India, the site of the Buddha's great awakening, has a rich an ancient history of enlightened women, both monastics (Skt: bhiksuni, Pali: bhikkhuni) and lay women (upasika) savika disciples of the Buddha -- essential aspects of the Buddha's Four-fold Assembly of disciples -- the bearers of his inheritance. This blog shares with you some of the wealth of their long and contemporary history, together with sites, writings and happenings of interest.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Bodhgaya Shrine and Noble Lady Ayya Kurangi
Whether you have been to this most sacred of Buddhist sites, or for when you come again, to this, the site of the Buddha's enlightenment, you may like to know a little more of its history.
Most Buddhists and most Indians know the site was established first when the Buddha awakened there, and later by the meritorious devotions of 3rd century BCE unifier of the Indian subcontinent, Ashoka the Great.
Few however know that the five main focal points of the Mahabodhi shrine, other than the temple itself, were established by a Magadhan woman, the Dowager Queen Kurangi, together with her friends and relatives. The focal points include the Vajrasana (the Diamond Seat), the Patanacankrama (the Walking Path), the ornate Railings demarkating the shrine and the Monastery (now under the raised earth surrounding the shrine). There is speculation as to whether Ayya Kurangi then retired from royal leadership to live the monastic life at the Bodhgaya shrine.
The railings, now safely in the Bodhigaya Museum, bear inscriptions of the donors and their gifts, and can be seen by visitors to the museum.
The inscription on the railing here reads: "the gift of Ayya (Noble Lady) Kurangi".
Dowager Queen Kurangi was wife of Maghadan Emperor Indragnimitra, and mother of Brahmamitra who succeeded to the throne when she retired after his father had passed away. Queen Nagadevi was her daughter-in law.
As recorded in Wikipedia:
An inscription at Bodh Gaya at the Mahabodhi Temple records the construction of the temple as follows: "The gift of Nagadevi the wife of King Brahmamitra" So then this further means that the Sungas were in support of Buddhism. Another inscription reads: "The gift of Kurangi, the mother of living sons and the wife of King Indragnimitra, son of Kosiki. The gift also of Srima of the royal palace shrine."
To learn more about the Indian ruling dynasties of the period, see Wikipedia here.
More information on the Bodhgaya inscriptions can be found in the article "Old Buddhist Shrines at Bodh-Gaya Inscriptions" by B.M. Barua in The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI, No. 1, MARCH, 1930, pp. 1-31 here.
There is also a fine article on the development of the Bodhgaya shrine "Bodh Gaya: A Good Place for Striving -- Bodhgaya from 500 BCE to 500 CE" found here.