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Buddha Gaya Myanmar Vihara PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 22 December 2007


Buddha Gaya Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (Estd. 1934)   gaya_kyaung.pngPresent day- Myanmar Buddhist Vihara at Buddha Gaya (Bodh Gaya) is situated on the old road to Gaya, north of the Mahabodhi temple, near the Gaya police station and just beyond the Mahant's palace. In Myanmar Era 1296 (CE 1934), Ashin Nandamalar and Ashin Dhammissara, both from Myanmar, were able to buy a piece of land near Bodh Gaya village, and built Myanmar Temple, since they are not able to get access to the Myanmar Temple, built by emissary of King Mindon, which was taken over by Mahants. Before a small temple of single story was completed, Sayadaw Nandamalar died. His successor Venerable U Uttama tried to continue build and maintain the Temple.

The third Sayadaw U Tilawka, sent by Myanmar Government as part of international Buddhist Missionary, took over as Chief Abbot in 1966. U Thein Maung and Family, who were natives from Taung-ngu of Myanmar and who did business of forest products in Andaman island, also donated the Sangha ordination Hall around same period. Sayadaw U Tilawka had went through difficult times of not much support from local people as well as Myanmar pilgrims, and planned to go back to Myanmar.

Sayadaw U Nyaneinda joined Taungtan-sasana Mission School at Kaba-aye, Yangon in 1963. After completing the course in same year, Sayadaw was assigned by the Myanmar Government to stay in Pansan village, Ladu, Dibagu District, Assam, India to work as Chief Abbot and to spread Buddhism. Sayadaw stayed there for next 13 years. Sayadaw U Tilawka called U Nyaneinda from Assam in 1975, to come and help him since he was not healthy and planning to go back to Yangon. The Temple was later handed over to Sayadaw U Nyaneinda who became fourth Chief Abbot in 1976. During the next 10-15 years, Sayadaw had tried to maintain and expand the Myanmar Temple, making it 2-storied with enlarged kitchen, with some success. There were a few meditation cells built around the temple to accommodate the foreign visitors who were visiting to Bodh Gaya for getting training on Mahayana Buddhist studies and meditation. In those days, there is no electricity or even a taxi car in the Bodh Gaya village. Pilgrims had to use rickshaws (tri-cycles) or scooters to come from Gaya Station and guest houses were not yet readily available. Around mid-1980s, Nayakas of Myanmar Buddhist Temple in India had decided to use the funds collected from the sale of one of the Myanmar Monasteries in Varanasi, for building a three-storied Guest House, within the compound of Bodh Gaya Myanmar Temple. It took 3 years to build it. The building had been used mainly for international visitors, especially a few who wanted to stayed longer period in Bodh Gaya. A nominal fees had been charged as donation for use for maintenance. Myanmar Government started, in early 1990s, opening up for Myanmar people to visit Buddhist Places, in batches, and also helped in donating expansion of buildings in many Myanmar Buddhist Temples around Mijjhimadesa. Since then, a series of new buildings have been added in Bodh Gaya Myanmar Vihara.  In place of a single storied ordination building originally donated by U Thein Maung and Family of Andaman Island, a new 2-storied consecrated Sima (ordination hall) where the monks (sangas) can be ordained as per Theravada tradition was replaced. It was built in Myanmar Architectural style and thus, it could be seen from far place as a totally different and distinct structure. One 4-storied Guest House was built near the main road and another at the corner of the compound behind the Ordination building. Original Temple with 2-stories was also renovated and kitchen and dinning places were expanded to cater for large number of pilgrims. One small hall was also built to be used as dinning and lecture purpose. Water and electricity supply to the temple were also improved. In order to accommodate more number of pilgrims from Myanmar and visitors from within India (Assam/Manipur/Tripura and Arunchal Pradesh) and also from other countries, Sayadaw is trying to get extra land space (about 2 acres) adjacent to the Temple. One of the old treasure housed in the Ordination Hall was a series of oil mural paintings, depicting important events in the Buddha’s life by famous Myanmar Artist, U Ba Kyi who had drawn them in early 1960s.   *****   Address of Myanmar Buddhist Vihara Venerable U Nyaneinda Chief Abbot Myanmar Buddhist Vihara Old Gaya Road Bodh Gaya, Bihar (Phone: 2400 721)



Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Wednesday, 21 November 2007


Welcome to Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) Historical Background


Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) is located at 115 km south of Patna, Bihar in India. It is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists, since it is the only place where Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”) could have become a Buddha.  Many inscriptions found at Bodh Gaya refer to the pilgrimages from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and China in the historical past and patronized repairing and installing images of the Buddha. “Then being a quester for the good, searching for the incomparable, matchless path of peace, while wandering through Magadha, the Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) arrived at Uruvelā.  There he saw a beautiful spot of ground, a charming forest grove, a pleasant clear flowing river with sandy fords, and a village where food could be obtained. He claimed it was a suitable place for spiritual exertion for those noble scions who desire to strive. {Mijjihima Nikāya, Ariya-Pariyesana Sutta, No26, Vol 1, 166}”

Here, more than 2550 years ago (528 BCE), after six years of learning from different teachers, a young ascetic, Prince Siddhartha Gotama, having renounced royal heritage, moved to a place in the mountain called Pragbodhi (prior to Enlightment) or Dukkara-cariya (practicing strenuous and austere meditation) for first three months alone.

 During the fourth month, Siddhartha was joined by his old friend Kondanna and his four colleagues, and all of them further practiced with self-mortification.  Ascetic Gotama realized that the enlightenment could not be gained with such utterly exhausted body, and physical fitness was essential for spiritual progress.

He left this place at the end of six months, and decided to nourish the body sparingly and took some coarse food both hard and soft.  He stayed and meditated under a tree-shrine on the outskirts of a small village of Uruvelā in Magadha.gaya2.png The five disciples, who were attending on Gotama with great hopes thinking whatever truth he would comprehend which would he impart to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of method, and leaving to the place - Isipatana, in search of good teacher.

Siddhartha Gotama regained his physical strength with some food, and easily developed the Jhaānas.  His mind was purified, tranquillized, disciplined, cleansed, free from lust and impurity, pliable, alert, steady and unshakable. He continued meditating and exerted himself one final time to overcome the last traces of doubt, ignorance and desire, under the Bodhi tree (Pipal tree, botanical name, ficus religiosia).  On the memorable forenoon, immediately preceding the morn of His Enlightenment, the ascetic Gotama was seated under the Ajapāla banyan tree, in close proximity to the Bodhi tree, a generous lady, the daughter of the village chief of Senani, Sujāta, expectedly offered the starved Gotama a bowl of keer (sweet thickened milk with rice), specially prepared by her with great care. This was the place where Gotama put the bowl to the river, Neranjara, which moved upstream. The substantial meal offered by Sujāta lasted for seven weeks. Ascetic Gotama got eight handful of grass from a local farmer and spread them beneath the Bodhi tree. From that day evening, Gotama sat cross-legged facing the east with vow to get up only if he attained supreme knowledge. For the next 49 days, the ascetic Gotama was assaulted by the Mara, the tempter, with all sorts of weapons of flood, thunder and lightening. Mara's three beautiful daughters also tried to allure him, but in vain. Ascetic Gotama entered deep states of contemplation and finally attained Samma Sambodhi (the perfectly enlightened) at dawn on Vaisakha Poornima, the full moon day of the spring (April/May) in 528 BCE.  Gotama became the Buddha, "the Awakened One"; and later also known as Tathagata (the Perfect One), Sugata (the Accomplished One), Bhagava (the Blessed One) and Shakyamuni. 
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
Seven Sacred Places PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Friday, 02 November 2007


Bodhi Tree and other sacred places Around the Mahabodhi temple, the seven sacred places where Gotama Buddha spent a week each for meditating after enlightment can be found.


(1)  Maha Bodhi Tree: Behind the Mahabodhi Temple, there is a Bodhi tree planted since early 19th century. Several Bodhi trees might have been replanted using the saplings from earlier Bodhi tree. During Mauryan Emperor King Ashoka's period, his daughter, Sanghamitta, took a branch from the Bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka, and planted in a place near the city of Anuradhapura. That Bodhi tree still grows at the same place, and is the oldest continually documented tree in the world.  The existing Mahabodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya is believed to be grown from the sapling brought from the original Bodhi tree from Sri Lanka.  There is a platform built in between the Maha Bodhi Tree and the Temple. It is a large rectangular red-sand stone slab, thought to be put at the exact place where Gotama Buddha sat for deep meditation and attained the enlightment.  This platform is called 'vajirasila’ (the rock of diamond) or 'vijirasana' (the diamond seat) and some Buddhists believe that an enormous diamond lay buried beneath the earth fuelling the site's spiritual power.

