Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya ෴ ජය ශ්රී මහා බෝධිය
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a historical sacred bo tree (Ficus religiosa) in the Mahamewuna Garden in historical city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. This is believed to be a tree grown from a cutting of the southern branch from the historical sacred bo tree, Sri Maha Bodhi, which was destroyed during Emperor Ashoka the Great time, at Buddha Gaya in India, under which Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) attained Enlightenment. The Buddhist nun Sangamitta Maha Theri, a daughter of Indian Emperor Ashoka, in 288 BC, brought the tree cutting to Sri Lanka during the reign of Sinhalese King Devanampiya Tissa. At more than 2,300 years old, it is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. The Mahavamsa, or the great chronicle of the Sinhalese, provides an elaborate account of the establishment of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi on the Island and the subsequent development of the site as a major Buddhist pilgrimage site.
Today, the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi is situated on a high terrace, about 6.5 meters above the ground, and surrounded by 4 other lower-level terraces with Bo trees called “Parivara Bodhi” planted for its protection. The site is currently administered by the Chief High Priest of Atamasthana and the Atamasthana Palakasabha, the administrative body of the Atamasthana, and receives millions of pilgrims each year. The site is open to visitors and continuously hosts numerous acts of worship throughout the year. However, access to the uppermost terrace where the bo tree is located is restricted due to the old age of the tree and various acts of vandalism it has endured throughout history, including a terrorist attack by LTTE in 1985, where around 146 pilgrims were massacred.
The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred Bo tree, that stands in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Not only is it the closest authentic living link to Gautama Buddha, it is also the oldest human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date and a recorded history. About 2,600 years ago, Lord Gautama Buddha sat with his back against an Esathu (Aśvattha) tree on the banks of the Neranjana River in Bodhgaya, India. It was at this moment, as he sat against the tree, that the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. In doing so, the tree also gained a venerated status. It became known as the Bodhi tree, and pilgrims came to see it even within the lifetime of the Buddha.
Later, in 236 BC, the Buddhist nun Sanghamitta Maha Theri was sent by Emperor Asoka from India to Sri Lanka. With her, she carried a southern branch of the original sacred fig. This branch was ceremoniously presented to Devanampiya Tissa, one of the earliest kings of Sri Lanka whose reign was notable for the arrival of Buddhism. In 288 BC, Tissa planted the branch of the Bodhi tree in his Royal Park in Anuradhapura.
The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, as it became known, has since been cared for and protected by Buddhist monks and dedicated kings. Statues, water canals, golden fences, and walls have been built around the tree over the centuries, and many vows and offerings have been made by Buddhists at the foot of the sacred fig. At times the tree has faced serious threats, and not only from wild elephants. Two storms in 1907 and 1911 resulted in broken branches. A vandal attacked the tree in 1929, hacking off another branch. In 1985, Tamil Tiger separatists stormed the site and massacred 146 Sinhalese-Buddhists on the upper terrace.
Religious and social significance
Buddhists on the Island have had a practice of visiting and paying homage to the most sacred Bodhi tree. It is an annual custom for pilgrims from far-away villages to visit the city of Anuradhapura and to pay homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi. The caretaker of this site provides various offerings on a daily basis. The Buddhists in general have a strong belief that offerings made to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi have produced significant and positive changes in their life. It has also been customary for many Buddhists to make a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the safe delivery of their babies without malformations and for many other cures. It has also been a long tradition among farmers around Anuradhapura to offer the Sri Maha Bodhi tree the rice prepared from their first paddy harvest. They strongly believe that such offerings lead to a sustained paddy production with the least sufferings from drought as well as pest attacks, including elephant damage.