Bodhi Tree

Bodh Gaya, Bihar

#Historical and Heritage #Pilgrimage


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The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri MahaBodhi. According to Buddhism, after his Enlightenment, Buddha spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine was later built where he had stood.

The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of Buddha, the only shrine that could be so used. King Asoka held a festival every year in its honor in the month of Kattika. His queen, Tissarakkh? was jealous of the Tree, and three years after she became queen (i.e., in the nineteenth year of Asoka's reign), she caused the tree to be killed by means of mandu thorns. The tree, however, grew again, and a great monastery was attached to the Bodhimanda called the Bodhimanda Vihara. Among those present at the foundation of the Mah? Th?paare mentioned thirty thousand monks from the Bodhimanda Vihara, led by Cittagutta.

The tree was again cut down by King Pushyamitra Shunga in the 2nd century BC, and by King Shashanka in 600 AD. In the 7th century AD, Chinese traveler Xuanzang wrote of the tree in detail.

Every time the tree was destroyed, a new tree was planted at the same place.

In 1862 British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham wrote of the site as the first entry in the first volume of the Archaeological Survey of India:

The celebrated Bodhi tree still exists, but is very much decayed; one large stem, with three branches to the westward, is still green, but the other branches are barkless and rotten. The green branch perhaps belongs to some younger tree, as there are numerous stems of apparently different trees clustered together. The tree must have been renewed frequently, as the present Pipal is standing on a terrace at least 30 feet above the level of the surrounding country. It was in full vigour in 1811, when seen by Dr. Buchanan (Hamilton), who describes it as in all probability not exceeding 100 years of age.

However, the tree decayed further and in 1876 the remaining tree was destroyed in a storm. In 1881, Cunningham planted a new Bodhi tree on the same site.

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