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Certain Historical Facts on the Bodh-Gaya Temple

Kishore Kunal

The towering personality of Lord Buddha is a perennial source of infinite inspiration to all Indian, nay, to the entire mankind. Bodh Gaya temple is the embodiment of the cultural synthesis of this incredible country. It is built at the site which is the most sascrosant for the Buddhists and a pilgrim place frequently visited by the Hindus for centuries.

According to the testimony of Hieun-Tsang who visited Bodh Gaya in the early part of the seventh century the magnificent Mahabodhi temple was constructed by a Maheshvara (Shiva) at the site where Ashoka-raja had at first built a small vihara. According to his testimony the Shaiva devotee went to the Himalaya Mountain (kailasa) and performed sever penance. Maheshvara was pleased with him and asked for a boon.

The devotee asked Shiva as to what meritorious work he should do to obtain his desire. Shiva replied  that the Bodhi tree was the place for attaining such a fruit and he should straight go to the Bodhi tree and erect a large vihara there and excavate a large tank there and then he would surely obtain his wishes.

After receiving this divine communication the devotee returned and according to the testimony of Hieun-Tsang the elder brother built the vihara and the younger excavated the tank. Hieun-Tsang informs that the result followed at once and the devotee, who was a Brahmana, became the great minister of the King and devoted all his emoluments to the work of charity. Hieun-Tsang does not name the minister or the king. But he has given the measurement and description of the temple . Cunnigham and other archaiologists have confirmed that the description of the Mahabodhi temple given by Hieun-Tsang totally tallies with that of the present temple and thus it is a historical fact that the present Mahabodhi temple was built by a shaiva’s devotee at the diction of lord Shiva. The present Buddha pokhar was excavated by the younger brother of the Shaiva devotee. Huen-Tsang’s testimony on the construction of the temple and excavation of the tank is marked as Annexure I

The testimony of Huen-Tsang is corroborated mutatis by the travel account of Dharmaswami who was a Buddhist pilgrim from Tibet. He visited Bihar between 1234 A.D. and 1236 A.D. and his travel accounts are available in the book titled “Biography of Dharmasvamin (Chag lo tsa-ba Chos-rje-dpal) a Tibetan monk pilgrim” published by K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1959

  1. Huen-Tsang further informs that the present Bhumisparsha Mudrã (hand touching earth posture) idol of Lord Buddha was established by the same Shaiva devotee, who after having finished the vihara, invited the most skilful artists to make a figure of Tathagata when he first reached the condition of the Buddha. When years and months passed out without result he was ultimately assisted by Maitreya Bodhisattva and then the present Bhumisparsha Mudrã (hand touching the earth posture) image was perfected. Huen-Tsang has given the details of the endeavor of the present day image. Huen-Tsang’s testimony on establishing the image inside the temple is quoted here:

“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, pp.

  • Similarly, the Buddhist Pala king Dhamapala who ruled from 770 AD to 810 AD showed magnanimity in allowing Keshav, son of Ujjvala, who was a ‘shilabhid’ (stone-cutter) to install the chaturmukh Mahadeva. This historical event is testified to by an inscription:.

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

[Commenced with Onkara, the Vedic pranava]
(A figure of) Chauummukh-Mahadev has been installed in the pleasant abode (temple) of (Buddha), the Lord of Righteousness, by Kesava, son of Ujjvala, the stone-cutter, for the benefit of the descendants of snãtakas (the erudite Saivite Brahmin scholars) residing at Mahabodhi (Bocdh-Gaya). A tank, of exceeding depth and holy like the river Ganges4 has been excavated for these good people at the cost of three thousand drachmae. (Written) in the 26th year of the reign of Dharmapala, the enjoyer of the earth, on the 5th day of the dark fortnight of Bhadrapada, on a Saturday.
[Concluded with Onkara]
  •  Another inscription of Amara-deva is very interesting. It was published in the book “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” entitled “Translation of a Sanskrit inscription, copied from a stone at Boodh-Gaya by Mr. Wilmot, 1785.Translated by Charles Wilkins, ESQ.” in 1792. In the journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland published from London in the year 1841 A.D. the following reference is made about this inscription. The beauty of this inscription is that though its main content is Buddhist in nature, Lord Buddha has been worshiped as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The following expressions will confirm it.

