The Mahabodhi temple in Bihar serves as a spiritual fountainhead for both Hindus and Buddhists. In January 2008, hundreds of devotees of the Buddhist diaspora collected in Bodhgaya, the Buddhist capital of the world, to commemorate Buddha Jayanti. For Budhists, the Mahabodhi temple is particularly precious because it is said to hold the Bodhi tree under which Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) attained Nirvana.
On the temple grounds towards the back, ten discrete cement houses are filled with butter (ghee) lamps. Every morning for past 2 weeks, the brass lamps are meticulously cleaned by lower-caste Hindus who are tired on a daily basis by the head Buddhist priest. Once cleaned, the next batch of workers fill the lamps with ghee (clarified butter) that is offered by devotees and melted in a huge vat behind the butter-lamp houses by another set of men. In the center of each lamp, is a twisted rod of bound cotton-threads, which are made on the premises by Buddhist devotees. A few Indian women sweep the alleys and clean it of garbage. After these preparations, the doors of the houses are opened and people can come in to light a lamp and say a prayer. Once lit, the thousands of lamps filling each house render a profound glow to this part of the temple grounds.
The men we met were extremely hospitable and generous in their responses to our questions. They told us that this past month has been good for them as employment in the temple grounds has been easy to find. Much of the menial jobs that need to be done will not be performed by Buddhist pilgrims and devotees or by higher caste Hindus, for whom the Mahabodhi temple is solely a religous site. They were proud of their labor for, it is said, the butter-lamps must burn brightly throughout the night until dawn--otherwise the prayers offered may not see the light of day.
Owner: Dominik Huber
Size: 16 items