Buddhists all over the world including Sri Lanka were shocked by the news of multiple explosions rocking the sacred town of Bodhgaya in the early hours of Sunday July 7th 2013.
Although precise details are scarce at this juncture preliminary reports indicate that a series of at least eight blasts occurred both within and outside the Mahabodhi temple
Five persons including two Buddhist monks from Tibet and a pilgrim from Nepal were reported injured in the incident at Bodhgaya where the Mahabodhi temple revered by Sri Lankan Buddhists is located.
Bodhgaya is in the district of Mahadh in the Indian state of Bihar. Gaya is about 110 km away from the state capital Patna.
The Sri Lankan Govt has announced that none of the injured were Sri Lankans.
“No Sri Lankans were injured in the incident, but our High Commission in New Delhi is monitoring the situation there,” a spokesman for the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry said.
At least eight blasts rocked Mahabodhi temple in Bihar’s Bodhgaya town, leaving at least two monks injured.
Furthermore, two live bombs were also recovered and defused according to the Gaya SP.
Four blasts in succession took place inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex at about 5:40 am and three blast took place at the Terega Monastery.
The eighth blast took place near the famous 80-foot statue of Lord Buddha.
Local authorities said crude bombs had been used for the low-intensity explosions. No structural damage has been reported to the temple.
DIG Nayyar Husnain Khan said, “The sanctum sanctorum of the Mahabodhi Temple is intact. The identity of the injured monks is yet to be ascertained.”
“They have been rushed to the Magadh hospital for treatment,” he added.
“We were engaged in our morning prayers when we heard the blasts. The sounds were very loud. We could hear four explosions,” a monk told news channels.
Initial reports said the blasts were of low-intensity and there has been no damage to the temple shrine.
The reports also suggest that the explosions were caused by crude bombs which were kept in a bag at a particular point inside the temple complex.
Unconfirmed reports said that one unexploded bomb was found outside the temple and diffused by the security forces.
CRPF and fire brigade personnel have been rushed to the spot, Indian media reported. Forensic team, bomb disposal squad have also reached the spot.
There were not too many people inside the temple. The injured, reportedly have minor injuries caused by fragments and splinters.
Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is expected to visit the area later today.
The temple premises have been cordoned off. Reports say security has been beefed up in and around other religious sites of the district.
Entry to the temple was closed soon after the blasts.
Bodhgaya is a high priority area throughout the year and always an adequate amount of security cover.
Pilgrims are thoroughly checked before they enter the temple’s premises.
According to the police, it is too early to say if the blasts are the handiwork of terrorists or even Maoists.
There were unconfirmed reports of intelligence inputs about a possible terror strike on the famous temple.
The police are investigating the cause of the explosions and trying to ascertain the point of security breach.
“It is too early to say that Mahabodhi temple blasts is a terror attack,” India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said.
Mahabodhi is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centres in the world and is also the Bihar state’s most important tourist spot.
There has been a historic connection between the Mahabodhi and Sri Lanka.
The complex consists of the Mahabodhi temple with the diamond throne and the holy Bodhi tree.
This tree was originally a sapling of the Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, itself grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree.
Moreover it was Sri Lanka’s Anagarika Dharmapala who was responsible for reclaiming the Buddhist heritage of Mahabodhi. The Mahabodhi built in the 1st century was a flourishing Buddhist centre for many centuries and received patronage from the Kings of the Pala dynasty in Bengal.With the advent of Turkish rule in the 13th century the Mahabodhi temple fell into a state of neglect and was virtually in ruins.
A Hindu Mahant established a Saivaite temple close to the Mahabodhi precincts in the 18th century.He laid claim to the Mahabodhi temple and incorporated it under his domain. His successors continued to retain control of the Mahabodhi.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century,Sri Lanka’s Anagarika Dharmapala the devout Buddhist revivalist began reclaiming the Mahabodhi Temple for Buddhists. The current Mahant, however, insisted it belonged to him. In spite of opposition from both the British and Hindu quarters, Anagarika Dharmapala continued to wage a campaign to restore the Mahabodhi temple to Buddhists.
For a number of years he and the Mahant were embroiled in legal battles over the ownership. Finally in 1906 the trial ended in defeat to Dharmapala, yet this did not discourage him. He continued to wage a relentless campaign appealing to higher authorities. Finally in 1949 the Bodhgaya Temple Act was passed, making provision for a committee of four Buddhists and four Hindus to manage the affairs of the temple.
According to an article in the “Indian Express”by Abantika Ghosh moves were on to amend the Bodhgaya temple act. Here are relevant excerpts –
“Sixty-four years after it was framed, Bihar is set to change the controversial Bodhgaya Temple Act, 1949 that provides for a Hindu majority in the managing committee of the Mahabodhi Mahavira, the most sacred Buddhist place of worship.
In a letter last month to the National Commission for Minorities, the state government informed them it is planning to amend the Act as it is against the secular fabric of the state.
Buddhists have been demanding full control over the shrine for years. The managing committee consists of eight members, four Buddhists and four Hindus. The Hindus are part of the committee because there is a Shiva temple within the precincts of the first century Buddhist structure.
The Gaya district magistrate is the ex officio chairman of the panel while other members are nominated. What has been deemed ultra vires of the Constitution by many legal experts is a provision that empowers the state government to nominate a Hindu as the chairman of the committee if the DM of Gaya is not a Hindu.
In his letter to the minority panel chief Wajahat Habibullah, Kamal Narayan Singh, joint secretary, home department, wrote: “Bihar is a secular state. The post of DM doesn’t relate to any caste, religion or community. Therefore the amendment of the Bodhgaya Temple Act is necessary for the sake of secularism by deleting the proviso of sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Act. This amendment is under consideration before the state and counter affidavits have been filed by the state of Bihar with respect to both writ petitions in the Supreme Court.”
This is a U-turn from the state government’s 2010 stand that there is no need to amend the Act. After discussions with legal experts who believed the Government of India cannot intervene in the case of a state Act even though the provision to nominate a Hindu chairman if there is a non-Hindu DM is unconstitutional, Buddhists had moved the SC.
Singh’s letter refers to these cases. Buddhist monks have gone on indefinite hunger strikes demanding that the community be handed over control of the shrine. NCM had passed a unanimous resolution in 2005 that the Act needs to be amended .
However the demand for full control has never cut much ice. At one point senior advocate K Parasaran had opined that secular administration can be vested in people belonging to any religion and it does not have to be from that particular religion. Subsequently Rajiv Dhawan pronounced Sub section 3(3) unconstitutional.
(Compiled from Newspaper,News Agency,Website and TV reports)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com