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)”)

  • A Buddhist pilgrim Sonam ragby had visited Bodh-gayain the year 1752, He has given the following description of the Bodh-gaya temple campus:- 
“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.” (Ref. The holy land reborn: pilgrimage & the Tibetan reinvention of Buddhist India  By Toni Huber, Page no. 186)
From this travel account the ownership and the possession of the Mahant is further corroborated.
  • Lord Buddha has been regarded and revered as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu by the Hindus at least 1200 years. Adi Sahnkaracharya, Tulasidas, Jayadeva, kshemendra and all great stalwarts of Hindu religion have paid glowing tributes to Lord Buddha in the most revered manner. Kishore Kunal has collected all such references in his Book Buddhavataray Namo Namaste.

    Only a few are quoted here.
    (a) Shankaracharya:


    धराबद्धपद्मासनस्थाङ्घ्रियष्टिर्नियम्यानलो न्यस्तनासाग्रदृष्टिः।

    य आस्ते कलौ योगिनांचक्रवर्ती त बुद्धः प्रबुद्धोस्तु मच्चित्तवर्ती।।

    (b) Jaydeva


    निन्दसि यज्ञविधेरहह श्रुतिजातं सदयहृदयदर्शितपशुघातम्।

    केशव धृतबुद्धशरीर जय जगदीश हरे।

    (c) Kshemendra


    यस्य सभ्रूभ्रमाकम्पा माररामाः ससैनिकाः।

    चक्रुर्न रागं न द्वेषं स शान्त्यै सुगतोsस्तु वः।। 11।।

    (e) One is not sure whether Tulasidas even made any Buddhist during his life. But in the Vinaya-patrika while enumerating various incarnations about Lord Vishnu he has written:


    प्रबल पाखंड-महिमंडलाकुल देखि, निन्द्यकृत अखिल मखकर्मजालं।

    शुद्धबौधैकघन ज्ञान-गुणधाम, अज, बौद्ध अवतार बंदे कृपालं।।8।।

    (f) Lord Buddha was regarded an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is confirmed by the following testimony of Abul Fazl in Ain-i-Akabary:
      “Buddhavatara, or Buddha-Incarnation- He was born of Maya in the house of Raja Sudhodhana of the race of Ramachandra during the Kali Yuga, on the eighth of the light half of the month of Vaisakha in the city of Magadh.
    They say that as many sacrifices were performed at this period and the number of animals sacrificed was very large, Vishnu willed to appear in human form to condemn the Vedic institutions and their sacrificial rites. For this reason he became incarnate in that year and lived to the age of a hundred. Some account of him has already proceeded.”  ('Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl, Vol. Ill, Translated into English By Colonel H. S. JARRETT, and further annotated by Sir JADU-NATH SARKAR,1948, p. 318)

From the testimony of Dharmasvamin it is known that from the 13th century onwards the temple almost abandoned. The following was the situation of Bodh-gaya temple on the eve of this visit:-


“At the time of  Dharmasvamin’s visit to Vajrasana, the place was deserted and only four monks were found staying (in the vihara). One (of them) said –“ It is not good! All have fled from fear of Turushka soldiery.” They blocked up the door in front of the Mahabodhi image with bricks and plastered it. Near it they placed another image as a substitute. They also plastered the outside door (of the temple). On its surface they drew the image of Mahesvara in order to protect it from non-Buddhists. The monks said, “we five do not dare to remain here and shall have flee.” As the days stage was long and the heat great, said Dharmasvamin, they felt tired, and as it became dark, they remained there and fell asleep. Had the Turushkas came, they would not have known it.

At daybreak they fled towards the North following the rut of a cart, and for seventeen days the Dharmasvamin did not see the face of the image (i.e. the Mahabodhi image). At the time also a woman appeard, who brought the welcome news that the Turushka soldiery had gone far away.” (p. 64)

     Thus for almost three and half centuries the temple was in obscurity.

