Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi – Anuradhapura
Sri Lanka, a country enriched by its historical value and the many ethnic communities living in harmony has gained worldwide acclamation as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. While it is evident that various religions are practised on this island, majority of these individuals are Buddhist devotees. Situated in the North Central Province of the country, Anuradhapura is home to some of the most sacred temples and ancient relics that whisper the silent tales of the evolution of Sri Lankan history. Out of the many historically valued sites, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi stands out as the most sacred of all.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, now standing tall was initially the southern branch from the sacred tree from Bodh Gaya, under which Lord Gautama Buddha attained eternal bliss of enlightenment. Sangamitta Maha Theree, the daughter of the great Indian Emperor Asoka was the figure behind its journey to Sri Lanka. The tree was planted by King Devanmapiyatissa, the ruler of the nation in that era, under the guidance of Mihindu Maha Thero in 288 BC in the sacred gardens of Mahamewna. The original bo tree in Bodh Gaya was destroyed due to religious conflicts that arose under the realm of a queen; since then, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi stands as the only preserved branch of the tree. Therefore, this is a consecrated and sacred place of worship for Buddhist devotees all over the world.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the oldest living tree planted by a human and is now over 2000 years old. A railing was constructed and fig trees were planted around this sacred plant to ensure that it is preserved and secured from foe. Various unfortunate events occurred as this tree was subjected to vandalism and other ruthless attacks. Despite these disastrous occurrences, it shines in glory among the Buddhist devotees, Buddhist chants, smell of jasmine flowers and incense sticks.
Those entrusted with the up keeping and wellbeing of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi perform various types of rituals commonly known as ‘bodhi pooja’ at designated times. Lighting of coconut oil lamps, beating of drums, watering of the tree with scented water while prayers are being chanted to the tree deities (rukkha-devata) asking for protection are some of the rituals practiced to safeguard this sacred artefact.
It is believed that a visit will bestow its visitors with blessings to last a lifetime and no local or foreigner should miss an opportunity to visit the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi that carries great significance in both religious and historical aspects of Sri Lanka.