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