    1. In 1590 A.D. a wandering Shaiva sannyasi Gasain Ghamandi Giri came to this place and liked the environs and settled there. In 1727 A.D. the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah gave him two villages Taradih and Mastipur. The following is the relevant portion of the firman:
“Be it known to all present and future gumashtas and mutsaddi's of pargana Maher, Sarkar and Suba Bihdr, that according to the order of His Majesty the King of all lands and time. Khalifa of strict justice and means of preservation and comfort 10 all beings (may God preserve him), who is the minister of the God of Gods, on whom is the special mercy of the Almighty Father, and who is the sole means of livelihood to the whole world, the roots of all laws and regulations, and the preserver of the throne of the khalifa, written on the 27th day of Ziqudd in the 9th year of his Jalus (accession), mauzas Mastipur, Taradih, are conferred upon Ldl Gir Sannyasi as m.idad mash, without any restriction of names and divisions from the middle of bijiail. You all, in obedience to this older, should leave the said mauzas in his possession, without making any change or alteration therein, and you should in no way be overcome by any kind of temptation, and should in all respect look upon the order as just and right, so that all the produce of the said property be used by him for his own livelihood and that of the itinerant faqirs ; for which act of benevolence, he should ever pray for the stability of the wealth (of His Majesty). You all should not take notice of other properties belonging to the grantee. You all should take great care in carrying out this order.
Written this day, the ---th day of Rabiulawal in the 9th year of the August Jalus (accession), (Corresponding to A. D..1727).”

Mahabodhi temple is situated in Taradih village.

  • Since then the Mahant of Bodh-gaya remained in absolute possession of the Mahabodhi temple. When the King of Burma wanted to carry on some renovation of the temple, he had to take permission from the Mahant and a registered agreement was made on the 11the February, 1877. The Mahant gave permission but with several riders. The main content of this letter is given below:

"I am Mahla Chowdin Saidu, son of Mahan Mahla Chowdin, inhabitant of Mandalay in the king of Burma and Wazir (Minster) of the king of Burma.
Whereas the king of Burma is of the Buddhist religion, and there is a shrine of Budh Bhagawan (God) at Budh Gaya, that is at mouza Taradih, which was constructed from time immemorial, but which is at present out of repairs and in a dilapidated state. Therefore the king of Burma wants that be would repair the shrine for his spiritual benefit and for preparation of his name. But the said shrine stands within the zamindar and in the possession of Mahanth Hem Narayan Gir, Gaddinashin of the Astan Math at Budh Gaya, and I, under orders of the king of Burma, want to make repairs. So I, also under the orders of the king of Burma, asked (permission) from that aforesaid Mahanth of Budh Gaya, to make the repairs to the shrine. The said Mahanth of Bodh Gaya, understanding that the work of antiquity would be saved (from being ruined), gave permission to make the repairs to the shrine, subject to the conditions in the words as follow:- “ You (the executant of this deed) should make the repairs according to my (Mahanth’s) directions, that is, from such place to such place and such things in such manner as will be permitted by me (Mahanth) because close to the said shrine there are many Gods of the Hindu religion and old shrines of my Gurus and houses of tenants, which should not in any way be molested in point of religion, and no injury should be done to them. It has been the long standing practice with me (the Mahanth) to offer Puja to the said Budh Deota (God) and the pipal as will as to the gods, etc. placed at the foot of the papal, and Jatris (Pilgrims) gather there for darshan and for offering Puja, and my disciples are posted them to look after the offering of such puja and to take care of the shrine, and they have the charge. So you (the executant of this deed) shall not have the necessity to take care of the shrine. After the repairs have been done, you (the executant) shall have no claim to the compound and the doors, nor to any of the shrines or buildings, etc., and the servants that have been and that hereafter may be on behalf of the King of Burma for the purpose of worship, should stay, subject to the zemindari rules of the zemindar,” So I, the declarant, with the permission of the Maha Dharam Raja King of Burma, accept the terms set forth above, and declare and give in writing to the effect as follows:- That I or the King of Burma, or the servants of the King of Burma, that have been or hereafter may be, will not do anything contrary to the conditions set forth above. Should I or he or they do so, it shall be held null and void before the Court for the time. I therefore give in writing these few words in the shape of an ikrarmama (agreement) that it may be used, when required."

  • . After the advent of Dharmapal Angarik at Bodh-gaya and establishment of the Mahabodhi Society the monument for liberating the temple from the clutches of Mahant got momentum. Dharmapal solicited the support from the elite of te every part of the country and abroad. He got moral and intellectual support from many stalwart. But the stand of the British Government was that since the mahant had both the title and possession the administration could little without the permission of the Mahant.
  • On the question of forcible installation of some idols received from Japan in the first floor chamber of the temple Dharmapal Angarika enterd into a criminal litigation filed against the Mahant’s man under sections 295,296,297,743 & 506 of the I.P.C. Although he succeeded in getting them convicted by the lower Courts, Calcutta High Court quashed the criminal proceedings against them in 1895 A.D. Although it was a decision in a criminal proceeding, yet the following observation of the High Court dampened that the spirit of Dharmapal and he concluded that he could not get Justice in a court of law. The following observations of the High Court reflect the Court’s views on the title of the temple
The judgement of Calcutta High Court is was published in the book " The Budh-Gaya temple case. H. Dharmapala versus Jaipal Gir and others. (Prosecution under sections 295, 296, 297, 143 & 506 of the Indian penal code) (1895)"
  • Thereafter Dharmapal tried to meet the prominent leaders of the Congress including Mahatma Gandhi. Ultimately a committee under the Presidentship of Dr, Rajendra Prasad was constituted to look into the issue and make recommendations for the solution of the ticklish question. The committee comprised of the Dharmapal Angarik and Sri Valisinha.

