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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

By Devik Balami at
golden fence at golden temple

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig tree located in the Mahamewna Gardens, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is believed that the tree is used to be the right-wing branch from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya in India. The branch of the tree was taken and planted in 288 BC. It is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with known planting date. In the current period, this tree is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddha in Sri Lanka and is respected by Buddhists all over the world. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi has been protected by the other fig trees from the storms and animals such as monkeys, bats, etc.

It has been recorded that the government banned all the construction works within 500 meters of the sacred tree and also notified that the work will be approved if it doesn't harm the tree.

Historical accounts of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

It is recorded that the branch of the sacred fig tree, Sri Maha Bodhi was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Their. She was the daughter of Emperor Asoka and was also the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. This fig branch was planted by King Devanampiya Tissa on the high terrace which is about 6.5 m above the ground in the Mahamevnawa Park in Anuradhapura and surrounded by railings.

Contributions by kings to develop Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi as the religious site

It has been recorded that several ancient kings have contributed in developing the religious site. During the reign of King Vasabha, he placed four Buddha statues in four cardinal sides of the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree. Similarly, during the reign of King Voharika Tissa, he added metallic statues. King Mahanaga added a water canal around the sacred tree. King Sena II renovated the water canal placed around the sacred tree.

During the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, Ilupandeniye Athtadassi Thero constructed the wall to protect the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi from wild elephants. The height of the wall is 10 ft and 5 ft in thickness. The overall north-south length is 388ft and from east to west 274 ft.

In 1969, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi also got its first golden fence around it. This was constructed by some Buddhist followers under the guidance of Yatirawana Narada Thero. The iron fence was also constructed below the golden fence by the people of Gonagala. This fence was constructed under the guidance of Yagirala Pannananda Thero.

Mahavamsa states that King Gothabhaya contributed a rubble wall around the sacred tree. As reports by Dipavamsa, King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna built rock-laid terrace and lattice wall.

The site has also two Buddha statues of Shakyamuni Buddha housed in the image house. In the right side of the stone wall, there is a stone statue depicted in standing posture. The site also has the statue of cobra depicted in the embossed figures of a cobra. It is believed that the statue is the rare creation found on the site.

Religious and Social Significance of the site

The Buddhists practiced visiting and paying homage to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi from an earlier period. There is a general belief that when a person offers to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, they experienced significant positive changes. It has been customary for many Buddhists to make a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. The Buddhist generally vow for the safe delivery of their babies without malformations, to cure various ailments and for many other cures.

It has also been a tradition among farmers around Anuradhapura to offer Sri Maha Bodhi tree the rice prepared from their first paddy harvest. This is because they strongly believe that these offerings lead to a sustained paddy production with the least sufferings from drought, pest attacks and also from elephant attack. There is an annual custom for the pilgrims to visit the city and to pay homage to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.