We all know that Lord Buddha received enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya.
But before that he did severe penance in the Mahakala (or Dungeshwari) Caves. This cave is near the Phalgu River, 5km from Bodhgaya.
The hill range is locally Mora Hill and the name ‘Pragbodhi’ has become popular in recent years, though Xuanzang or Huein Tsang the Chinese Buddhist traveler to whom we owe a great deal in terms of Buddhist information, mentions the hill as po-lo-ki-po-ti (Pragbodhi or Prakbkodhi, i.e. pre-enlightenment).
Mahakala means extremely dark.
This cave is a steep walk up the hill and as it was hot I cheated and took a ride on a motorbike for ₹100/. There are many on hire there along with dolis or palanquins.
The palanquins take you all the way up but the bike drops you half way and you have to negotiate the steps yourself.
There is a temple at the top in which the door to the actual cave is situated.
Inside there’s a smallish cave with space for around 6-7 people.
A statue of the ascetic Buddha is installed here. It reminded me of another cave in Mehrauli, Delhi where Baba Farid the Sufi ascetic had done penance.
This cave is very important for it after doing severe penance and almost starving to death that Lord Buddha realized the futility of extreme asceticism and that the key to enlightenment was a “middle path” between self-denial and self-indulgence
There is another room where the rocks are encased
There is a small temple and a stupa nearby along with a Tibetan monastery
Later a lady from a nearby village fed him Kheer or rice pudding and he made his way to Bodh gaya where he ultimately found enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
The Sujata Temple