Updated: Bomb blasts at Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya

Bomb blasts at Buddhist sites in Eastern India were reported early today. (The AP’s story, updated since this morning, can be found here.)

Starting at 5:30 am, nine serial explosions occurred, beginning with four on the grounds of the Mahabodhi temple. Located in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar, this temple and its grounds mark Buddhism’s most sacred site. The world’s Buddhists believe it was there that Siddhartha Gautama attained final enlightenment as the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. One bomb destroyed the altar in front of the Bodhi Tree (thought to be a direct descendant of the original), though the tree was unharmed. Two monks were injured in the initial blast at the altar, Ashin Vilasagga from Burma, and Tenzing Lama from Tibet.

Three more blasts occurred at nearby Tergar Monastery, founded by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and one each in front of a Buddha statue and at a local bus stop. Indian authorities discovered and defused three more explosive devices in the area.  No other casualties were reported.

According to The Hindu, “[Indian] President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the blasts, saying such attacks on religious places will ‘never be tolerated’.” They further reported that there had been heightened security at the Mahabodhi complex since last October, when Indian intelligence sounded warnings of a possible terrorist attack on the site. Police, however, only patrolled on the outside of the complex, with the grounds overseen by temple authorities. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and no arrests have been made.”

A slide show of images from the attack may be viewed here.