashoka’s greatest achievements.

Mahabodhi Tree

There are four major temples associated with the various stages of the Buddha’s life. The Mahabodhi Temple marks one of the most significant. According to tradition, it was in this place that the Buddha sat under a bodhi tree and meditated, ultimately achieving enlightenment and becoming the Buddha.

That means that this site is essentially the birthplace of Buddhist ideologies and beliefs Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment back in the 6th century BCE, which means that the site was essentially bare for a few centuries before Ashoka came around.

Buddha Idol

The emperor visited the site and the pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya, and decided to build a temple and monastery in honor of the Buddha sometime between 260 and 250 BCE What you see at the Mahabodhi Temple today, however, actually dates to a different era. Later Indian rulers of the Gupta Empire rebuilt the site in the 5th and 6th centuries CE. This is when the towering temples that define Mahabodhi today were built. 

After the 12th century CE, the Mahabodhi Temple fell into disrepair. Islamic interests threatened Buddhism in India and the temple site was nearly abandoned. It would later be restored in the 19th century, and worked back into its former grandeur. Today, it continues to function as one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism as well as a monument to India’s architectural and cultural heritage. As a result, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

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