Brahmi Publication

Mithila, History, Literature and Art

Mahabodhi Temple: The symbol of cultural heritage and canonical harmony

  1. Yuan Chwang’s Account:

According to the testimony of the great Budhist Chinese pilgrim Hieun-Tsang, who travelled throughot the great part of India in the first half of 7th century A.D. has clearly stated that the magnificent Mahabodhi temple was constructed by a Shaiva devotee under the instruction of Lord Shiva and the image of Budha enshrined in the main temple by Shaiva devotee and Budh Pokhar, too, was excavated by his Shaiva brother.

“On the site of the present vihara Asoka-raja at first built a small vihãra. Afterwards there was a Brãhman who reconstructed it on a larger scale. At first this Brãhman was not a believer in the law of Buddha, and sacrificed to Mahesvara. Having heard that this heavenly spirit (god) dwelt in the Snowy Mountains, he forthwith went there with his younger brother to seek by prayer (his vishes). The Deva said, “Those who pray should aim to acquire some extensive religious merit. If you who pray have not this ground (of merit), then neither can I grant what you pray for.”

The Brãhman said, “What meritorious work can I set about, to enable me to obtain my desire?”

The god said, “If you wish to plant a superior root (growth) of merit, then seek a superior field (in which to acquire it). The Bodhi tree is the place for attaining the fruit of a Buddha. You should straightway return there, and by the Bodhi tree erect a large vihãra, and excavate a large tank, and devote all kinds of religious offerings (to the service). You will then surely obtain your wishes.”

The Brãhmans having received the divine communication, conceived a believing a believing heart, and they both returned to the place. The elder brother built the vihãra, the younger excavated the tank, and then they prepared large religious offerings, and sought with diligence their heart’s desire (vow). The result followed at once. The Brãhman became the great minister of the king. He devoted all his emoluments to the work of charity. Having finished the vihãra, he invited the most skilful artists to make a figure (likeness) off Tathagata when he first reached the condition of Buddha. Years and months passed without result; no one answered the appeal. At length there was a Brãhman who came and addressed the congregation thus: “I will thoroughly execute (paint and mark) the excellent figure (or distinguishing points) of Tathãgata.”

They replied, “For the purpose of doing this, what do you require?”

“Place in the vihãra a pile of scented earth and a lighted lamp; then when I have gone in, fasten the doors. After six months you may open them again.”

Then the priests did as he directed. After four months, the six not being passed, the priests being astonished at the strange circumstance, opened the door to see what had happened. In the vihãra they found a beautiful figure of Buddha in a sitting position, the right foot uppermost, the left hand resting, the right hand hanging down. He was sitting facing the east, and as dignified in appearance as when alive. The throne was 4 feet 2 inches high, and 12 feet 5 inches broad. The figure was 11 feet 5 inches high; the two knees were 8 feet 5 inches apart, and the two shoulders 6 feet 2 inches. The signs and marks (of a Buddhã) were perfectly drawn. The loving expression of his face was like, only above his right breast the material was not yet completely rounded off. Having seen no man, they were satisfied that this was a miracle, and all of them were filled with strong emotion (piteously sighed) as they diligently sought to find out the secret (earnestly inquired in order to know). Now there was a Sramana who was passing the night there. He was of an honest and truthful heart, and being affected by the circumstance (just related), he had a dream, in which he saw the aforementioned Brãhman who addressed him thus: “I am Maitreya Bodhisattva. Fearing that the mind of no artist could conceive the beauty of the sacred features, therefore I myself have come to paint and delineate the figure of Buddha. His right hand hangs down in token that when he was about to reach the fruit of a Buddha, and the enticing Mãra came to fascinate him, then the earth-spirits came to tell him thereof. The first who came forth advanced to help Buddha to resist Mãra, to whom Tathãgata said, ‘Fear not! By the power of patience he must be subdued!’ Mãra-rãja said, ‘Who will bear witness for you?” Tathãgata dropped his hand and pointed to the ground, saying, ‘Here is my witness.’ On this a second earth-spirit leapt forth to bear witness (to testify). Therefore the present figure is so drawn, in imitation of the old posture of Buddha.”

(SiYu Ki, Buddhist Records of the Western world, S. Beal,)

  1.  Sonam ragby’s travelogue:

(Ref. The holy land reborn: pilgrimage & the Tibetan reinvention of Buddhist India

By Toni Huber, Page no. 186)

“At the time of his visit, Sonam Rabgye found the site of Vajrasana occupied by a great samnyasi monastery. Its membership consisted of about seventy samnyasi. Food was given daily inside the monastery to all the samnyasi, bairagi, yogins, Brahmans, and other practitioners from different religious orders who gathered there. Also, there was one powerful brahman [i.e. the Mahant] who acted as the owner of the place. On the banks of the Nairanjana River, to the east of the site, Sonam Rabgye found that there was still one stone statue which the heretics [sa] had not yet smashed, and which depicted the manner in which the Buddha had once dwelt there engaged in ascetic practices.”

3.   Keshav’s inscription:

There is an epigraphic record that the Shiva Linga still called Chaumukh Mahadev was enshrined in the temple premises by a stone cutter Keshav, son of Ujjwal, in the 26th year of the reign of Budhist king Dharampal which was in the beginning of 10th century A.D.