After Dharmapal left for England Sri Devapriya Valisinha replaced him. After due deliberation the committee made the following resolution with unanimity:-

  1. Both the Hindus and Buddhists should be assured fullest liberty of worship according to their mode of rituals.
  2. A committee of four Buddhists and four Hindus should be formed and the management of control of the Temple and of the worship in it should be entrusted to this committee.
  • 16. The committee suggested that legislation was a better way of dealing with this case. When the country became independent, the then Chief Minister (Then called Prime Minister) of Bihar brought The Bodh-gaya Temple Bill in 948. The Preamble of the Bill read as follows:-

17. The Bill was passed by both the houses in 1948 and after receiving the Governor’s assent and publication in Bihar Gazette of the 6th July, 1949 it became The Bodh-gaya Temple Act, 1949 (Bihar Act 17 of 1949). According to sec. 3(2) d (3) the committee is to be constituted in the following manner:-

  1. As soon as may be after the commencement of this the1 [State] Government shall constitute a committee as hereinafter provided and entrust it with the management and control of the temple land and the properties appertaining thereto.
  2. The Committee shall consist of a Chairman and eight members nominated by the [1] [State] Government, all of whom shall be Indians and of whom four shall be Buddhists and four shall be Hindus including the Mahanth:
  3. Provided that if the Mahanth is a minor or of unsound mind or refuses to serve on the committee, another Hindu member shall be nominated in his place.
  4. The District Magistrate of Gaya shall be the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee: Provided that the1 [State] Government shall nominate a Hindu as Chairman of the Committee for the period during which the district Magistrate of Gaya is non-Hindu.
  5. The [1] [State] Government shall nominate a person from among the members to act as Secretary of the Committee.
  • But the Mahant filed a suit and obtained an injunction against the functioning of the Committee from the Court of the Sub-Judge Gaya. The state Government filed an appeal against the injunction order before Patna High Court. Then after a long persuasion and certain assurance the Mahant agreed to withdrawal the suit and remain a member of the committee. Then the auspicious date of the Buddha-purnima falling on 28th May, 195 was decided for handing over the charge by the Mahant to the newly constituted committee.
  • 19. Pt. Jawahara Lal Neharu, the Prime Minister of India sent a massage to the Committee on 12 May, 1953. He wrote that he was very happy to learn that the management of the Buddha-gaya was being handed over to a new committee comprising Buddhists and Hindus alike in accordance with the law passed by the Bihar Legislature. He further wrote that this committee would have representatives of both Buddhists and Hindus and would look after this famous place of pilgrimage and worship in accordance with the wishes of the people concerned. He expressed his happiness in the letter over the resolution of the issue that ultimately a settlement was arrived at by consent. He hoped that in future there would be full co-operation among all those concerned with this famous temple.

A secular person and an ardent devotee of Lord Buddha Jawahara Lal Nehru appreciated this arrangement of involving both the Hindus and the Buddhists in the management and worship of this famous shrine.

The massage of the Prime Minister Nehru is given below:


I am very happy to learn that -------------the management of the Buddha Gaya, temple, ---------------- Buddhista and Hindus alike, is being handed over to anew committee of management in accordance with the law passed by the Bihar Legislature. This committee will have representatives of both Buddhists and Hindus and will look after this famous place of pilgrimage and worship in accordance with the wishes of the people concerned. This matter has been pending for a long time and had given rise in the past to much litigation. That was most unfortunate. I am happy that ultimately a settlement was arrived at by consent. I hope that in future there will be full co-operation among all those concerned with this famous temple.
It is specially auspicious that this act of transfer should take place on a day which is sacred to innumerable people all over the world. On this day I offer my homage to the memory and teachings of the Buddha, and I earnestly trust that his message of peace will guide us in our labours.
Jawaharlal Nehru
New Delhi,
May 12th, 1953.  

