The woman in white raises her hands together and touches the top of her head. Then she bows down touching the smooth board below her. She pushes her body until she lays flat. Two cloths are helping her to drive herself down and then back up until she is standing again. She continues doing this deep bow over and over and over again. All done towards the temple and the tree.
The tree is why the people are here. It is why they sit under it chanting over and over again for days on end. People from all over the world come here to pray on the same spot where Siddhartha Gautama gained enlightenment and became Buddha. It is one of the holiest places in the world. Many come here hoping to find meaning, peace and a sense of calm.
The tree grows beside the Mahabodhi Temple or “Great Awakening Temple” built in the seventh century to remember the Buddha. As well as to spread his knowledge, learned while sitting under the tree for seven weeks. The temple is made from stone at its core to support its 55-meter height and weight. An ornate stucco design covers the temple telling the life of the Buddha. The railings around the tower are each hand-carved showing Buddhist imagery. The outer floor is stone polished by the thousands of people kneeling, praying and bowing. Inside the temple grounds are markers showing where the Buddha paused, thought and moved as he walked around.
Not everyone comes here for peace, some come for violence and destruction. The current tree is not the original. With each new king or queen with a different religious belief, the tree would die, and a new one would grow on the same spot. The current tree was planted in 1881 when massive renovations were done on the temple to restore it. In July 2013 a series of ten bombs were set off injuring five people. There was no damage to the tree or the temple, but new security measures were put in place to protect the pilgrims who come. Since the bombing, more and more people come.
Inside the temple grounds, every spot has a monk or a pilgrim doing the deep bows of respect, chanting or sitting in peaceful meditation. They are like the woman in white doing the same routine prayer in the hopes of enlightenment.