All About Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi: The Miracle Sacred Tree in Sri Lanka

By now, you might clearly know that Sri Lanka has a deep tourism attraction owing to its natural beauty, marvelous history, as well as due to its rich culture and traditions. Although Sri Lanka is a diverse country home for many ethnicities, and religions, the majority of Sri Lankans belong to the Sinhala Buddhist category. Thus, there is no wonder in spotting a number of Buddhist religious attractions, while you backpack on this splendid island. Among them, Sri Maha Bodhi happens to be one of the most significant, sacred, and inspired miracle places. Hence, we thought of sharing with you a few amazing facts about Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, while highlighting its significance.  

What is Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi?

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the sacred bo tree, which stands in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, in Sri Lanka. Further, it is famous as the closest authentic living link to Lord Buddha, present in the modern world. Since the Esathu tree or Fig Tree gave its shade for Lord Buddha’s enlightenment, Buddhists offer a venerated status for all Fig trees. Still, Buddhists consider this specific sacred Bo Tree, in Anuradhapura, as the most sacred and the most important. That is because it is the southern branch of the ancient Fig Tree in Bodh Gaya, in India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. 

Who brought Sri Maha Bodhi?

Sanghamitta Maha Theri brought Sri Maha Bodhi to this splendid island of Sri Lanka. Still, how Sri Lanka got it, and how it happened is indeed something interesting and worth getting to know. So, why not? Let us share with you this wonderful story as well. 

According to Mahavansa, Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka three times, and since the Sri Lankans had a considerable attachment with this religion. Still, it is Mahinda Thero that re-established Buddhism in the state of Sri Lanka. This happened during the Anuradhapura Period. Mahinda Thero was the son of Emperor Asoka from India, and this emperor maintained a good relationship with Sri Lankan kings. Hence, as a result of these connections, Emperor Ashoka sent his only son Arhanthà Mahinda Thero to Sri Lanka to establish Buddhism. At that time, King Devanampiya Tissa ruled Sri Lanka and he also embraced Buddhism. 

As a result of this, King Devanampiya Tissa requested something sacred to worship and pilgrim in the memory of Lord Buddha. In response to this humble request, King Asoka sent his daughter, the Buddhist nun called Sanghamitta Maha Theri, to Sri Lanka with the Southern branch of the original Esethu tree. This Bo sapling was ceremoniously presented to Devanampiya Tissa back then. Later on, he planted it in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura. Since then, Buddhist monks and adherents have dedicated their lives to protect this sacred tree, and preserve it for this long. 

How old is Sri Maha Bodhi? 

So by now, you clearly know that Sri Lanka got this Bo sapling during the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Accordingly, King Devanampiya Tissa planted this sacred plant in 288 BC. Hence, the age of this sacred fig tree is more than 2300 years by now. Besides, it is the oldest human planted tree in the world, with planting date, and recorded history.  

What are the beliefs enrolled with this sacred tree?

Buddhists in Sri Lanka have a belief in the blessings encountered by visiting and worshiping this most sacred Bodhi tree. Hence, hundreds of villagers who live around the sacred city of Anuradhapura, frequently go there and take blessings. In addition, the other people who are far away, try to visit Anuradhapura and pay homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi at least once or twice a year. It is simply because the Buddhists have a strong belief that the offerings made to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi can produce significant and positive changes in their personal life. 

Many Buddhists, as a custom, visit this sacred location and place a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the safe delivery of their children and for many other cures. Furthermore, Buddhists go in front of this Bodhi and take blessings before starting a new chapter in their life or even before an exam. It has become a long tradition among the farmers around Anuradhapura to offer the ‘Aluth Sahal’ to the Sri Maha Bodhi tree. It is a meal from their first paddy harvest they get each year. They strongly believe that such sacrifices will lead to sustainable paddy production, which will be less affected by pests, including elephant damage, which is the least affected by drought.

Can anyone visit this religious place?

Of course, yes! It opens daily from 6 AM to 9 PM. All local pilgrims can freely go there, but for the tourist, it costs SLR 200. Further, anyone who visits this sacred place should go through a security check. In addition, the pilgrims are not allowed to enter the upper terrace. All worship rituals and sacrifices take place on the altars located on the lower terrace. Furthermore, if you plan to visit there, the best is to dress in a light color, preferably white. Also, make sure your dress covers your shoulders, and it is at least up to your knee-length. That way, you will abide by the Buddhist cultural values, and preserve the sacred nature of this significant religious place.  

What are the main festivals on behalf of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi?

There are four major ceremonies to honor Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Briefs about each are as follows.

  1. Duruthu Mangalle – It is on Duruthu full moon poya day. Devotees offer the first batch of new rice at harvest time to the Bodhi tree on this day. Hence, this ritual is famous as the ‘Aluth Sahala Mangalyaya’, or the ‘New Rice Festival’. As a part of this festival, offering pirith to the devotees and offering milk rice for the Bodhi tree and Ruwanwalesia takes place. 
  1. Parana Avurudu Mangalle – This festival falls one week before the Sinhala new year. Chief Bhikkhu announces the due date for this ceremony. Prior to the scheduled date, the monks representing Atamasthana and Kapumahathuru, led by the Aramasthanadhipati, gather at the sacred Bodhi tree and offer Gilanpasa, flowers, and incense drums to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Piriths are offered to the deities led by Kaladevabandara, the goddess who is said to protect the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Finally, the monks sing the Deva Puja. Eventually, they end the ceremony by performing the same rituals at Ruwanweliseya.
  1. Aluth Avurudu Mangalle – This festival falls at the beginning of April month. A ritual bath takes place with regard. Accordingly, devotees bathe the buddha statue with water mixed with herbs. 
  1. Kartika Mangalle – It is on the full moon day of  October – November. It is a festival of lights. Devotees light thousands of clay lamps and offer milk rice to the Bodhi tree and Ruwanweliseya.

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Attack

Several disasters and attacks took place around this religious place.

In the 13th century, Anuradhapura was abandoned and encroached upon by jungles due to a series of South India Attacks. However, some brave Sinhalese stayed on and protected the Sri Maha Bodhi. They carried wood and light flames around the tree to prevent the wild elephants from eating the leaves. After that, two storms took place in 1907 and 1911, and they caused some minor damages for this sacred tree. In 1929, a vandal mad man tried to cut down the Sri Maha Bodhi tree. Fortunately, he only got a chance to cut off one branch. Furthermore, then in 1985, terrorists launched an attack on devotees at the tree. This attack killed more than 100 people, but the tree remained unharmed. 

Of course, Sri Maha Bodhi became the target of a number of attacks. Yet, nothing could harm it. Therefore, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi still remains standing in grandeur, as revered as ever, with its sacred, and inspired miracles.

The Bottom Line

In summary, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is undoubtedly the most sacred and important place for Buddhists around the world. Hence, the Sri Lankan government, together with the Chief monk of Mahamevnawa has set up rules and regulations in order to preserve the sacredness of that place. At present, this sacred place is under the custody of the Maha Vihara of Anuradhapura. Besides, even though a number of pilgrims surround this location, the calmness of this place is never any less. Therefore spotting hundreds of monks and laypeople performing rituals, and meditating under the Sri Maha Bodhi is simply something usual. 

On a final note, Sri Maha Bodhi is simply a living heritage. So, by chance, if you ever visit this significant tourist attraction of Sri Lanka, never forget to visit this most important religious site on this island.