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Both spellings, Bodh Gaya as well as Bodhgaya, are used almost equally extensively. However, an analysis of sign-boards in the holy town indicated that the government as well as the Buddhist establishment spelled the name as one word. Bodh Gaya was more popular with the private sector.

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Mahabodhi Temple

The Times of India 2013/07/08

It was at the Mahabodhi Temple that Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained nirvana after fasting under the peepal tree for 49 days at the young age of 35

Leaving Kapilavastu, the palace home of his father Suddhodana in the Nepal Terai, Siddhartha, wandering in search of answers to the world’s truths, reached Bodh Gaya via Rajagriha

Emperor Asoka visited Bodh Gaya 250 years after Buddha’s nirvana. He is considered by many to be the founder of the original Mahabodhi temple

Sir Alexander Cunningham restored the temple in the 19th century

Today, the nine-member Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee headed by the district magistrate manages the complex spread over 1km

The Bodhi tree

Under the Bodhi tree, near the Niranjana river, Prince Siddhartha Gautama practised mediation

Spending seven weeks at seven spots in the vicinity, he recounted his experiences with his first disciples

After seven weeks, Buddha travelled to Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon

Controversies through the ages

Abdul Qadir, Temple & controversy, July 30, 2006: The Times of India

The alleged felling of a branch of the sacred Mahabodhi tree, the symbol of Buddha's enlightenment, has made one more addition to the long list of controversies surrounding the shrine visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists from India and abroad.

The shrine is a UNESCO world heritage site. At least one controversy is as old as the shrine itself. Though Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha in Lumbini, the shrine associated with his name and regarded as the seat of enlightenment was built much later.

According to Buddhist scholar P C Roy, formerly head of Ancient History and Buddhist Studies Department of Magadh University, researchers look to Fa Hein and Huien Tsang's (now Xuanzang) diary to arrive at the exact age of the temple. Fa Hein travelled in India between 399 AD and 414 AD and also visited Bodh Gaya.

But his diary does not make any reference to the Buddha shrine which means that then the shrine did not exist, argues Roy. Xuanzang visited India between 629 AD and 644 AD. He refers to the shrine in his diary and as such, according to Roy, the temple must have been built sometime between 414 AD and 629 AD.

Another controversial point in the shrine's long history is who vandalised the shrine about 600 years after its existence? One school of thought blames the Muslim rulers for vandalising the Buddhist shrine.

Another school says that the shrine was vandalised by followers of Adi Shankaracharya following the perceived defeat of Buddhist religious scholars in a Shastrarth with the Shankaracharya. Again in the year 1891, Buddhist missionary Angarika Dhammapala joined issue with the Hindu mahant of Bodh Gaya on management rights over the temple.

2017: ‘Not in a bad shape or leafless’--FRI

2,600-yr-old Bodhi tree shed leaves naturally: Experts, April 19, 2017: The Times of India

The Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI), which maintains heritage trees, some of the oldest with historical and religious significance, has said that the Mahabodhi tree in Bihar's Gaya “is not in a bad shape and leafless“ as widely reported.

The institute, which signed an MoU with Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) in 2007 to manage the 2,600-year-old tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, said leaf shedding is a natural phenomenon. FRI also manages the banyan tree at Jyotisar in Kurukshetra that finds a mention in Mahabharata and is considered by many to be around 5,000 years old.

NSK Harsh, a scientist at FRI, told TOI, “There was a lot of talk about the Mahabodhi tree drying up. However, we clarified to members of the BTMC during their visit to Dehradun that the autumn period has prolonged due to which sprouting of leaves has somewhat delayed, which is a natural phenomenon.However, a few saplings in some branches have begun appearing on the tree, so there is nothing to worry about.“ Harsh said the re vered tree had to be given micro-nutrients since 2007 when the tree showed signs of drying up. The institute's scientists had given instructions to BTMC to ensure devotees do not water it on their own or light earthen lamps under it. After these measures, the tree regained good health.

Buddha Poornima

On Buddha Poornima each year, his birth, nirvana, and mahaparinirvana are celebrated and thousands of pilgrims from Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, and other countries assemble here

Bodh Gaya was enlisted as the only UNESCO World Heritage site from Bihar in the year 2002

The area was at the heart of a Buddhist civilization for centuries, until it was overrun by Turkic armies in the 13th century

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