  • Similarly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India sent a long massage on 28th May, 1953 and delude into the history of the endeavour for resolving the conflict related to the famous shrine. In his massage he wrote:

It is a matter of great pleasure for all of us that on this sacred day we are going to perform a function, which is the result of our ceaseless efforts for over sixty years, It is universally known that from the day Lord Budha attained enlightenment at this holy piace, Bodh-Yaya has become a place of pilgrimage for the Buddhists and the Hindus alike. The life of Lord Buddha was mainly associated with four places, Lumbini, where He was born, Buddhagaya, the place of enlightenment, Isipatana where He gave his first sermon and, Kusinara where he passed into Mahanirvana. Buddhagaya is regarded as the holiest of all these places and as such it was nearly 2200 years ago that Emperor Asoka had built a temple to commemorate the sacred memory of the Lord. After several centuries the temple had to be rebuilt and the historians are of the opinion that the temple built nearly 1700 years ago is the one we can see even today, because the description of the temple, given by Hiuen Tsang about 1200 years ago, reveals a resemblance to the present Temple Buddhists from different corners of the world visited and worshipped at this holy place. before the establishment of Muslim rule in India, the Buddhists from different corners of the globe continued to visit, worship and look after the temple and the management also remained for long in their hands. But the condition that prevailed during those days made them abandon the place. the history of the third and fourth centuries only reveals that foreigners occasionally visited the place but the temple remained unnoticed behind the forest. Nearl 400 yars ago, a saint considering the place to be a proper one for meditation established himself there and built up the Buddhagaya monastery. His successors gradually acquired a sufficiently large estate and the temple also passed into their hands. At first, Emperor Mohammad Shah of Delhi made a gift of two villages to the Mahanth of Boddh Gaya Math and thereafter, from time to time, he axquird several other properties and all taken together formed a big estate. The income of this Estate was mainly spent on entertaining the saints, who visited the Math and carrying religious activities, in the same manner as saints of other temples had been doing. Though the temple, for other temples had been doing. Though the temple, for all practical purposes, was under the control of these saints, they never stood in the way of Buddhist pilgrims visiting the temple and offering prayers. On the contrary they helped the pilgrims in every possible way. At times, the kings of Burma and Ceylon extended their financial assistance for the repairs of the temple and in this Mahanth gave his consent as well as facilities. It is a well known fact that Hindus have regarded Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and, though not worshipped like other Avataras (incarnations), it is a common faith that there is an image of Lord Buddha at Jagannath Puri. Whatever may be the truth behind all this, it is admitted beyond any shadow of doubt that the importance, which the Hindus have attached and the honour which they have bestowed upon such places have never been of the same degree as those of the Buddhists. At the same time, it cannot be denied that Hindus have never interfered with the Buddhists in their ways of worship.
When Anagarika Dharmapala visited this place from Ceylon, he formed the impression that the management of the temple in the hands of the Mahanth was not going on in the way the Buddhists wished, or were capable of doing. With this end he founded the Maha Bodhi Society and raised the question of the transfer of the temple into the hands of the Society with a view to bring about the desired change. He for the first time, inspired public opinion amongst the Buddhists and the Hindus. In this great task, he was assisted by one Edwin Arnold, the author of “The Light of Asia”, who not only appealed to the Governments of Britain and India but also the public of those countries that better management of the temple was essential. Situation took an ugly turn. Both Civil and criminal cases were fought between Mahanth and the Anagarika Dharmapala. Though court decision were not in his favour, still the Anagarika continued his efforts. During the Congress session in 1922, about 100 Buddhists from Burma under the leadership of Pongyi U Uttama came to India and placed before the Congress the proposal of transfer of the Temple. I was appointed by the congress to go into the details of the case. The issue, however, could not be taken up for some time and for certain reasons. In cocanada session of the congress, a deputation of Buddhists came and, subsequently, at the Belgaon session of the congress, under the Presidentship of Mahatma Gandhi, two deputations were led by the Buddhists of Caylon and other countries. Under an inspiration from Gandhiji, the matter was taken up immediately after the Gaya Congress and, after a thorough enquiry, the claims of the Buddhists were found just, but in view of the fact that the Hindus, who regarded Lord Buddha as one of the Avataras of Lord Vishnu, perform certain religious rites in the premises of the temple, it was considered in the fitness of things to hand over the management of the temple to a committee consisting of Buddhists and Hindus besides Government nominees. Attempts were made to persuade the Mahantji to accept the proposal and to form a Committee of management with his consent, but all efforts in this direction proved unsuccessful as it was not possible for any non-governmental organisation, and congress being one o these, to enforce the proposal through a legislation and consequently the matter had to be dropped. The Hindu Mahasabha, as then constituted, had also supported the proposal for handing over the management of the temple into the hands of the proposed committee. Still, for lack of necessary power and authority, nothing could be possible and the point remained where it was, In 1937, when some powers passed into the hands of the representatives of the people, the Cogress was reminded of the previous proposal and it was demanded of it that a management committee be formed with the help of legislation. The then congress ministry was short lived and it had to resign even before any legislation could be passed, the whole thing remained dormant during the period from 1939 to 1946. Again in 1947, when full powers came in the hands of the Indians, a Bill was introduced and it was passed in 1949. But due to orders of courts, the management of the temple could not be transferred into the hands of the committee in pursuance of the Act. It is indeed a matter of supreme satisfaction that obstacles are now over and the present Mahant Harihar Giri is going to transfer the management of the temple in favour of managing committee.  This is definitely an act of great religious importance and is pregnant with great hopes for the future, as it is the result of the ceassless efforts on the part of the Anagarika Dharmapala for 60 years. On this sacred occasion, I cannot avoid the temptation of congratulating the Buddhists, Hindus and also Mahant Harihar Giri.
This holy place, with an international reputation, has always been a place of pilgrimage and it is expected that in future this holy place will welcome visitors from abroad with greater serenity and dignity. There exists no reason for any conflict between the Buddhits and the Hindus and history bears testimony to the fact that, as long as these two religions had their hold in the country, they jointly contributed a great deal for the happiness and enlightenment of the people. We see today the Buddhism is almost extinct in India and such has been the case for centuries. But is not to be concluded that it so because the Hindus had ousted it. On the contrary they have accepted its fundamental to an extent that today they stand completely intermingled. Therefore, it augurs well for the future that both have extended their joint efforts for a better management of this sacred place. it is a matter of satisfaction to see that in recent times, people have developed greater interest in the understanding of Buddhistic culture and ideas and facilities for the study and teaching of Buddhistic literature are increasing day by day. The Indian Republic has also accepted as Sate emblem the Dharma-Chakra of Asoka, the great follower of Buddhism. Recently, an institute for the study and researches in Pali literature has been established at Nalanda in Bihar (named after Buddha Viharas), where for thousands of years, great scholars have not only conducted studies and researches but also have made mighty contributions towards the creation of a vast treasure of Buddhist literature. I hope that Buddhagaya will grow day by day into a great religious centre where men and woman will come with devotion to receive inspiration and from where the rays of religion will spread into far off lands and Nalanda once more will develop into as great a centre of learning as it was long before. I hope that, for the improvement of these two places, Hindus, Buddhist as well as the Governments will always be prepared and consider it a privilege to extend every possible assistance.
-Rajendra Prasad.   