धर्मेशायतने रम्ये उज्ज्वलस्य शिलाभिदः। केशवाख्येन पुत्रेण महादेवश्चतुर्मुखः।। श्रेष्ठमे (?श्रेयसे) महाबोधिनिवासिनां स्नातकानां प्रजायास्तु श्रेयसे प्रतिष्ठापिता पुष्करिणीत्यगाधा च पूता विष्णुपदीसमा त्रितयेन सहस्रेण द्रम्माणां खानिता सतां षड्विंशतितमे वर्षे धर्मपाले महीभुजि भाद्रबहुल-पञ्चम्यां सूनोर्भास्करस्याह्नि। ओम्

  • Sanskrit inscription of Amardev:

Translation of a Sanskrit inscription, copied from a stone at Boodh-Gaya by Mr. Wilmot, 1785.Translated by Charles Wilkins, ESQ.

“IN the midst of a wild and dreadful forest flourishing with trees of sweet – scented flowers, and abounding in fruits and roots; infested with Lions and Tigers; destitute of human Society, and frequented by the Moonees, resided Booddha the Author of Happiness, and a portion of Narayan, This Deity Haree who is the Lord Hareesa the possessor of all, appeared in this ocean of natural Beings at the close of the Devapara, and beginning of the Kalee Yoog he who is omnipresent and everlastingly to be contemplated, the Supreme Being, the Eternal One, the Divinity worthy to be adored by the most praise-worthy of man- kind, appeared here with a portion of his divine nature.

Once upon a time the illustrious Amara, renowned amongst men, coming here, discovered the place of the Supreme Being, Booddha in the great forest. The wise Amara endeavoured to render the God Booddha propitious by superior service; and he remained in the forest for the space of twelve years, feeding upon roots and fruits, and sleeping upon the bare earth; and he performed the vow of a Mooneey and was without transgression. He performed acts of severe mortification, for he was a man of infinite resolution, with a compassionate heart. One night he had a vision and heard a voice saying, “Name whatever boon “thou wantest.” Amara Deva having heard this, was astonished, and with due reverence replied,” First, give me a visitation, and then grant “me such a boon.” He had another dream in the night, and the voice said, “How can “there be an apparition in the Kalee-Yoog? “The same reward may be obtained from the “fight of an Image, or from the worlhip of an “Image, as may be derived from the immediate visitation of a Deity.” Having heard this, he caused an Image of the Supreme Spirit Booddha to be made, and he worshipped it, according to the law, with perfumes, incenses, and the like; and he thus glorified the name of that Supreme Being, the Incarnation of a portion of Veeshnoo: ” Reverence be unto thee in “the form of Booddha! Reverence be unto “the Lord of the Earth ! Reverence be unto “thee, an incarnation of the Deity and the Eternal One ! Reverence be unto thee, O God, in the form of the God of Mercy; “the dispeller of pain and trouble, the Lord of all things, the Deity who overcometh the sins of the Kalee-Yoog, the Guardian of the Universe, the Emblem of Mercy towards those who serve thee — OM! the possessor of “all things in vital form! Thou art Brahma, Vishnoo, and Mahhesa! Thou art Lord of the Universe! Thou art, under the proper form of all thing; moveable and immoveable, the possessor of the whole! and thus I adore “thee. Reverence be unto the bestower of “salivation, and Reseekesa the ruler of the “faculties! Reverence be unto thee (Kesavah) “the destroyer of the evil Spirit Kesee! O “Damordara” shew me favour! Thou art he who resteth upon the face of the milky ocean, and who lying upon the serpent Sésa. Thou art ‘Treeviekrama (who at three strides encompassed the earth)! I adore thee, who art celebrated by a thousand names, and under various forms, in the shape of Booddha, the God of Mercy! Be propitious, O Most “High God!”

Having thus worshipped the Guardian of mankind, he became like one of the just. He joyfully caused a holy Temple to be built of a wonderful construction, and therein were set up the divine foot of Veeshnoo, forever Purifier of the sins of mankind, the images of Pandoos, and of the descents of Veeshnoo and in like manner of Brahma, and the rest of the Divinities.

This place is renowned; and it is celebrated by the name of Booddha-Gaya. The forefathers of him who shall perform the ceremony of the Sradha at this place shall obtain salvation. The great virtue of the Sradha performed here, is to be found in the book called Vayoo-poorana an Epitome of which hath by me been engraved upon stone.

Veekramadeetya was certainly a king; renowned in the world. So in his court there were nine learned men, celebrated under the epithet of the Nava-ratnanee, or nine Jewels; one of whom was Amara Deva, who was the King’s Chief Counsellor, a man of great genius and profound learning, and the greatest favourite of his Prince. He it certainly was who built the holy temple which destroyeth sin, in a place in Jamboodweep, where, the mind being steady, it obtains its wishes, and in a place where it may obtain salvation, reputation, and enjoyment, even in the country of Bharata, and the province of Keekata where the place of Booddha Purifier of the sinful, is renowned. A crime of an hundred fold (hall undoubtedly be expiated from a fight thereof, of a thousand fold from a touch thereof, and of a hundred thousand fold from worshipping thereof. But where is the use of saying so much of the great virtues of this place? Even the Hosts of Heaven worship with joyful service both day and night.

That it may be known to learned men, that he verily erected the house of Booddha, I have recorded, upon a stone, the authority of the place, as a self-evident testimony, on Friday the fourth day of the new moon in the month of Madhoo when in the seventh or mansion of Ganisa, and in the year of the ‘Era of Veekrama-deetya 1005.”

(“Dissertations and miscellaneous pieces relating to the history and antiquities, the arts, sciences, and literature, of Asia. by Sir W. Jones, W. Chambers … and others (1792)”)

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