Bomb Blasts at India’s Buddhist Mecca in Bihar

Krishna Murari Kishan/ReutersSecurity personnel inspect the site of an explosion inside the Mahabodhi temple complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar on July 7.

Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters
Security personnel inspect the site of an explosion inside the Mahabodhi temple complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar on July 7.

Nine low intensity bombs went off within fifteen minutes early Sunday morning inside the Mahabodhi temple complex, a Unesco World Heritage site, and one of the holiest sites associated with the life of Buddha in Bodh Gaya in the northern Indian state of Bihar. India’s Home Secretary, Anil Goswami told reporters that four explosions occurred inside the temple complex, three others shook a nearby monastery and an eighth exploded near a statue of Buddha. Two other bombs were defused, Mr. Goswami added.

The blasts injured two Buddhist monks, one from Myanmar and the other from Nepal. The injured monks are being treated at a local government hospital, according to the local authorities.

Around 200 people were on the temple premises when the blasts took place in succession around the complex, according to local residents. No deaths have been reported. “After the first blast, the temple was engulfed in black smoke,” said Rakesh Kumar, who runs a coffee shop outside the temple complex. “I saw such a panic near the temple for the first time,” Mr. Kumar added. “It was really terrifying. I am grateful that Lord Buddha saved us.”

The Mahabodhi temple complex is the site where Buddha is believed to have found enlightenment under a peepul tree, several years after leaving his kingdom and meditating in the forests of Gaya area. An exquisite 50-meter, or 160-foot, high structure, the Mahabodhi temple is an architectural marvel built of bricks. It was first built by Emperor Ashoka in 270 B.C. but later rebuilt by another ruler in the 5th century. Apart from its religious significance, Unesco cited its influence on architecture in India and its “sculpted stone balustrades” as “an outstanding early example of sculptural reliefs in stone,” among the reasons for its inclusion as a World Heritage site.

The Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment died, but the tradition has been kept alive by planting generations of peepul trees in its place. A fifth-generation peepul tree, about 24 meters high and 115 years old, stands inside the temple complex, where the original tree, known as the Bodhi Tree had stood.

“There was some damage to the staircases near the Bodhi tree, and some window panes were broken,” Bhikshu Chalinda, the senior monk at the temple, said in a telephone interview from Bodh Gaya…..

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