Thus it is clear that though the Mahant had got both the title and possession of the Mahabodhi Vihara and the Buddhists had lost the case in the Court, yet it was due to the efforts and magnanimous attitude of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Dr. Shri Krishna Singh that an auricable settlement was arrived at with, then it will open the proverbial Pandora box because at Mathura there is a similar agreement between two groups of the Hindus and Muslims who arrived at the consensus and settled the tentious issue.

  • 21. In addition, there is another law in this country “The place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 (No. 42 of 1991). Section 3 of the Act bars conversion of any place of worship in the country. Section 3 reads as follows:-

3. Bar of conversion of places of worship.
Bar of conversion of places of worship. No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.

Under section 2(b) conversion has been defined thus:
2 (b) "conversion", with its grammatical variations, includes alteration or change of whatever nature;

Under this wide definition any change in the management of the committee will be covered under this Act and will be illegal. Therefore, so long as this Act is in force, no change in the nature can take place in the management of the Bodh-gaya temple.

  • Some Buddhists had filed a P.I.L. in the Supreme Court in the year 1994 vide CWP 871/92. The P.I.L. was dismissed. Therefore, the hearing of the case on the same content and the same principle wil attract the principle of res judicata . Therefore the present P.I.L. cannot be heard.
  • The District magistrate is the representative of the State Government which is secular in nature. The District Magistrate should be retained as the Chairman of the Committee, irrespective of his creed.