Flurry of minor blasts hit sacred Buddhist site

Hari Kumar / New York Times News Service /

Published Jul 8, 2013 at 05:00AM

NEW DELHI — A series of explosions rocked one of Budd-hism’s holiest sites in eastern India on Sunday morning, an attack that officials called an act of terrorism.

Two people were wounded in the explosions at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, officials said. Reports suggested that the 12-acre temple complex suffered minimal damage. The soaring main temple, built in the fifth or sixth century, is near the Bodhi Tree, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. The temple attracts Buddhists and others from around the world and has been designated a World Heritage site by Unesco.

“There was some damage to the staircases near the Bodhi Tree, and some windowpanes were broken,” Bhikshu Chalinda, the senior monk at the temple, said in a telephone interview from Bodh Gaya.

In New Delhi, Home Secretary Anil Goswami characterized the explosions as a terrorist attack, though investigators have not identified any suspects or motives, and no one immediately claimed responsibility.

The Indian news media reported that the Home Ministry had recently asked for additional security at Buddhist shrines and Tibetan settlements.

Buddhists and Muslims have also clashed in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, but attacks on Buddhists have been rare in India, where sectarian tensions are sometimes simplified as Hindu versus Muslim, but are often far more complex.

Goswami told reporters that four explosions occurred inside the temple complex, three others shook a nearby monastery and one went off near a statue of Buddha. Two other bombs were defused, he said.

In the past, Indian security officials have cautioned that the Mahabodhi Temple might be a target for terrorists. Last October, the New Delhi police chief, Neeraj Kumar, said suspected terrorists had confessed to visiting the temple complex to plan a possible attack — information that alarmed monks at the site.

“The security of the temple was tightened after that intelligence input last year,” the temple’s senior monk said. “Some metal detectors and more cops and checkpoints were put in place.”

On Sunday, Indian security agencies sent investigators to Bodh Gaya, which is in the state of Bihar, as political leaders condemned the attack. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country’s “composite culture and traditions teach us respect for all religions, and such attacks on religious places will never be tolerated.”

comments powered by Disqus