Fifty-year-old Tenzing Dorjee barely knew what hit him. While the Tibetan monk was meditating at the Mahabodhi temple complex, there was a loud noise and his foot started bleeding.
It was 5.30 am on Sunday. The first bomb had gone off in Bodh Gaya. Near one of the holiest shrine of Buddhists – the Mahabodhi tree, under which Buddha had attained nirvana.
In a desperate attempt to staunch the blood, Dorjee wrapped his foot in a towel and started limping towards the primary health centre 100 meters away.
Tibetan refugee, Vilas Ga, 30, was doing the ‘parikrama’ of the tree, when the second bomb went off. The impact left him reeling. Splinters hit him on the face, neck, chest, abdomen and feet.
“He had to be carried to the health centre. Dorjee came by himself, but he was visibly shaken,” said Umesh Kumar Verma, medical officer-in-charge.
Verma, who was on night shift and dozed off around dawn, had been woken by the first explosion.
“Before I could realise what happened, the second bomb went off, followed by a third and a fourth. Over the last few months, there have been talks about such a possibility. It took me a while to realise it had actually happened,” he added.
“Two of the blasts were aimed at the Bodhi tree,” said Arvind Singh, member of the Mahabodhi temple management committee. “The first took place very close to the tree, but its impact was contained since the bomb was placed under a concrete bench at its base. This was where two monks were meditating,” he said.
Another blast, said Singh, was in an enclosure where religious texts are kept. The blast damaged the furniture, but the statues kept nearby were safe.
Outside the temple complex, panic reigned.
“Suddenly I saw smoke and heard explosions. I ran for cover,” said former local legislator Sarbajeet Kumar, who had been out for his daily morning walk.
The windows of one of the buildings were shattered. The wooden door of a small temple was destroyed. Debris was strewn inside another.
“There was commotion in the nearby hotels and monasteries, where hundreds of foreign tourists and domestic pilgrims stay. Everyone ran out in panic,” said Ranjit Singh, a local.