Two dozen commandos from Thailand are guarding nearly 300 kg gold in 13 boxes in Bihar's Bodh Gaya town as work began to cover the dome of 1,500-year old Mahabodhi temple in glitter.
The much awaited work to gold-plate the dome is being carried out by a team of technical experts from Thailand, officials said.
Two days after the 289 kg gold, donated by Buddhist devotees from Thailand, was brought at Bodh Gaya in a special plane from Bangkok, technical experts have finally started the work under tight security in and around the temple, said N Dorjee, secretary of the Bodh Gaya temple management committee.
"It is a happy moment for all of us that the spire of the temple will get a glittering look with gold," Dorjee said.
Arvind Kumar Singh, a member of the committee, said the work by experts from Thailand is being videographed since it involves handling gold.
"A 40-member team, including a dozen experts and two dozen commandos, from Thailand arrived at Bodh Gaya with gold in 13 boxes to complete the work in 40 to 50 days," Singh said.
He said the team is led by Thailand's former deputy prime minister General Pricha.
"About 24 Thailand commandos are providing security to the gold boxes kept in the temple premises," Singh said.
The district administration too has deployed additional security to safeguard the gold.
Thailand-based company Kreing Thavorn Containers Co. Ltd. is carrying out the work.
Dorjee said last year Thailand's King Bhumibol Atulya took the decision to cover the dome of the temple with gold.
But it took some time to get clearance from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the work. The ASI officials will also provide technical supervision for the gold inlay work.
A special prayer will be held under the holy Bodhi tree behind the main temple Nov 16 in which around 500 devotees from Thailand, including those who donated gold, are likely to participate, Dorjee said.
According to him, the first phase of the work involving chemical treatment was completed in August to prepare the foundation for gold plating.
"Now stairs have been installed around the temple's dome to enable experts to reach the top of the structure to inlay it with thin gold sheet," he said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also shown keen interest in the work.
A string of low-intensity bombs exploded in the temple complex in July. But there were no casualties and no damage was caused to the structure.
The ancient 180 feet structure of the Mahabodhi temple is estimated to have been built between the 5th and 6th century AD. It was lost and rediscovered in the 19th century by Alexander Cunningham, who founded the ASI in 1861.
The Mahabodhi temple is the holiest pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from around the world. It marks the place where Lord Gautama is believed to attained his enlightenment, turning him into the Buddha.