Sanghamitta Bodhiya in Jaffna (යාපනය සංඝමිත්තා බෝධිය)

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Unduvap (December) Full Moon Day holds a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankan Buddhists due to its close connection with Theri Sanghamitta, Emperor Asoka’s daughter. Sanghamitta was a noblewoman with deep religious devotion who devoted her life to the welfare and happiness of the people of Sri Lanka. Her self-sacrifice is still remembered and celebrated on this auspicious day.

It was on an Unduvap (December) Full Moon Day in 249 BCE that Theri Sangamitta arrived at the Dambakolapatuna port in Jaffna with a sapling of the original Sri Maha Bodhi in India. King Devanampiyatissa received the sapling at the port, carried it in a great procession, and planted it in Anuradhapura where it stands today.

Of the first 8 saplings arising out of the Sri Maha Bodhi, the first was planted at the landing place Jambukola on the spot where the great Bodhi tree had stood after leaving the ship (Mahavamsa, chapter XIX verses 60-61).

In 1984, Mr. Rasanayagam identified the first of the Ashtapala Bodhi Trees as possibly the ancient Tree standing by the side of Paralay Kandaswamy Temple at Chulipuram about half a mile from the port of Jambukola Patuna.

Chulipuram is a Tamilized version of the ancient name Chulapura. Among the sixteen clans who arrived with the Sri Maha Bodhi, there were eight princes. Of them, Bodhi Gupta and Sumitta, belonging to the Lambakarna Clan. Princesses from the Keeraveli Clan, Chandra Clan, and Chula Clan were married to them. It can be inferred that Chulapura was a place where these Chula Clans were settled. Therefore, it is logical to assume that the Sanghamitta Bodhi was planted in Chulapura, where the guardians of the Sri Maha Bodhi were settled (Seneviruwan, 2023)

The temple where the Bodhi tree was planted may have been destroyed during the Dutch period. There is evidence that there was a madam (an ambalama) near this place later. This is because there was access to clean water from the pond of the temple and the route to the east of Jaffna through Karathivu was through this area. Since the 1940s this area has been called Paralai and Gana Devi Kovil was built near the bodhi. Then, in the 1950s, a Murugan Kovil was established and further developed near the Madam.

In 1984, E.T. Kannagara too left a brief description of the Sanghamitta Bodhiya and stated that the ancient temple at the Bodhiya built by King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BCE) is in ruins (Kannangara, 1993). Therefore it seems there were at least some remains of the ancient temple even at that time.

Balaguru Sami, the priest of this Murugan Kovil, died recently and was a person who was fluent in Sinhala and English. This is what he had said about this place. “In the past, people from the south used to travel in carts to Nainathivu. First, they came here worshipped, made offerings at the Bodhiya, and left for Nainativu. They called this the Sanghamitta Bodhi. There is an old woman who swept and cleaned the Murugan kovil. The doctors said she had cancer. She sweeps and lights lamps near the Bodhi every day. Later cancer was cured. There are miracles like that. People from the south will not come after the war. Tell them to come. This is an important place for them.” (Seneviruwan, 2023)

This old Bo Tree known as Sangamitta Bodhiya at the premises of Murugan Kovil situated in Paralai village in the Grama Niladhari Division No. J/174 of Chulipuram East in Walikamam West Divisional Secretary’s Division in Jaffna District, Northern Province was declared as a protected archaeological site on 1st February 2023.

Although the normal Tamil population who had lived in harmony with the Sihalaese in the past awaits the resumption of pilgrimages of the Buddhists, the petty-minded Tamil politicians in the area are seeing these as threats to their control over the Tamil People. On 5th August 2023 students of Jaffna University and Member of Parliament Shivagnanam Seedharan were involved in the protest on the way to Murugan Temple, against the gazetting of the Sanghamitta Bo tree near the Murugan Kovil as a protected archaeological site by the Department of Archaeology.

References

  1. Rasanayagam, C. (1984) Ancient Jaffna: Being a research into the history of Jaffna, from very early times to the Portuguese period (reprint 1926 .). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.
  2. Mahanama, Geiger, W.H. and Bode, M. (1912) The Mahavamsa: Or The Great Chronicle of Ceylon. London: H. Frowde for the Pali Text Society.
  3. Wilgammula Thero, S.P. (1970) සිංහල බෝධිවංශය. Colombo: Lake House.
  4. Kannangara, E.T. (1993) Jaffna and the Sinhala Heritage. 2 (revised). Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.
  5. Seneviruwan, M. (2023) සංඝමිත්තා බෝධි මළුව ඇමද සුවපත් වූ දෙමළ කාන්තාව, Divaina. Available at: https://divaina.lk/සංඝමිත්තා-බෝධි-මළුව-ඇමද-ස/ (Accessed: 19 October 2023).
  6. Wikramanayaka, V. (2023) ‘Monuments to be declared as Ancient Monuments’, The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka EXTRAORDINARY, 2317/57, p. 9A.

Also See

Map of Sanghamitta Bodhiya in Jaffna

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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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

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Travel Directions to Sanghamitta Bodhiya in Jaffna

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. The first one is over the Elephant Pass which is the normal route to Jaffna. The other entrance is from Pooneryn over the newly built Sangupiddi Bridge. This road connects to Mannar.

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Kurunegala)Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Puttalam)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route from Jaffna town to Sanghamitta Bodhiya
Through :
Distance : 19 km
Travel Time : 30 mins
Driving Directions : see on google map

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