There are 851 sites on the world Heritage List, as on June 2007, 'inscribed' as properties by the World Heritage Committee
of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The list includes: 660 cultural, 166 natural,
and 25 mixed sites in 141 States Parties. These are 'considered to be of outstanding value to humanity', and belong to all
mankind. The preservation of this shared heritage concerns all of us. India is an active member-state on the World Heritage
Forum since 1977, and is one of the countries on the list, with 27 world Heritage Sites. Of these, 22 are recorded as
cultural sites, while the rest are natural sites.
I am delighted that the Oxford University Press is publishing brief books on each of the 22 cultural sites, under its
series titled Monumental Legacy. So far, the following cultural sites of India have been listed as World Heritage Sites :
Ajanta Caves (1983), Ellora Caves (1983), Agra Fort (1983), Taj Mahal (1983), Sun Temple, Konark (1984), Group of
Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1985), Churches and Convents of Goa (1986), Group of Monuments at Khajuraho (1986), Group of
Monuments at Hampi (1986), Fatehpur Sikri (1986), Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987), Elephanta Caves (1987),
Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur (1987), extended to include under 'Great Living Chola Temples', Gangaikondacholapuram and
Darasuram (2004), Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989), Humayun's Tomb (1993), Qutb Minar and its Monuments (1993), the
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999) extended to include under 'Mountain Railways of India', the Nilgiri Mountain Railway
(2005), Bodh Gaya (2002), Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003), Champaner-Pavagadh Complex (2004), Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus,
formerly Victoria Terminus (2004), and the Red Fort Complex (2007).
There is scope, indeed, for recognition of many more Indian sites in future on the World Heritage List. I am sure
that as, and when, these are declared as World Heritage Sites, they will be included under the Monumental Legacy series of
the Oxford University Pees.
The Oxford University Press, in consultation with me, has invited the experts in the field to contribute small
books, addressed to general readers, on each of these 21 World Heritage Sites in India. These books obviously differ from
cheap tourist books and glossy guide books and, at the same time, also from specialized monographs. Their importance lies in
the fact that they are written by authorities on the subject to enable visitors to see the monuments in proper
My sincere thanks to all the authors of the series and to the editorial staff at Oxford University Press. Their
constant support and enthusiasm is much appreciated.
Preface and Acknowledgments
I had spent time at Bodh Gaya since the days I did dissertation research in eastern India, looking then at a fragment of the
site, the sculptures of just an oddly selected segment of time. No one had studied those before was my rationale, as it was
for most of the art history dissertations written then. I have returned many times since, mostly to look at other fragments
of Bodh Gaya. My first time there, I brought my wife of just a couple weeks. On a subsequent trip a few years later, our
children caught baby frogs during monsoon on the verandah of the Bodh Gaya Travellers' Lodge, as then it was called. Like the
site itself, the lodge has gone through several incarnations, some of them structural, some of them changes of ownership.
The email inviting me to write this small book came entirely unexpectedly. I am not the Bodh Gaya expert; others have
worked much more intensively on the site. And my work had moved from issued centred in eastern India to issues elsewhere. But
I was enormously grateful for that message from Devangana Desai, opened one morning half way around the globe from her. I
probably should have paused before responding, but email does not work that way. It does not offer the opportunity that the
thoughtful response pen and paper do, a chance to reflect prior to getting out the writing instruments and composing
thoughts. Before moving on to the next of the morning's messages, I hit reply and said I would be happy to do it. Grateful
might have been a better way of describing my response, for it made me eager to put together the fragments of the site, to
think about its evolving life, its multiple identities, and the contests for real estate as valuable as land with natural
resources and a bulging treasury might be to an army. But Bodh Gaya was-and remains-valuable for its sanctity rather than
anything material. It is valuable for the things its monuments represent rather than for the materiality they are. And the
story of Bodh Gaya recounted on the subsequent pages is by no means complete. Like 'The King and the Toothbrush', a story I
fabricated each night for my children over the course of a year, it continues unresolved, moving in several directions
Besides Devangana Desai, I want to thank the entire editorial staff at the Oxford University Press. But there are
also people whose names I do not know who contributed directly or indirectly to the making of this project: people who gave
me time to talk, even those whose words made me uncomfortable, the temple guides I followed at a respectful distance,
eavesdropping as they recounted a history-one that sometimes might compete with the history that I would want to recount-for
their charges, both pilgrims and tourists, the staff and officers of the Mahabodhi Society and the Bodh Gaya Temple
Management Committee, and the staff of the lodging that began its life as the Bodh Gaya Travellers' Lodge, some of them still
working at the hotel in its newest incarnation. We scholars who write books and articles get the credit, but the
contributions of many too often remain invisible. And so in the absence of a more formal dedication page, I conclude this
preface with a dedication of this book to those at al levels who made my scholarship possible. I am deeply indebted and
grateful to them.
Back of the Book
The Monumental Legacy series presents a brief introduction to major World Heritage (cultural) Sites in India. Each short book
is written by an acknowledged expert and is a lucid and informed guide to the monument and its history. The accompanying
visuals, maps, and glossaries enrich the narrative. Tourists, visitors to the site as well as art historians and architects
will find these books invaluable.
From the Jacket
Located seven miles south of Gaya, is Bodh Gaya, one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centres in the
world. It was here under a papal tree-now known as the Bodhi tree-Gautama attained the supreme knowledge to become Buddha,
the enlightened one. Part of the prestigious Monumental Legacy series, this book presents an engaging account of Bodh Gaya
and related monuments.
Fredrick Asher takes readers on a graphic historical journey of the site and the monuments as they appear today and
as they have been altered through time and variously perceived through history. Most important among these is the magnificent
Mahabodhi temple complex, an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures, and heritages. Claimed by both Buddhists
and Hindus, it forms the main object of veneration.
The book gives a fascinating description of other attractions at the site including the Bodhi Tree, tara Temple,
Jewel Walk, Gateway, Buddhapad and Sujata Stupa. It makes an instructive survey of the numerous stone sculptures found around
the temple compound-Buddha figures, miniature stupas, and Brahmanical images. The author discusses other modern monuments
located around the temple including the monasteries and the Great Buddha Statue. He also provides a succinct account of
Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the vicinity of Bodh Gaya-Rajgir, Nalanda, Vaishali, Vikramashila, and Kurkihar.
The illustrations, layout plans, maps, and photographs in this volume provide a comprehensive visual presentation of
the site for visitors who will also find the glossary and practical tips very useful.
Lucidly written, this book will be indispensable for general readers and informed tourists visiting the site.
Students and scholars of history, cultural studies, and arts and architecture as well as practitioners of Buddhism and
Hinduism will find the work interesting.
Frederick M. Asher is Professor. Department of Art History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend