Buddha Gaya is one of the four holiest places of Buddhism. Here Buddha attained Enlightenment after having meditated for 49 days under the Bodhi tree. In the 3rd century BC emperor Asoka built a shrine to mark this spot of Buddha's sambothi. A later stone railing enclosing this shrine survives on from the Sunga period (1st century BC). Sanchi and Barhut depict the shrine on several reliefs. The shrine was replaced by the Mahabodhi temple, begun in the Kushan period in the 2nd century AD. In the Pala-Sena period it was provided with statuary and revetment. Burmese Buddhists began to restore it in 1877, but a proper scientific restoration was done by Cunningham in 1882.
The King of Burma deputed his officers to repair the temple. In course of their work they stared to renew the structures stick antiquarian heads foolishly onto ancient torsos and the like. For the proper care of the antiquities and to control the operations antiquates and to control the operations of Burman excavators Dr. Rajendralala Mitra visited Buddha Gaya in 1877 in compliance with the wishes of the in compliance with the wishes of the Lt. Governor of Bengal. He was the first to draw up maps, plans and to compile a record of its archaeology. The present work was thus the first attempt at a scientific study of the site its monuments and antiquities as well as its descriptions in Buddhist texts and Puranas. It describes the geography, buildings legends of Gaya in Buddha's enlightenment. The architectural remains, sculptures, carvings on railings, copings and pillars, inscriptions from the earliest period and chronology are detailed by R. Mitra.
The book retains its value in understanding the vicissitudes of the reconstruction of the Mahabodhi and surrounding buildings, its centrality in the Enlightenment of lord Buddha and its role as the cent-rum of the Buddhist world. This work inspired Sir. A. Cunningham to a complete overhauling of the temple and its environs and to write his monograph Mahabodhi in 1892.In 1935
A.K. Coomaraswamy wrote La Sculpture de Bodhgaya, followed by Barua, Gaya and Buddha Gaya in 1931. Yet, this work of R. Mitra remains a fundamental historic survey of Buddha Gaya a over two millennia.
It has long been a desideratum and the present reprint is most welcome as a basic work, with 51 monochrome plates of the 19th century.
In the winter of 1876 the late king of Burmah deputed three of his officers to superintend the repairs of the ancient temple at Buddha Gaya. The men arrived at the place in January 1877, and immediately set to work. With the permission of the Mahant, in whose charge the temple is kept, they cleared away a large space around it, built an enclosing wall, renewed the retaining walls of the terrace of the temple, re plastered its interior and took some steps for preserving the sacred Bodhi tree. In the course of their work they brought to light a great number of votive stupas, images, friezes, impression of the sacred feet and other object of antiquarian interest. Some of these they built into the new wall, others lay scattered about the place.
The subject was brought to the notice of the Government of Bengal in the middle of last year and suggestions made to prevent the masking and modernizing of the ancient temple. Thereupon a Semi-official latter was written to me by Sir Stuart Bayley, then Secretary to the Government of Bengal and in it the wishes of the Government were thus set forth- It is not desired to interface with Burmese gentleman beyond giving them such guidance as may prevent any serious injury being done to the temple, of which there seemed at one time some danger from their laying bare a portion of the foundation; and to arrange for such of the antiquities as are worth preserving being properly taken care of. They are at present building them into walls, and sticking foolish heads on to ancient torsos, &c. Mr. Eden wishes to known of you can make it convenient to pay a visit to Buddha Gaya to inspect the work and the remains collected and to give advice as to their value and to their disposition, and whether there are any that should go to the Asiatic Society; and generally to advise the Government un regard to the manner in which the operations of the Burmese excavators should be In compliance with the wishes of his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, I visited Buddha Gaya in the autumn of 1877, and in the course of my inquires collected much information and many drawings, maps and plans, which could not be conveniently embodied in the report I submitted to the Government on the results of my researches. These have since been utilized in the followings pages.
The temple of Buddha Gaya attracted the attention of antiquarians from of very early period in the history of British rule in Indian, and many notices had been published long before I visited it last, but no attempt had been made to compile a complete record of its archaeology.
One of the earliest papers published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal was a translation of an inscription found at Buddha Gaya. Its author was Sir Charles Wilkins; but it appeared without ant note or comment and no information was given in it of the holy spot.
Dr. Buchanan-Hamilton came to the place in 1890, but the results of his inquires were not published until 1830; and the paper he then contributed to the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (Volume II) was devoted principally to the legendary information he had collected from the mahants of the local monastery. A summary of this paper subsequently appeared in the first volume of Martin's Eastern India. Along with few illustrations but with no addition to the descriptive matter.
In 1832 Mr. Hawthorne then Judge of Gaya, Forwarded to James Prinsep copies of some inscriptions found in and about Buddha Gaya. These were published in the first volume of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, but without any detailed description of the temple. About the same time colonel Burney sent to him a revised translation of one of the inscriptions and it appeared in the last volume of the Asiatic Researches.
The late Major Markham Kittoe was appointed Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of India in 1846, and the first field to which he directed his attention was the district of Gaya. He saw most of the places of antiquarian interest in the district and collected a large number of drawings inscriptions and sculptures; but his premature death prevented him from digesting them into a presentable report. The only paper he communicated to the Asiatic Society of Bengal on the antiquities of Buddha Gaya was confined to the character of the sculptures he had seen there. On his death his papers were dispersed, and no use could be made of them. Of the sculptures he had collected some were sent to the India House Museum and the rest made over to the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
General Cunningham visited Buddha Gaya in 1861, and the notes of his researches were first published in the Journal if the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol. XXXIII) and subsequently embodied along with a number of valuable illustrations, in the first volume of the Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India. Immediately after his visit he recommended that measures should be adopted to carry on excavations round the temple, to trace the sites of the different edifices which at one time surrounded it and to bring to light such objects of antiquarian value as may be found buried there. The work of excavation was undertaken by Major Mead, but no report of his operations was ever published.
While Major Mead was carrying on the excavation, I was invited by him to go and see the antiquities he had brought to light. Unwilling to anticipate in any why the report which that gentleman then intended to submit to Government and which I understood was to comprehend a complete description of the village, I obtained his permission to notice only some radiating arches which I saw there, and which I supposed would be particularly interesting to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. My note on the arches appeared in 1864 and remarks on those arches by the late Mr. C.H. Horse, then Judge of Benares, Mr. Peppe of the Opium Department and Mr. James Fergusson appeared in the following years. The last named gentleman had before that also published a brief account of the temple about it in his History of Indian and Eastern Architecture.
General Cunningham visited the place for the second time in 1871, and published a comprehensive essay on its antiquities in the third volume of his scholar who had devoted well nigh half a century to the study of Indian antiquities and is unrivaled in his thorough familiarity with the subject are worthy of the highest praise. They embrace almost every topic of interest and throw a large mass of light on a subject which was till then but little known. They have not, however set aside the necessity for further research and hence the present undertaking.
Coming to the field after so many distinguished inquirers, I could only hope to glean where they had reaped the harvest. In the followings pages I have therefore, attempted to follow their footsteps , to elucidate questions left doubtful by them, to elaborate where they are brief, to fill up become and to summaries all that is worth Knowing of a locality which occupies a most important position in the religion history of India. My task had therefore been more of a sum Marist and compiler than that of an original inquirer and I feel myself under great obligation to my predecessors for the assistance I have derived from their research. If in the discharge of my self-imposed task it has become necessary for me occasionally to question the correctness of their opinions, my object has been to serve the cause of truth, and not to find fault with them. As pioneers traversing a new and untrod-den path they had grave difficulties to overcome ad mistake and misconceptions were under the circumstances unavoidable; but the tact and talent they brought to bear upon their work proved eminently successful. Every credit is, therefore due to them for the services they have rendered to the study of India's Archaeology and I feel bound to record the expression of my sense of respect and admiration foe their zealous and arduous lab-ours.
Size:11.0" X 8.7"Buddha Gaya (The Hermitage Of Sakya Muni) , Rajendralala Mitra, Aditya Prakashan, 2005, Hardcover, 680 pages, $50.00