A Contested Space
North Indian Buddhism was in clear decline early in the second millennium. A 13th c, traveler described only four Buddhist monks living at BG, and by the 16th c. the site was controlled by Shaiva Hindu ascetics (who still control this reddish building). Their sway was uncontested until an 1891 visit by Anagarika Dharmapala. Appalled, he went home to Sri Lanka and founded the Mahabodhi Society, which sought to put Buddhist sites under Buddhist control. After decades of conflict, temple control passed to the state government based on the Bodh Gaya Temple Act of 1949. According to the Act, the 9 member Temple Committee has 4 Buddhists and 5 Hindus.
||The Temple Committee's Hindu majority is one
sign of how Hindus have retained control over the site. Another clear
symbol of a Hindu presence was in these statues, which were in one of the side
"alcoves" in the Mahabodhi temple gardens. These are clearly not only
images of Hindu deities--Kubera, Shiva/Parvati, Vishnu, and Ganesh, but their
worship is clearly still ongoing--note the bel leaves in Shiva's head,
and the white flowers on the Vishnu and Ganesh images. Even though it has
been moved to the periphery, Hindu worship still continues here.
Thanks to "Mac" Mckenzie for alerting me to look for these.
|A further complicating factor can be seen in the center of this image. On the left is the Temple Committee Headquarters, and on the right is the new Multimedia Center (which opened in January 2010 with the blessings of the Dalai Lama and Bihar's Chief Minister). But the little alleyway in the middle marks the entrance to a Muslim graveyard. Since Muslims are minority population and the region is incredibly poor, it cannot be easy for them to maintain their status vis-a-vis Hindus and Buddhists, both of whom are both larger and with greater access to funds..|
|Here's a closer shot of the graveyard gateway--green and white sign is clearly older, whereas the printed banner describes the projects that the graveyard management committee hopes to undertake--general cleaning, erecting boundary walls, putting in water tanks and lights, cleaning up the gravestones and some associated buildings, but most of all soliciting help and donations.|
Bodh Gaya Town
These pages are in progress.
Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 11 August 2011