| Gaya district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal lights a candle at Mahabodhi Mahavihara on Monday. Picture by Suman |
Hundreds, including 200 Thai defence personnel-turned-nuns, participated in all-religion peace prayers at the World Heritage Mahabodhi Mahavihara on Monday morning, a year after the serial blasts in the holy town.
Phra Nippon, a monk at the Royal Thai monastery in Bodhgaya, was among around the 350 and odd devotees who offered prayers. He asked for how long people could remain in fear. Just two days after the blasts last year, a group from Thailand had visited Bodhgaya and stayed for 10 days, to pray at the Mahavihara.
Bhikkhu Hem Rathan Thero, a monk at the Mahabodhi Society of India’s Bodhgaya branch, said no fear could keep devotees away from the Buddha. The inflow of devotees from abroad and within India has not dipped even in summer, he said.
“Remembering the blasts is painful. We should always think positive and pray for good to all,” said Bhikkhu Sugata of Bodhi Dhruma monastery in Bodhgaya.
The first of 10 bombs last year had gone off under the Bodhi tree around 5.40am on the Mahavihara premises. Three more bombs went off at the premises at two-minute intervals. Three other bombs went off at the Tergar monastery — around 1.5km north-west of the Mahavihara, one at the 80ft Buddha statue — around 700m west of the Mahavihara, one on a tourist bus around 200m south of Tergar monastery and one at Baiju Bigha village, 2km west of the Mahavihara.
Bhikkhu Priyapala, monk-in-charge of Chakma monastery in Bodhgaya, said arranging security around Mahabodhi Mahavihara was not enough. There should be adequate security in entire Bodhgaya.
Gaya district magistrate-cum-ex-officio chairman of BTMC, Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, said security in and around the Mahavihara would be strengthened before the onset of tourist season in October. Installation of advanced technology security equipment like baggage scanner, high-frequency CCTV camera and deployment of CISF is on the cards. Agarwal, Gaya senior superintendent of police Nishant Kumar Tiwary, city SP Rakesh Kumar and others attended the peace prayers led by International Meditation Centre general secretary Wara Sambodhi.
Residents did not attend Monday’s peace prayer in protest against demolition of 58 shops at the Mahabodhi complex following the blasts. The exercise rendered over 250 individuals, mostly footpath vendors, jobless. Some of them have now migrated outside Bodhgaya.