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Arrival of the Bo-tree sapling

Sanghamitta Theri arrives with the Bo sapling

The Bo-tree was brought to Sri Lanka from India by Buddhist nun Sanghamitta, and it is this very tree that is venerated by Buddhists in Anuradhapura. It is also the oldest documented tree in the world. Sanghamitta Theri established the Bhikkhuni Sasana (the Order of Nuns).

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a Sacred Fig tree in Anuradhapura. It is said to be a sapling from the historical Bodhi tree under which Buddha became enlightened. It was planted in 288 BC, and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date.

It was planted on a high terrace about 6.5 m (21.3 ft) above the ground and surrounded by railings, and today it is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world.

This wall was constructed during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha, to protect it from wild elephants which might have damaged the tree.

The tree is said to be the southern branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi at Bodh Gaya in India under which Buddha attained Enlightenment.

In the 3rd century BC, the Buddha’s fig tree was brought to Sri Lanka by the Thera Sangamitta (Pali; Skt: Sanghamitra), daughter of Emperor Asoka and founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. In 249 BC, Sri Maha Bodhi was planted in the Mahameghavana Park in Anuradhapura by King Devanampiyatissa.

Together with Venerable Mahinda, her twin brother, she entered an order of Buddhist monks. The two siblings later went to Sri Lanka to spread the teachings of Buddha.

Ashoka was initially reluctant to send his daughter on an overseas mission, but because of the insistence of Sanghamitta herself, he finally agreed. She was sent to Sri Lanka together with several other nuns to start the nun-lineage (Bhikkhunis) after some female royalty from Sri Lanka court requested to be ordained as nuns.

Foreign land

Other sources believe the name to be Sanghamitra, and that she was the younger offspring of King Ashoka, the elder being Prince Mahindra.

After the war of Kalinga, when King Ashoka took the path of Buddhism, along with his Buddhist wife (who named the daughter so, as she wanted the daughter to have a Buddhist name), he decided to send his children away, to foreign land, to preach the teaching of Buddha.

She died at 39, in the ninth year of the reign of King Uttiya, and celebrations, lasting one whole week, were held in her honour throughout Ceylon.

Her body was cremated to the east of the Thuparama near the (later) Cittasala, in sight of the Bodhi tree, on a spot indicated by the Theri herself before her death. Uttiya had a thupa erected over her ashes.

Mahawamsa has following to relate:

When the lord of chariots had appointed to watch over the Bodhi-tree eighteen persons from royal families and eight from families of ministers, and moreover eight persons from Brahman families and eight from families of traders and persons from the cowherds likewise, and from the hyena and sparrowhawk-clans, (from each one man), and also from the weavers and potters and from all the handicrafts, from the nagas and the yakkhas; when then the most exalted prince had given them eight vessels of gold and eight of silver, and had brought the great Bodhi-tree to a ship on the Ganges, and likewise the Theri Samghamitta with eleven Bhikkhunis, and when he had caused those among whom Arittha was first to embark on that same ship, he fared forth from the city, and passing over the Vinjha -mountains the prince arrived, in just one week, at Tamalitti.

The gods also and the nagas and men who were worshipping the great Bodhi-tree with the most splendid offerings, arrived in just one week.

The ruler of the earth, who had caused the great Bodhi-tree to be placed on the shore of the great ocean, worshipped it once more by (bestowing upon it) the great kingship.

Great monarch

When the wish-fulfiller had consecrated the great Bodhi tree as a great monarch, he then, on the first day of the bright half of the month Maggasira, commanded that the same noble persons, eight of each (of the families) appointed at the foot of the great säla-tree to escort[6] the great Bodhi-tree, should raise up the great Bodhitree; and, descending there into the water till it reached his neck, he caused it to be set down in seemly wise on the ship.

When he had brought the great theri with the (other) theris on to the ship he spoke these words to the chief minister Maharittha: ‘Three times have I worshipped the great Bodhi-tree by (bestowing) kingship (upon it). Even so shall the king my friend also worship it by (bestowing) kingship (upon it).’

When the great king had spoken thus he stood with folded hands on the shore, and as he gazed after the vanishing great Bodhi-tree he shed tears. ‘Sending forth a net like rays of sunshine the great Bodhi-tree of the (Buddha) gifted with the ten powers departs, alas! from hence!’

Fared forth

Filled with sorrow at parting from the great Bodhi-tree Dhammasoka returned weeping and lamenting to his capital.

The ship, laden with the great Bodhi-tree, fared forth into the sea. A yojana around the waves of the great ocean were stilled.

Lotus-flowers of the five colours blossomed all around and manifold instruments of music resounded in the air.

By many devatas many offerings were provided, and the nagas practised their magic to win the great Bodhi-tree.

The great theri Samghamitta, who had reached the last goal of supernormal powers, taking the form of a griffin terrified the great snakes.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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