By Nira Diaz | Sunday Observer
Sacred Bo tree arrives

By Nira Diaz

 

The Poya day in December is known as the Unduvap Poya Day. This day is especially important as it was on this day that Arahath Theri Sanghamitta landed in the island to establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana and also brought a Sacred Bo sapling to be planted here.

Theri Sanghamitta and the Bhikkhuni Sasana

The Bhikkhuni Sasana was established during the 3rd century BC in Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.

 

The Arahath Theri Sanghamitta, daughter of Emperor Dharmashoka and sister of Arahath Mahinda came to Sri Lanka at the request of King Devanampiyatissa to establish the Order of the Bhikkhunis in Sri Lanka. She also brought the sacred Bo sapling with her. She was accompanied by 11 Arahath bhikkhunis as well as members of the Kshathriya and Brahamin families, courtiers, ministers and several artisan families. These artisan families settled here and carried on with their particular work and today, their descendants carry on the professions of their ancestors.

Queen Anula was the consort of sub king or Uparaja Mahanaga who listened to the Dhamma preached by Arahath Mahinda and attained Sotapatti. She wished to become a bhikkhuni, and there were many other ladies who wanted to join her.

But as Arahath Mahinda was unable to ordain females due to vinaya rules, he advised King Devanampiyatissa to request Arahath Theri Sanghamitta come and establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana in the country.

After the ceremonial planting of the sacred Bo sapling, Theri Sanghamitta conferred the Pabbaja Ordination to Queen Anula who became the first bhikkhuni in the island.

Five hundred women received ordination with Queen Anula. The Bhikkhuni Sasana grew fast and flourished. However, due to foreign invasions and after the fall of Anuradhapura the Bhikkhuni Sasana was lost.

Arahath Theri Sanghamitta passed away at the age of 79 at the Haththaloka Upasikaramaya in Anuradhapura.

This was during the reign of King Utthiya, and he performed the last rites for Arahath Theri Sangamitta at a location near the Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya.

The Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya

The Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya or the Sri Maha Bodhiya is the southern branch of the Bodhiya at Buddha Gaya in India. The ascetic Siddhartha sat under this tree with his back against it and attained Enlightenment. The tree was an Esathu tree, but because of the Buddha attaining Enlightenment under it, the tree has been called a Bo tree since then.

 

The Buddha showed his gratitude to the tree by standing and gazing at it without blinking for one whole week following Enlignment. This act of the Buddha is called the ‘Animisa Lochana Poojawa’. He did it during the second week of Enlightenment .

The Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya was brought to Sri Lanka by the Theri Sanghamitta and is the world’s oldest living tree planted by man with a written and authenticated history. It was brought during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa and was planted at the Maha Mevuna Uyana by the King in 249 BC on the advice of Arahath Mahinda.

Historical and literary records show that King Devanampiyatissa sent a mission which included his nephew Arittha to request Emperor Dharmashoka to send his daughter the Theri Sangamitta to Sri Lanka to establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana and to bring along with her a sapling of the sacred Bo tree at Buddha Gaya. After a seven-day long sea journey, the Theri Sanghamittha and her entourage and the sacred Bo sapling anchored at Dambakolapatuna between Jaffna and Mannar in Northern Sri Lanka. They were received by King Devanampiyatissa.

Three ancient chronicles the Mahavamsa (5th century AC), the Samanthapasadika (5 century AC) and the Maha Bodhivamsa (12th century AC) record miracles which are said to have taken place when the Maha Bodhi Sapling was taken from the parent Bo Tree, ceremonially brought and planted at the Mahamevuna Uyan in Anuradhapura.

The Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya stands on the highest of five terraces 21 feet above ground level. There are many other Bodhi trees called Parivara Bodhi on the other terraces. On the advice of Arahath Mahinda 32 saplings of the Bo tree were planted in other areas of the island. The bodhiyas at Kalutara and Thanthrimale are two of these. Not long after the Jaya Shri Maha Bodhiya was brought to Sri Lanka, the original Bo tree at Buddha Gaya was destroyed by Queen Thishayarakkha, a consort of King Dharmashoka. She was of a different religion. The saplings which sprang from the roots of this Bo tree were destroyed twice by war and natural causes. The Bo tree now at Buddha Gaya is a fourth generation one.

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