Holiest Buddhist shrine gets governing panel, finally

IANS, May 17, 2008

Patna, India -- The Mahabodhi temple in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya, Buddhism’s holiest shrine, has got a governing panel after a gap of eight months. The Bihar government has issued a notification to form the new panel of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BGTMC) late Friday, officials said here Saturday.

The government has nominated eight members - four Buddhists and Hindus each - to the new panel. The Gaya district magistrate will function as its ex-officio chairman.

The BGTMC’s three-year term ended Sep 10 last year, but the Bihar government delayed forming a new panel. Buddhist monks were upset with the government for “deliberately” delaying the notification. They are demanding that control of the shrine be with Buddhists.

The monks say the delay has hampered the day-to-day functioning of the 1,500-year-old temple, located at the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment 2,550 years ago.

The Mahabodhi Temple, declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 by Unesco, is visited annually by thousands of tourists, especially from Buddhist countries.