Architectural Landmarks of Bihar
Mahabodhi Temple (Gaya)
The Ashoka erected a shrine near the Bodhi tree which was replaced by the Mahabodhi temple in the 2nd century. This temple is unique in Buddhist architecture and an architectural amalgamation of many cultures. The temple bears the stamp of the architecture of the Gupta Dynasty and subsequent ages.
The Mahabodhi Temple stands on a high and broad plinth and has a soaring 54 m high pyramidal spire, square cross-section and 4 smaller spires.
Table of Content
- 1 Architectural Landmarks of Bihar
- 1.1 Mahabodhi Temple (Gaya)
- 1.2 Tibetan Monastery (Gaya)
- 1.3 Shaivite Monastery (Gaya)
- 1.4 Vishnupad Temple, Gaya
- 1.5 Barabar Caves
- 1.6 Nalanda University (Nalanda)
- 1.7 Lauria Nandangarh
- 1.8 Lauria Areraj
- 1.9 Saif Khan’s Mosque (Patna)
- 1.10 Harmandir Sahib Temple
- 1.11 Kumrahar
- 1.12 Sher Shah Suri Masjid
- 1.13 Archtecture of Maner
- 1.14 The mausoleum of Sher Shah, Sasaram
- 1.15 Griddhakuta Hill
- 1.16 Vishwa Shanti Stupa
- 1.17 Other Places
- 1.18 Raja Vishala Ka Garh, Vaishali
- 1.19 Ashoka Pillar, Vaishali
In the main shrine, the temple has a huge gilded image of the Buddha in the seating pose, signifying enlightenment, which has mythological significance in the Buddhist lores. The walls of the temple carry the image of Lord Buddha, carved in different aspects.
The temple carries inscriptions recording the visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China and Mayanmar in the 7th the 10th centuries A.D. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveler, also visited the temple in the 7th Century.
The entrance to the temple is through an ornamental gateway on the eastern side. The lotus tank where the Buddha might have bathed is situated to the south of the temple. Chankramana or the Jewel Walk is situated to the north of temple.
It is a raised platform which dates back to the 1st century and lotus flowers are carved on it. This platform marks the place where the Buddha walked up and down while meditating on that whether he should reveal his knowledge to the world or not. The Animesh-Lochan Chaitya, is also situated near the Mahabodhi Temple and marks the spot
Tibetan Monastery (Gaya)
The Tibetan monastery was built in 1938 and has a large Dharma Chakra or the Wheel of Law inside it. This wheel must be turned three times when praying for forgiveness of sins. A large 2 meter metal ceremonial drum in red and gold color is also displayed.
Shaivite Monastery (Gaya)
Shaivite Monastery is situated near the Mahabodhi temple. The Shaivite Monastery has a cluster of four temples. These temples are surrounded by enchanting greenery and marked by architectural marvels. These temples have several samadhis (commemorative stones) in its vicinity.
Just across are a number of cells, meant for residential purposes of monks. The Jagannath Temple is also situated near the Shaivite Monastery. This monastery is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has the statue of the deity, carved in glistening black stone.
Vishnupad Temple, Gaya
Vishnupad Temple is situated in the centre of the town. This temple is believed to have been built on the sacred footsteps of Vishnu which is also preserved in the temple on a rock set in a silver basin. This grand temple was renovated by Rani Ahalyabai, the queen of Indore in 1787.
This 30 m high temple has 8 rows of beautifully carved pillars which support the mandapa or pavilion. Only, Hindus are permitted to visit the temple. Within the temple stands the immortal banyan tree ‘Akshayabat’ where the final rituals for the dead takes place.
It is believed that a Hindu will reach heaven if his last rites are offered under this tree. This place is also believed to be the one under which the Buddha meditated for six years.
The Barabar Caves are situated about 40 km from Gaya. These caves belong to the 3rd century B.C. and the earliest examples of the Buddhist rock cut caves.
Due to the tolerance required by the Buddhism, the Emperor Ashoka permitted the non-Buddhists to practice their religion, which led to the creation of the rock-cut temples in a form of reverse architecture
Nalanda University (Nalanda)
Nalanda has the ruins of the world famous and oldest Buddhist University. This university accommodated ten thousand students from all over the
Buddhist world, two thousand teachers and nine million books and was a center of great learning which reached its zenith between 5th and 12th century AD. This university was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
Lauria Nandangarh is situated about 23 km from Bettiah and 14 km from Shikarpur. This place has the famous lion pillar erected by Ashoka.
The 8.5m polished sandstone column also has an edict engraved on it. Nearby are the remains of Nandangarh stupa, believed to contain the ashes of the Buddha.
An 11.5 m high Ashoka column was erected in Lauria Areraj in 249 B.C. The polished sandstone pillar has six edicts on it. This place is about 30 km from Motihari.
