The Marasa Sarovar Premiere Bodh Gaya, a luxury hotel on the outskirts of the sacred Indian city, recently featured in the magazine Architectural Digest India. The hotel, which opened its doors in January 2020, features an array of locally-sourced materials and Buddhist inspirations in its architecture and aesthetic choices. The property’s development should support plans by the Indian government to bolster Buddhist tourism, offering quiet comfort within walking distance of the Mahabodhi Temple and other key Buddhist sites.*
According to architect Shimul Javeri Kadri, Bodh Gaya offers a striking peace that was evident on her first visit: “Unlike other pilgrimage centers that have a lot of hustle and bustle, Bodh Gaya has this wonderful serenity,” she said. “All around, there are monks in their beautifully colored robes, the glow of diyas, and the soft chanting of prayers.” (Architectural Digest India) Kadri said she worked to capture the sense of quietude she first experienced there in the hotel’s 1.6-hectare grounds.
Kadri has risen to celebrity status for her inspiring architecture, as well as her style, leadership role at SJK Architects, and as a woman reshaping business and life in India. Her work for the Marasa Sarovar Premiere Bodh Gaya began with an in-depth study of Buddhism and the local environment. In her tours of the local area, she noticed numerous brick kilns, living remnants of Bodh Gaya’s millennia-old tradition of brick-making.
Witnessing this in such ancient sites as the Mahabodhi Temple and the ruins of Nalanda University, Kadri note: “It became clear that brick was the material and design vocabulary of that entire area, and the design had to be rooted in it. That was our starting point.” (Architectural Digest India)
In the end, brick alone proved to be too heavy and poorly insulating, so the team settled on a mix of concrete, aerated-concrete bricks, and locally made bricks from Bodh Gaya and Varanasi. Also incorporated into the building materials were clay roofing tiles made by the combined efforts of 26 families from 12 villages around Bodh Gaya.
Fellow designer Roshni Kshirsagar explored Buddhism through her local library in Mumbai, eventually coming across the Vajradhatu Mandala. “It’s like a palace that houses the five Dhyani Buddhas,” Kshirsagar said. “Each house is defined by a mudra gesture, a colour, a season, a cardinal direction, a natural element, etc. This helped us design the five spaces in the public block: reception, library, spa, banquet, and café. Even the color choices were guided by the principle of the mandala. For instance, we found our cues for the pool block in the Bhumisparsha mudra. The dictated color was blue, which goes perfectly well with the pool. So everything fell in place as a symbolic representation.” (Architectural Digest India)
Following from this, the design also celebrates Buddhist values, including wisdom, courage, compassion, forbearance, and perseverance. Along with these, even the virtue of renunciation can be found in the buildings, despite it being a luxury hotel. Avoiding grandiose and exotic building materials, Kshirsagar said: “We chose materials that could be easily maintained, such as linen and cotton, and we stuck to soft, muted palettes so the room would seem like an extension of the elements.” The property also has a large waterbody inspired by the lily pond of the Mahabodhi Temple. “We had visualized it as being full of lotuses,” says Shankar. “There are none yet. But someday, we are sure there will be.”
* India Promotes Post-pandemic Train Travel to Buddhist Heritage Sites (Buddhistdoor Global)
This serene new hotel in Bodh Gaya mixes luxury with Buddhist spirituality (Architectural Digest India)
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