Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

7.9: Gupta Period Mahabodhi Temple (5th or 6th Century)

  • Page ID
  • Asoka, an Emperor in the 3rd century BCE, built the first building on the Mahabodhi Temple site; however, it was destroyed, and a second one was also demolished again. Located in eastern India, the newer and present Mahabodhi Temple (7.43) was constructed in the Gupta Period during the 5th or 6th century. The temple is part of the four holy sites of the Buddha and the attainment of enlightenment. One of the oldest temples surviving in India, the imposing temple stands fifty meters high, integrated into a complex with other buildings dedicated to principles of Buddha’s enlightenment; the sacred Bodhi Tree and the Lotus Pond.

    Mahabodhi Temple
    7.43 Mahabodhi Temple

    The brick temple became a significant influence in brick architecture elsewhere in India. The main temple walls averaged fifty meters high and were created in the style of classical Indian temples. The entrances are on the east and north sides, carved with moldings of honeysuckle and geese. Above the moldings are carved niches (7.44) containing images of the Buddha, and over the niches are more moldings and layered niches. At the top (7.45), the tower has the traditional features of Indian temples with an amalaka (stone disk with ridges on the rim) topped by a kalasha (dome-shaped cupola and crowning pot). On each of the corners of the temple are small shrines capped with towers where statues of Buddha reside.

    Carved niche
    7.44 Carved niche
    Tower top
    7.45 Tower top

    The temple faces the east with a doorway leading down a hallway to the room containing the 1.5 meters high, gilded statue of Buddha. The temple also contains the tree where Buddha gained his enlightenment, the descendant of a Bodhi Tree. Outside are pillars, stones, stupas (domes) that follow the path Buddha took during his Enlightenment. The railings (7.46) around the temple have some sandstone posts dating back to 150 BCE. Most of the railings were erected in the Gupta period and embellished with figures and stupas.

    7.46 Railing