animisa_ceti.png(2) Animisa-lokana (Animisa Cetiya): About 50 meters at the north-east side of the Maha Bodhi Temple in a small hill, and to the right of the main entrance to the main Temple, there is a small stupa type temple with a Buddha image.  This small temple is known as "Animisa Ceti" (Unblinking Shrine), to mark the place where Gotama Buddha spent the second week after enlightment, remained standing and gazing uninterruptedly to the Bodhi tree.

cankamana.png(3) Cankamana (Ratanacankama Cetiya): At the side of the Maha Bodhi Temple, if one turns around, there is a spot where Gotama Buddha spent third week in meditation, walking back and forth, from the Bodhi tree to unblinking spot.  Presently a raised structure with symbols of lotus flowers, known as Jewel promenade Shrine (Ratanacankama Cetiya) showed where the Buddha's feet rested and lotus flowers sprang up. Pilgrims will notice that the Mahabodhi temple is surrounded by the stone railings, dated back to 100 BCE, erected by pilgrims to the temple. (4) Ratanaghara Cetiya: At the north-west of the Bodhi tree, there is a small shrine (Ratanaghara Cetiya or the Jewel House ratanaghara.pngShrine) with small images of Buddha of recent era.  It is a place where Gotama Buddha sat for deeper meditation during the fourth week after enlightment, and the blue, yellow, red, white and orange rays emanated from his body. These colors are used in the present day Buddhist flag.


ajapala.png(5) Ajapala Nigrodha: When entering the main gate and descending the stairs towards Maha Bodhi Temple, there is a stone pillar marking Ajapala-Banyan tree, where Gotama Buddha spent his fifth week of meditation after enlightment. It is also here where Lord Buddha made a response to a question raised by a Brahman that good kamma (action) but not birth made a Brahman.  Near the pillar, there is a brass bell donated in early 19th century by the pilgrims from Myanmar.  There is a beautifully curved gateway, probably built around the eighth century and at its base on each side, there exists two kneeling figures of ladies/deities, supposed to be left by the Myanmar Missions around mid-1800s.

mucalinda.png(6) Mucalinda Lake: Just beyond the south-east corner of the Maha Bodhi Temple is a 6m high section of a huge stone pillar, moved to its present place in 1956, and believed to be originally erected by King Ashoka to mark Bodh Gaya with an elephant statue on the top of the pillar which stood outside the temple railing to the right of its east gateway.  Walking through the pavilion built just south of the present day pillar, there is a large pond, called Mucalinda, supposed to be a lake where Lord Buddha spent his sixth week of meditation after enlightment. It is a place where the king of the serpent (Naga) rose up from the water to protect Gotama Buddha from a severe storm created by Mara (the god of chaos) who wanted to disturb the Buddha’s meditation. Right in the middle of the pond, there is a Buddha image (of Myanmar style) covered by the serpent king, which was donated by Myanmar pilgrims in early 1990s.

rajaratana.png(7) Rajayatana: Just a few meters on the south side of the Mahabodhi Temple, a small forest tree which is another type of Banyan tree (called Linlun in Myanmar), replanted by the Myanmar Mission, marks a place at which Gotama Buddha spent the last seventh week after enlightment. It is here where Gotama Buddha preached to the passersby, including two merchants, Tapussa (Tapassu) and Ballika (Bliallika) of Ukkala (Utkala) (believed to be modern day Yangon of Myanmar).  Gotama Buddha gave them eight strands of hairs and sermons with two gems "Buddham saranam gacchami and Dhammam saranam gacchami".  These eight strands of hairs are believed to be placed as relics inside the Shwedagon Pagoda at Yangon, along with the relics of other Buddhas.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
Present Day - Places PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Friday, 02 November 2007


Present Day - structures and places   The Mahabodhi Mahavihara (Mahabodhi Temple)

gaya3.pngA magnificent 54 meters high, the Mahabodhi temple, built with sandstone, is located at the place of the original Bodhi tree, where the Gotama Buddha sat for the enlightment and spent first week of deep meditation, after enlightment. Original temple was supposed to have been built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (270-232 BCE).  King Ashoka frequently visited the Bodhi tree and inspired by the sermon given to him by his spiritual teacher Upagupta (Mogalliputta Tissa), who said:


