Sri Maha Bodhi (The sacred Bo-Tree) – ශ්‍රී මහා බෝධිය

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Entrance to the Bo Tree Enclosure as in 1896 from The ruined cities of Ceylon by Henry W. Cave
Entrance to the Bo Tree Enclosure as in 1896 from The ruined cities of Ceylon by Henry W. Cave

After bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mahinda Thero in 250 BC Emperor Asoka in India sent his daughter Theri Sanghamitta to the island with a branch of the Sacred Bodhi obtained from the main stem of the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya under which Buddha attained enlightenment. King Tissa received the sapling and planted it at the present site in 249 BC. Taking this information to account today (in 2022) the Sri Maha Bodhi tree is exactly 2272 years old. Thus this tree is  considered the oldest living tree in world in the recorded history.

In 1860, Tennent writes; “But that which renders the fallen city illustrious even in ruins, is the possession of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodin-Wahanse, “the Victorious, Illustrious, Supreme Lord, the Sacred Bo-Tree,” the planting of which forms the grandest episode in the sacred annals of Ceylon. The Bo-tree of Anarajapoora is, in all probability, the oldest historical tree in the world. It was planted 288 years before Christ, and hence it is now 2147 years old. Ages varying from one to five thousand years have been assigned to the baobabs of Senegal, the eucalyptus of Tas-mania, the dragon-tree of Orotava, the Wellingtonia of California, and the chestnut of Mount Etna. But all these estimates are matters of conjecture, and such calculations, however ingenious, must be purely inferential ; whereas the age of the Bo-tree is matter of record^ its conservancy has been an object of solicitude to successive dynasties. and the Story of its Vicissitudes has been presented in a series of continuous chronicles amongst the most authentic that live been handed down by mankind.

Compared with it the Oak of Ellerslie is but a sapling; and the Conqueror’s Oak in Windsor Forest, barely numbers half its years. The yew-trees of Fountains Abbey are believed to have flourished there twelve hundred years ago; the olives in the Garden of Gethsemane were full grown when the Saracens were expelled from Jerusalem; and the cypress of Soma, in Lombardy, is said to have been a tree in the time of Julius Caesar; yet, the Bo-tree is older than the oldest of these by a century, and would almost seem to verify the prophecy pronounced when it was planted, that it would “flourish and be green for ever.”

Even after the Anuradhapura was deserted as the capital of the country and encroached by the jungle, pious people nevertheless tendered to the tree effortlessly. The villagers lit bonfires to frighten off wild elephants. As the time went on the villagers made it a habit to collect firewood for the whole year on one single day. This possession was called “Daramiti Perahara” (Firewood Possession) which continues up to this day.”

There are special guards who look after the Bodhi Tree. This again is an age old custom continued to date by people who live in the neighbourhood whose ancestors have received the land for their services. This may be probably one of the oldest surviving religious professions in the world.

The bodhi tree was subjected to a vandalised act by a madman who tried to cut off the tree in 1929. He did manage to cut off a branch of the tree. Then again in 1985 this holy ground faced a ruthless attack by the Tamil terrorists (LTTE) who stormed in to premises brutally gunning down 229 innocent civilians including 17monks, 21 nuns, 52 children, 41 women and 98 men while 385 got wounded.

Today you can see this 2260+ year old tree which is helped by few metal towers and accompanied by 41 “parivara” (companion) trees.

Photos before restorations from www.imagesofceylon.com

References

  1. Tennent, J., 1860. Ceylon : Volume II (An account of the Island Physical, Historical, Topographical with Notices of Its Natural History, Antiquities and Products. 1st ed. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, pp.613-614.
  2. B.W. Harischandra, 1908. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. With Forty-six Illustrations. 1st ed. Colombo: Brahmachari Walisingha Harischandra.

Also See

Map of Sri Maha Bodhi

ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින් – Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map –
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Sri Maha Bodhi (Anuradhapura)

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttalam (Puttalama) and though Kurunegala. Traveling from Puttalam you will pass scenic Wilpattu area. the From Kurunegala there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is though Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the commonly used is the Kurunegala – Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chillaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo :213 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Ambepussa – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 217 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Ambepussa – Kurunegala – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel time : 3 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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