Sri Maha Bodhi :The sacred Bo-Tree of Buddhist World (ශ්‍රී මහා බෝධිය)

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After the introduction of 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 Devanampiyatissa received this sapling and planted it at the present site in Mahameghavana Garden in 249 BC. Taking this information into account today (in 2023) the Sri Maha Bodhi tree is exactly 2273 years old. Thus this tree is considered the oldest living tree in world in the recorded history.

According to Mahavamsa, on the Buddha’s 3rd visit to the island, he finally went to Anuradhapura where the Meghawana would be established and alighted on the spot where the Sacred Bo Tree would be planted later and enjoyed the bliss of the Samadhi meditation with his 500 disciples. Thus this site lies on the 9th position of Solosmasthana, The Sixteen Buddhist Sacred Sites hollowed by Buddha and also one of Atamasthana, one of the eight most sacred holy sites of Anuradhapura.

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 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 into the 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 a few metal towers and accompanied by 41 “parivara” (companion) trees.

Photos before restorations from


  1. Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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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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Driving Directions to Sri Maha Bodhi (Anuradhapura)

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

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

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo : 210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 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 : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :203 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 : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map


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