Saif Khan’s Mosque (Patna)
Saif Khan’s Mosque, also known as the Pathar-ki-Masjid or Chimni Ghat is situated on the banks of the Ganga. This mosque was built by Prince Parvez, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s son in 1621
Harmandir Sahib Temple
Harmandir Sahib Temple is located in the Chowk area of Patna. In 1666, the last of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Harmandir Sahib. A marble temple was built here by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
This temple is one of the four most sacred and pilgrimage centre of the Sikhs. The temple has kiosks on the terrace and a museum on the ground floor that houses photographs, Holy Scriptures and personal possessions of the Guru. As a sign of reverence, it is also called as Patna Sahib by the Sikhs.
Kumrahar is situated 11 km. from the Patna railway station. Excavations done in this village have found the ruins of Pataliputra, enclosed within a high brick wall. These ruins date back to 600 BC to 600 AD. The buildings were devastated by fire and lay hidden in the silt.
The more recent fifth phase dates from the beginning of the 17th century. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to Chandragupta Maurya’s court also said that the royal palace excelled in splendor and is better than the palaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian and Cretan monarchs.
Some of the most important findings are the rare wooden ramparts and a large Mauryan assembly hall with highly polished 80 sandstone pillars belonging from 300 to 400 BC. In the 5th century AD, when the Chinese pilgrim Fa-hien visited the area, he commented on the brilliant enamel-like finish achieved by the Mauryan stone cutters and referred it as the shining bright like a glass.
Sher Shah Suri Masjid
Sher Shah Suri Masjid was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1545 to commemorate his reign. This mosque is built in Afghan architectural style, and one of the many beautiful mosques in Bihar and a landmark in Patna.
Archtecture of Maner
Maner is situated about 29 km. away to the west of Patna. Maner was one of the earliest Islam centres in Bihar.
The famous Sufi Saint, Pir Hazrat Makhadun Yahiya Maneri lived in Maner in the 13th century and thus this place was named after him. His tomb is known as the Badi Dargah and a very special shrine.
The Chhoti Dargah is a mausoleum that commemorates the Musilm saint’s disciple Shah Daulat. The designs and carvings on the mausoleums are beautiful.
The Chhoti Dargah is considered as one of the finest mausoleums in the region. It is an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims during the annual Urs (fair).
The mausoleum of Sher Shah, Sasaram
Sasaram is situated on the main railway line connecting Delhi and Calcutta, about 193 km. from Patna. The mausoleum of Sher Shah, one of the finest buildings of medieval India is situated here. Sher Shah was the emperor of India from 1539 to 1545 AD.
He had planned the building of the mausoleum and also started the construction, but only the last touches were given by his son after his death. The mausoleum stands amidst an artificial lake and the hill in the distant horizon forms an excellent background for the monuments, with reflections in the water adding to its grandeur.
Griddhakuta Hill, the Hill of Vultures is the place where the Buddha converted the great Mauryan king Bimbisara, one of his most celebrated followers and delivered many of his sermons. He also spent most of his summers on this hill.
The old stone leading up the hill is attributed to Bimbisara. It was also used by the Hiuen-Tsang in the 7th century and still provides the best access. There are rock-cut steps which lead to the two natural caves, several plaques and the Buddhist shrines.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa
Vishwa Shanti Stupa is the stupa which was built by the Japanese on the top of the Ratnagiri hill. This stupa can be reached by an aerial ropeway and dedicated to the world peace.
This large white monastery has four golden statues of the Buddha representing his birth, enlightenment, preaching and death. The Japanese also built a large temple, known as the Nipponzan Myohoji
The other places of Architectural interest in Rajgir are Venuvan Vihara, the residence built by the king Bimbisarra for Buddha; Jivaka’s Mango grove, residence of an ardent Buddhist follower, Jivak who was a surgeon; Karanda Tank, the bathing place of Lord Buddha and Jivakamarvana momastery, the place which contains the ruins of Buddha’s favourite retreat within the valley and the Ajatashatru’s Fort is another place of tourist attraction.
The sculpture which depicts the ‘Parinirvana’, or the ‘great cessation’ of Buddha is another monument of artistic and historical importance. It shows the Buddha lying on his right side with the right forearm resting under his head to commemorate the final salvation or Mukti, of the great founder of Buddhist Faith.
Raja Vishala Ka Garh, Vaishali
The Raja Vishala Ka Garh is now in ruins and certain excavations have been done here. One of the excavated archaeological site in Raja Vishal Ka Garh is an ancient parliament house, which indicates that this republic flourished in the 6th Century B.C.
The ruin occupies an area enclosed by a wall about a km in length and 2 m high. The moat surrounding the Parliament House which could hold an assembly of 7707 representatives is 43 m wide.
Ashoka Pillar, Vaishali
The Ashoka Pillar at Kolhua is also known as Bhimsen-ki-Lathi (stick). It is a single piece of very highly polished red sandstone with a bell-shaped inverted lotus capital 18.3 m high which has a life size lion carved on the top.
This Ashoka Pillar was erected by the Ashoka, the great Mauryan emperor to commemorate the place where the Lord Buddha delivered his last sermon. The Ashoka Pillar has a circular section which tapers like the trunk of a palm tree.
It was believed that the columns of this type were the forerunners of the temples, developed from the ancient form of worshipping in the forest. The Emperor Ashoka erected about 30 or more stupas, but now only the remains of 10 pillars have been found and those with capitals have been moved to the Indian Museum.