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Gaya - The Footprint of Vishnu
Temples of the Gangetic Plains

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. Gaya is located in Bihar. Buddha Gaya located nearby and Gaya have been revered pilgrimage sites since antiquity.

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The other well known temples in Gaya are the Prapitaa Maheswara Temple, the Dakshinaarka Temple and the Mangala Gowri temple.

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 CE) 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. 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 CE), 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 CE).

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

See Also:
Buddha Gaya
Vishnu Paada Temple at Gaya

Prapitaa Maheswara Temple at Gaya
Mangala Gowri Temple at Gaya
Dakshinaarka Sun Temple at Gaya