It’s in the state of Bihar with a population of around 104 million people it’s India’s third most populated state. Around 60% of the population are illiterate, 28% are under the age of 10 and less than 20% of people have access to piped water.
Amongst the devastating poverty are around 10 Buddhist temples, each representing the various different forms of Buddhism. The main temple, Mahabhodi Temple, is a collaboration of the several forms of Buddhism and houses the Buddha Tree, under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. The temple doesn’t allow mobile phones, but cameras are not a problem, but there’s a charge of 100 rupees (around £1). No camera, no worries, 200 rupees and they’ll take a snap and print a copy within 10 minutes. Around 4 million pilgrims go to this temple each year. Everyone is expected to give a donation, I saw 2000 rupees notes being stuffed in the donation box (£20). Between the camera charge, the photo charge and the donations they probably rake in about 6-7 million pounds a year, and that’s a conservative estimate.
I had a chill under the Buddha Tree, the only enlightenment I got was why are there babies and children starving to death outside while pilgrims are bringing in arms full of lilies to worship a tree, and 6-7 million pounds a year could save the life of hundreds of people dying on the streets of Bodhgaya.