Thai workers apply gold inlay to the spire of Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, some 100km from Patna yesterday.
India’s Mahabodhi temple, one of the world’s holiest Buddhist shrines, is to have its dome inlaid with 300kg of gold donated by Thailand’s king and other devotees, officials said yesterday.
The precious metal arrived late Monday on a special flight from Bangkok and is under armed guard at the temple in Bodh Gaya, a holy town about 100km from Patna, the capital of Bihar.
“A 40-member team including experts and two dozen commandos from Thailand have arrived at Bodh Gaya with gold in 13 boxes,” Arvind Kumar Singh, a member of the temple management committee, said.
The gold would be worth around $14.5mn at the current international price.
The work at the complex, which was rocked by a series of crude bombs in July, was likely to be finished in about a month.
The Mahabodhi temple, built about 1,500 years ago, is a Unesco world heritage site and marks the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment in 531 BC.
Along with temples, dozens of monasteries housing monks from around the world are located near the complex which has a celebrated 80ft-tall statue of the Buddha.
After his meditations beneath a holy tree, the Buddha is said to have devoted the rest of his life to teaching.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama makes frequent trips to the complex, which attracts visitors during the peak tourist season from October to March.
N Dorjee, secretary of the temple committee, said about 100kg of gold had been donated by the Thai king and the rest by Buddhist devotees.
Thailand-based Kreing Thavorn Containers Co Ltd is carrying out the work.
The decision to offer gold for the dome was taken last year by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyade.
But it took some time to get clearance from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the work. The ASI officials will also provide technical supervision for the gold inlay work.
“The first phase of the work involved chemical treatment which was completed in August. It prepared the foundation for gold plating,” he said.
“Stairs have been now installed around the temple’s dome to enable experts to reach the top of the structure and inlay it with thin gold sheets.”
A special prayer will be held under the holy Bodhi tree behind the main temple tomorrow in which around 500 devotees from Thailand, including those who donated gold, are likely to participate, Dorjee said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also shown keen interest in the work.
In July nine small bombs exploded at the temple complex, wounding two monks.
The blasts were allegedly carried out by the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown extremist group, in retaliation for violence against Muslims by Buddhists in neighbouring Myanmar.
Gaya district magistrate Bala Murugan D said extra security had been provided at the temple complex to ensure the smooth progress of the gold-inlaying work.
“We have deployed additional security. The work is also being videographed as after all it involves a costly metal,” he said.
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