Some branches of Bodh Gaya Bo tree chopped off


By S Venkat Narayan
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, August 2: Some branches of the ‘Bodhi Tree’, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, were chopped off on Wednesday after a branch fell on the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya on July 29.

Bodh Gaya is about 100 km or 62 miles from Patna, the capital of Bihar state.

The chopping took place in the presence of local officials on the instructions of the Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI) and Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC).

BTMC Secretary N Dorjee and members Radhakrishna Mishra and Arvind Singh were present when the exercise took place.

The FRI has been entrusted with the task of looking after the tree.

A team of FRI visits Bodh Gaya from time to time to maintain the tree, official sources told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.The Bodhi Tree, also known as Bo (from the Sinhalese Bo),is a large and very old Sacred Fig tree (Ficus religiosa) located in Bodh Gaya, under which Siddhartha Gautama is said to have achieved enlightenment, and came to be known as Gautama Buddha.

In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed. In India it is widely known as the pipal tree.

The term "Bodhi Tree" is also widely applied to currently existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, which is a direct descendant planted in 288 BC from the original specimen.

This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism are the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti in Uttar Pradesh, India, and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

Both are believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.

The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine, called Animisalocana cetiya, was later erected on the spot where he stood.

A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya, built in 7th century, after the original built by King Ashoka in 3rd century BCE.

The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of the Buddha. King Asoka was most diligent in paying homage to the Bodhi tree, and held a festival every year in its honour in the month of Kattika.[3]

His queen Tissarakkh? was jealous of the Tree, and three years after she became queen—- in the nineteenth year of Asoka’s reign—-she caused the tree to be killed by means of mandu thorns. The tree, however, grew again, and a great monastery was attached to the Bodhimanda called the Bodhimanda Vihara.

The tree was again cut down by King Pusyamitra Sunga in the 2nd century BC, and by King Shashanka in 600 AD. Every time the tree was destroyed, a new tree was planted at the same place.

Buddhists recount that, while the Buddha was alive, he sanctioned the planting of a seed from the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in front of the gateway of Jetavana Monastery near Sravasti in Uttar Pradesh, 120km from the state’s capital Lucknow, to enable people to make their offerings in the name of the Buddha when he was away on pilgrimage.

For this purpose Moggallana took a fruit from the tree as it dropped from its stalk, before it reached the ground. It was planted in a golden jar by Anathapindika with great pomp and ceremony.

A sapling immediately sprouted forth, fifty cubits high, and in order to consecrate it the Buddha spent one night under it, rapt in meditation. This tree, because it was planted under the direction of Ananda, came to be known as the Ananda Bodhi.Then he ate six grains of rice.

According to the Mahavamsa, the Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest verified specimen of any angiosperm. In that year—-the 12th year of King Asoka’s reign—-the right branch of the Bodhi tree was brought by his daughter Sanghamitt? to Anur?dhapura and placed by Dev?n?mpiyatissa.

The Buddha, on his death bed, had resolved five things: one being that the branch which should be taken to Sri Lanka should detach itself. From Gay?, the branch was taken to P?taliputta, and from there to T?malitt?, where it was placed in a ship and taken to Jambukola, across the sea. finally it arrived at Anuradhapura, staying on the way at Tivakka. Those who assisted the king at the ceremony of the planting of the Tree were the nobles of K?jarag?ma and of Candanag?ma and of Tivakka.

In 1913, Anagarika Dharmapala took a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi to Hawaii, where he presented it to his benefactor, Mary Foster – who had funded much Buddhist missionary work. She planted it in the grounds of her house in Honolulu, by the Nu’uana stream. On her death she left her house and its grounds to the people of Honolulu, and it became the Foster Botanical Garden. The Bo Tree still exists, being the oldest in the United States of America.

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