Bodhgaya Temple was in the hands of its followers till the first part of the thirteenth century A.D. They lost their control over it only after its destruction by the Turk invaders. From the time of their invasion to the time of the arrival of the first Mahant at the site, we have no information about the TempIe. A wandering Sanyasi (Saivite Hindu monk) named Mahant Ghamandi Giri arrived at Buddha Gaya in the year 1590 and decided to make the place his permanent residence. In due course this Mahåvihåra was occupied by the Mahant and he claimed that he was the legitimate heir of the Mahåvihåra. The present Mahant is the sixteenth in succession to Mahant Ghamandi Giri.
The Question of restoring the Mahabodhi Mahåvihåra into Buddhist hands was first demanded by Sir Edwin Arnold, the famous author of “The Light of Asia” in 1885. He visited the spot and made an earnest appeal to the Government of India as well as to the British Government to have the Mahabodhi Temple in the hands of the Buddhists who are its legitimate custodians. He also wrote to the Buddhist countries ‘asking them to take up the cause of the Temple’. In response to his appeal, Anagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), took up this cause in 1891 and some of his co-workers of partially regaining the Temple from the Mahanth after encountering undue hardships.
BODHGAYA TEMPLE MANAGEMENT ACT
The Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee came into existence with the passing of the Bill to this effect by the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1949. The Act which got assent of the Governor of Bihar on June 19, 1949 came to be known as Bodhgaya Temple Act (Bihar XVII of 1949). The Act is aimed to make provision for :
A. the upkeep and repair of the Temple;
B. the improvement of the Temple land;
C. the welfare and safety of the pilgrims; and
D. the proper performance of worship at the Temple.
According to provision of the Act the Committee shall consist of the Chairman and eight members nominated by the State Government all of whom shall be Indians.
The management of Bodhgaya Temple was formally handed over by Mahant Shri Harihar Giri to Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the then Vice President of India, on 23rd May 1953. Since then the Committee took charge of the management of the Mahabodhi Mahåvihåra. The Temple had no fixed or permanent source of income and during the early period it had to depend only on small offerings put in the charity boxes kept at different places in the Mahåbodhi Mahåvihåra premises. The development of the Temple runs only on donations and the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee thanks all the large hearted generous donors for their contribution.
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