Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna
The United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation on Friday declared Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya as a World Heritage Site.
The District Magistrate of Gaya, Brajesh Mehrotra, who is also the chairman of the management
committee of the temple, said that the declaration was made in a UNESCO meeting at Paris.
The declaration will help the temple secure UNESCO funds for conservation, protection and maintenance.
"The temple would secure funds from member countries too under various heads, including preparatory work, emergency assistance and manpower training," sources in the district magistrate's office said.
As the news spread in Bodh Gaya about the declaration, Buddhist monks started celebrating by beating drums and singing songs.
Thousands of Buddhists and tourists from all over the World flock to Bodh Gaya every year to pay their respects to Buddha.
UNESCO grants heritage status to cultural sites considered of 'outstanding value to humanity'.
The Mahabodhi temple is the birthplace of Buddhism, as it was under a tree at Bodh Gaya over 2,500 years ago that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and went on to found the religion.
The temple's main attraction is a 150-foot high pyramid at the site of the original Bodhi tree and a golden image of the Buddha.
The Mahabodhi temple would be the 17th site in India to be accorded heritage status by UNESCO. It will be the first such site in Bihar.
The Indian government had proposed to UNESCO in March 2000 that the temple be accorded heritage status.
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