Sacred City of Anuradhapura-3 : Sri Maha Bodhi Tree (Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka)

In 247 B.C, Mahinda, son of Ashoka King in India, brought the Buddhism to Sri Lanka. For a while, Ashoka's daughter Sangamitta came to Sri Lanka with a cutting of Bodhi tree of Buddha Gaya according to Sri Lanka king's request. It was a tree under which Buddha had been spiritually enlightened. The cutting has become this Sri Maha Bodhi Tree.

The tree is large but it is no size when imagining the tree as the age of 2300 years old. And, it has a calm feature. I imaged a dense and strict atmosphere for the place where Buddha had been spiritually enlightened after severe practice. The actual Bodhi Tree doesn't grow too thick the leaf, either overflows the bright sunlight through the leaves. It is a comfortable and close space. Would the genuine Bodhi tree had been similar to the Bodhi Tree of Anuradhapura when Buddha had been spiritually enlightened ? Under the Bodhi tree of Anuradhapra, it seems that enlighting is not completely isolated from this world but to accept and watch it generously.

Originally it had been planted on the ground of the same level as the surroundings. For several thousand years, the soil had been piled up little by little as the Bodhi tree had grew up and it reached at the terrace level today. Now, one main temple and three small temples are put on all sides of the terrace around the Bodhi tree. But, since the tree extends the branch regardless of the direction, the whole terrace including the indoor of temple and the outdoor on the terrace is like one temple covered with the roof of big treetop. Visitors keep praying, sitting on the ground of the indoor of temple and the outdoor in their own way or circulating the terrace clockwise. There are also people who spend the time here all day. For me, here is a place with so gentle sence that I would want to spend every day under the tree when growing old.

In reality, the Bodhi tree was not safe and sound during 2300 years. During several hundred years after the transfer of the capital in the 10th century, it had been protected by limited monks and believers. Afterwards it recovered the position as the sacred ground, but the sufferings included the damage by the elephant and the storm, the spoil of the root or the attacks by the Hindu occurred one after another. Now, at the entrance of the precincts, they go through the severe baggage inspection, because the Bodhi tree that seemingly looks peaceful is, even now, a symbolical existence of the dispute in Sri Lanka where the problem between Shinhara resident of the Buddhism and Tamil resident of Hinduism is not resolved. For the time of need, the tree descendants divided from the main Bodhi Tree are planted in the precincts. The cutting newly brought from Buddha Gaya also seems to plant here.

To Japanese Version

access : 4 hours and half by train and 5 hours by car from Colombo. 2 km to Sri Maha Bodhi Tree from the train station

reference materials :

地球の歩き方「スリランカ」(ダイヤモンド・ビッグ社、2007)

Mahavihara at Anuradhapura (T. G. Kulatunga, Tharanjee Prints, 2002)

upload : 2007.10

update : 2008.01

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Photo by Daigo Ishii