Sri Maha Bodhi (The sacred Bo-Tree)
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. The king Tissa received the sapling and planted it at the present site in 249 BC. Taking this information to account today (in 2004) is tree is exactly 2253 years old. Thus this tree is the oldest tree in world in the recorded history.
Even after the Apura 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 19xx this religious ground was attached by the Tamil terrorists (LTTE) which brutally murdered a large number of innocent devotees who had come to worship the tree creating a blood bath.
Today you can see this 2250 year old tree which is helped by few metal towers and accompanied by 41 “parivara” (companion) trees.
Photos before restoration from www.imagesofceylon.com
May 6, 2007