"Here at the seat of enlightment, the greatest of the sage dispersed, and quickly repelled the forces of Mara, and here that peerless individual attained everlasting, exalted, Supreme enlightment." (Ashokavandana) King Ashoka built the first temple (chaitya) in the 3rd century BCE. Subsequent Kings and pilgrims to Bodh Gaya had built the temple and nearby structures. When the Chinese monk Fa Hien visited Bodh Gaya at the beginning of the fourth century CE, he did not mention seeing any temple.  It was not known who exactly built the present day Mahabodhi Temple, but probably built by Pala Kings around sixth century. When another Chinese monk Hiuen Tsiang visited the place in the seventh century CE, he had described the Mahabodhi Temple, substantially the same as it is today. Successive pilgrims from neighbouring countries, such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and China, made donations, constructed monuments and stupas, and renovated various structures in and around the temple. Between 10th and 18th centuries, a series of Myanmar kings sent emissaries to Bodh Gaya, made donations, built monuments and stupas, and also carried out repairs of the Temple.  Similarly, pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, China and other parts of India did the same. King Mindon of Myanmar, who had organized the Fifth Sangha Congregation, sent a mission in 1877 to Bodh Gaya to review and make repairs of the Mahabodhi Temple and also to build a monastery for accommodating Myanmar pilgrims. The monastery (Mahabodhi Rest house) still exists today near the Mahant's palace, and the two stone inscriptions describing the donations of King Mindon are also visible alongside the Myanmar temple fully occupied by Mahant's people.   gaya4.pngKing Mondon also built Kuthodaw Pagoda and surrounding stupas, as part of the traditional foundations of the new royal city, Mandalay, Myanmar, which also included a pitakat taik or library for religious scriptures, and also commemorating the organization of the Fifth Buddhist Synod in 1871. The Pagoda and its surrounding stupas formed the world's largest book of Buddhism, consisting of 729 large marble tablets with the Tipitaka Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism inscribed on them and gilted in gold. One more was added to record how it all came about, making it 730 stone inscriptions in total.

Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) of Sri Laka visited Bodh Gaya in 1891 and stayed at this Myanmar Mahabodhi Resthouse for more than 2 decades to initiate an historic Buddhist movement to gain back the management of the Maha Bodhi Temple into the hands of Buddhists.  Anagarika Dharmapala established the Maha Bodhi Society, which flourished since then for disseminating Buddhism around India, Asia and the world. Throughout the last 30 years of his life, Anagarika Dharmapala ceaselessly strived to get back the tasks of restoring the rights of Buddhists to worship there and control the management of the Maha Bodhi Temple. Kings of Buddhist countries, eminent scholars and intellectuals from India and around the world began to speak out in support of the issue. It was only in 1949, the Bodh Gaya temple Act (Bihar Act XVII 1949, amended February 1955) was passed making provision for the setting up of a committee of four Hindus and four Buddhists to manage the affairs of the temple.  On 23rd May, 1953, the temple was finally handed over to the Government, through Dr S Radhakrishnan, the then Vice president of India.


The Mahabodhi Buddha Image gaya5.pngAs soon as someone enters the Mahabodhi Temple one would see at the end of the main chamber, a Buddha statue, looking at and smiling at you. This statue was initially found at the Mahant's compound and British archeologist General Cunnigham in late 1880s moved it to the present location inside the Temple. The Buddha image is about six-feet high and gold-gulited with the right hand touching the ground, and the left hand resting on his lap. This gesture, bhumiphassa mudra (earth-touching gesture), signifies Gotama Buddha’s enlightenment.  The Buddha image and its surroundings make a definite appeal that whoever seeing it felt the urge to bow.

In the middle of the Temple chamber, there is a remnant of Shiva linga that was installed around 9th century but taken away at the request of Anagarika Dharmapala and Myanmar pilgrims in the 19th century.   At the upper level of the main chamber of Mahabodhi Temple, there is another image of standing Buddha crowned and jeweled, supposed to be built around Pala period. Smaller statues of Buddha, two standing and two sitting, could also be seen on either side of the standing Buddha.


Bodhi Tree and other sacred places Around the Mahabodhi temple, the seven sacred places where Gotama Buddha spent a week each for meditating after enlightment can be found.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
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This information service is provided by the Myanmar Buddhist Temple, BodhGaya, India