Bodhgaya’s Bounty of Buddhas

BODHGAYA, India — There is no shortage of Buddha statues in Bodhgaya.

A standing Buddha statue with right hand raised, palm out, or the Abhaya mudra, in Bodhgaya, India.

Given that it’s the most important of the four Buddhist pilgrimage sites, it’s not surprising. But I was still unprepared for the sheer number of beautiful and varied depictions of the Enlightened One.

The first one most visitors see is the Great Buddha statue. Built by the Daijokyo Buddhist Temple and unveiled in 1989, it depicts the Enlightened One sitting, legs crossed and eyes closed, at the end of a tree-lined colonnade, setting a tone of quiet repose for many a pilgrim.

It was also a starting point for learning about mudras, or hand positions, each of which carries a distinct meaning or relevance.

The Gautama Buddha is depicted by Bodhgaya’s temples and monasteries in various forms, some lavishly ornamented with gold, while others were more straightforward, carved from stone or made of concrete.

Most of the statues I found outside the Mahabodhi Vihar complex were sponsored by a country’s Buddhists, such as the Bangladesh monastery or the Thai temple, each with a common goal — to honor the teachings of the Buddha.

The diverse collection of Buddha statues coexisted and even complemented each other, and to see so many depictions within a day of walking around the city was a pleasant surprise.

The 80-foot-tall Great Buddha statue greets pilgrims soon after arriving in Bodhgaya. At top, the Great Buddha at the end of a colonnade. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)
The Karma Tharjay Chokhorling Monastery’s Buddha statue is protected by a glass wall.
A golden Buddha sits in a stupa at the Mahabodhi Temple complex, its hands in Dharmachakra mudra.
A seated Buddha in the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple in Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha seated in a lotus flower at the Bangladesh Buddhist Monastery in Bodhgaya, India.
Three golden Buddha statues inhabit the Mahabodhi Chinese Temple in Bodhgaya, India.

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