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Temples of the Gangetic Plains

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Vishnupaada Temple at Gaya(Bihar)

Deities: Vishnu

Location: Gaya in South Bihar.

Significance: This is one of the greatest Vaishnavaite Temples and is the most sacred pinda Daana Vedi - (site of offerings for the ancestors) in Gaya. Vishnu’s footprint stamped on a rock called Dharmasila is the object of worship here. The footprint lies in a silver trough.

Antiquity: The ritual of offering pindas or offerings to the dead has been long associated with Gaya and has been mentioned in the epics. (Vaayupuraana). Terra-cotta seals discovered at Vaishali dating back to the Gupta period (4th to the 5th century AD) place the existence of this temple even during that period. This structure and the brick structure built following its demise do not exist today. What is seen now is a relatively modern temple, built by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore in 1783.

Architecture: This temple faces the East and it is octagonal in plan with its tower reaching a height of 100 feet. The temple is built of gray granite blocks joined with iron clamps. The sides of the octagons of the pyramidal tower, are alternately plain and indented - each angle while reaching the pyramidal roof, culminating in a series of peaks, one above the other until they all merge in a single tall pinnacle, crossed by the lotus shaped Amalaka and the golden Kalasha. In front of the shrine is the spacious Sabha Mandapa - or an open pillared hall. It is a double height space accessed by galleries all around. This hall has 42 pillars disposed in two stories. Over the central portion is a graceful dome, 80 feet high formed by overlapping of stones - a novel technique. The pillars contain various artistically executed motifs. The beautiful style of this temple, with its impressive Sabha Mandap represents the Indian architectural glory of a comparatively recent date.

Other shrines in the temple: There are minor shrines dedicated to Shiva and Lakshmi adjacent to the Sabha Mandap. Other minor temples in the complex: Temples of Gadhadhara (1040 AD), Narasimha, Gayeswari (1459) are some of the ancient temples in the complex. The shrines, cells and courtyards around the temple contain hundreds of beautiful stone images mostly belonging to the Pala and Sena Periods. (800-1300 AD).

Prominent personalities associated with the temple: Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya - the great religious leaders, Vallabacharya, Sankaradeva of Assam, Raja Mansingh of Akbar’s court and Swami Vivekananda have visited this temple.

Access and Accomodation: Gaya, Bodh Gaya

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