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LIGHTING THE MAHABODHI TEMPLE

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By  – Shyamal Sinha

The Mahabodhi Mahavihara or more popularly known as the Bodhgaya Temple or the Great Stupa, is one of the shrines out of the 84000 shrines erected by King Asoka the Great in the 3rd century B.C. The Mahabodhi Mahavihara is the sole surviving example of what was once an architectural genre.

In the absolute truth, there is no direction, there is no centre, there is no boundary, there is
no concept such as holy place or not holy place. In the absolute realm, everything is equally
and primordially pure. There is no hell, there is no heaven.
-Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

At this most sacred of sacred places, ‘Lighting the Mahabodhi’ is an initiative to design and
install a comprehensive lighting system for the entire Mahabodhi Temple Complex.
Offering of aloke, or light, is one of the most fundamental practices in the Buddhadharma
symbolizing clarity, insight and wisdom. Inspired by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Lighting
the Mahabodhi aims to make one of the largest and most lasting light offerings in Buddhist
history by vastly improving the lighting of the existing Mahabodhi complex.
Investigating this in 2016, we were amazed to discover that, in spite of being a UNESCO
World Heritage site, no architectural drawings of the Mahabodhi Temple complex existed.
And so, as an initial offering, Siddhartha’s Intent India and Vana Foundation, with support
from Khyentse Foundation, undertook a professional survey that produced the first such
map.

After two years of intensive preparatory planning, this lighting initiative now creates a
precious opportunity for devotees from all around the world to contribute towards the
installation of a superb lighting system that will highlight the Mahabodhi’s magnificent
beauty while enhancing the safety and comfort of pilgrims.
Those funds will pay for all light fittings, installation and replacement of some of the
Temple’s outdated electrical infrastructure. The eventual outcome will be aesthetically
appropriate to a place of unparalleled devotion to millions of Buddhists worldwide. A
separate fund will enable devotees to make offerings towards the continuing operation of
the lights, which will be professionally managed.
The new lighting will be extremely energy-efficient, ecologically friendly to minimize light
pollution, trouble-free in maintenance and operation, and designed in accord with the
highest international standards to endure sustainably for a long time.
The new lighting will cover every part of the Mahavihara, and thus facilitate special prayers
and ceremonies and make visible sacred areas that are now too dark. Installation will be
completed in phases, so as to cause minimal disruption and respect all archaeological and
technical sensitivities.

We are delighted that the top-notch B-Lit Lighting Design Company of Bangkok is offering
its services gratis as an act of devotion. Design Matrix of Delhi is the key consultant for the
project and is coordinating all its parts on a pro bono basis.
Once completed, the entire system will be handed over to the Bodhgaya Temple
Management Committee (BTMC), which will fully own the new lighting system.
Siddhartha’s Intent India has empowered an executive committee, representing all the core
organizations to oversee the project, manage finances and timelines, fundraise, and liaise
with the BTMC.
To ensure full and transparent accountability to all donors and stakeholders, SI India is also
engaging a professional, fully qualified project management team, mCritical Infrastructure
Consultants Pvt. Ltd. (mCIC), New Delhi, to ensure that every dollar is used properly and
cost-effectively, and to manage and oversee all procurement, contractual, accounting, and
the technical aspects of this ambitious and highly complex project.

Input by Aspi Mistry, Prashant Verma, Deer Park Institute, NewDelhi.