International Competition

Sanctum Light Art of the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya

The ambitious Lighting the Mahabodhi (LTM) project is almost complete. For the final, most sensitive, and most important step, Siddhartha’s Intent India is announcing an international competition for the design of a light sculpture/light art installation in the outer and inner sanctums of the temple. The goal is to design and create a light art installation in these two sacred spaces in the heart of the temple.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision is for modern design thought and creativity to be joined with this sacred space to create an art installation that has wide, youthful, and contemporary appeal while preserving the historical authenticity of this most sacred of sites. We are calling for innovative, creative artists and light designers to join the competition.

Please submit your entry between September 1 and October 15, 2022.

If you have questions that aren’t answered by the information in the guidelines and specifications, please write to [email protected].

The Space (Outer Hall and Inner Sanctum)

The temple faces east and consists of a small forecourt in the east with niches on either side that contain statues of the Buddha. A doorway leads into a small hall, beyond which lies the inner sanctum, which contains a gilded statue of the seated Buddha touching the earth as witness to his attainment of enlightenment. Both of these halls have vaulted ceilings reaching a height of 6.5 meters. We are looking to replace the existing chandeliers with a  light art installation.

The Light Art/Sculpture

The form of the light art installation is up to the vision of the artist. It’s not necessarily a chandelier. It doesn’t need to have light output, but it can. The materials used can be the conventional ones used in a chandelier, such as crystal, brass, copper, gold, steel, or wood. But you need not be limited by convention. Your palette can include marble, stone, fabric, silk, plastic, or whatever material you imagine. Similarly with the form. We encourage you to defy convention. You may be inspired by Buddhist shapes, symbols, and forms, but don’t be limited. The limitations are the volume available in the spaces and the hanging or suspending mechanism; the installation has to be suspended from the ceiling of the vault.

This is the most holy space for Buddhists, the navel of the universe. With sensitivity to this fact, let your creativity flow.

Guidelines and Submission Criteria

Consider the following design criteria:

Innovative character of the overall design
Innovative and sustainable use of materials
Breadth of practical application
Practicality of manufacturing
Aesthetics in the context of Buddhism
Ease of use and maintenance

About the Entries

Entries should be in PDF or PPT format.
Entries should be complete in detail and design to enable fabrication and manufacturing.
Entries must be original creations that don’t infringe on any creative copyright.
Individuals or teams are welcome to submit.
Entries will be evaluated on their concept design (sketches, renderings, and inspiration).

Judging Criteria

The competition jury includes renowned and eminent designers and artists who are inspired by the Buddha and the Mahabodhi temple. They will judge entries by the following criteria:

The vision, the story of inspiration behind the design
Aesthetics in the context of Buddhism
Practicality of manufacturing
Ease of maintenance
How the proposed design would tie in with the existing sacred sanctum, while being bold and creative

Terms and Conditions

With their submission, the entrant agrees to allow the use of all submitted imagery, sketches, renderings, etc., solely for marketing and promotional material.
The submitted design and material are free offerings by the entrant to the LTM committee. No copyright or financial burden is created or implied on the LTM committee.
The LTM committee reserves the right to adapt the selected design in the manufacturing stage, for appropriate site use.


The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This description is largely based on their website.

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of  the Buddha, and particularly to his attainment of enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates back to the 5th or 6th century C.E. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely of brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.

The Mahabodhi Temple, perhaps the most sacred of all pilgrimage sites for Buddhist practitioners, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that marks the place where the historical Buddha attained awakening. In addition to the descendant of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat and contemplated enlightenment, there are six other sacred sites in Bodhgaya, Bihar.

Lighting the Mahabodhi

“Lighting the Mahabodhi” is perhaps the most ambitious Buddhist light offering ever undertaken. The objective of this sacred endeavor is to completely overhaul the temple complex’s aged lighting and electrical systems.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche proposed the undertaking in 2015, and in 2017 received approval from the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC). Siddhartha’s Intent India, a Buddhist educational organisation under Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, undertook the task of executing the entire project.

The new lighting system will ultimately be owned by the BTMC. In addition to highlighting the magnificence of the sacred temple and places of worship, the upgrades will improve the safety and comfort of Buddhist pilgrims. They are designed to meet the specific needs of the temple, the pilgrims, and the rituals and ceremonies conducted there.

Since work began on the project in the spring of 2019, we have installed close to 1,500 lights in about 50 locations in the Mahabodhi Temple complex. We have laid over 10 kilometres of electrical and control cables, panels, outdoor enclosures, UPSs,  dimming controls, and other state-of-the-art lighting and electrical infrastructure. We have also installed a brand-new sound system, within and outside of the main temple. We are eager and excited to make sure that this precious offering is both contemporary and classic and is built to survive the ravages of time so that it will continue to inspire people in the long run. The project, and the aesthetic it has created at this holy site, have been very well received, not just by the BTMC and its members, but also by pilgrims, local staff, and the wider Buddhist sangha.

The entire project was crowdfunded by donors from around the world through the efforts of Khyentse Foundation. We are also grateful to the lighting consultants and designers Design Matrix and Be Lit for their initial and on-going consultations on the project.

Read more reports on Lighting the Mahabodhi.

Plan view