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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
ජය ශ්‍රී මහා බෝධිය
Sacred Bodhi before c. 1913 and in the recent past.
SpeciesBodhi (Ficus religiosa)
LocationAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Coordinates8°20′41″N 80°23′48″E / 8.34472°N 80.39667°E / 8.34472; 80.39667Coordinates: 8°20′41″N 80°23′48″E / 8.34472°N 80.39667°E / 8.34472; 80.39667
Date seeded288 BC (planted)
CustodianMahavihara of Anuradhapura

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (Sinhala: ජය ශ්‍රී මහා බොධිය) is a sacred bo tree in the Mahamewna Gardens, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is the southern branch from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Buddha attained Enlightenment. It was planted in 288 BC,[1][2][3] and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date.[4] Today it is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world.

The other fig trees that surround the sacred tree protect it from storms and animals such as monkeys, bats, etc.[citation needed]

In April 2014, the government banned all construction within 500 metres (1,600 ft) of the tree. Only construction that obviously will not harm the tree will be allowed.[5]

Religious and social significance

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Buddhists on the Island have had a practice of visiting and paying homage to the most sacred Bodhi tree. It is an annual custom for pilgrims from far-away villages to visit the city of Anuradhapura and to pay homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi. The caretaker of this site provides various offerings on a daily basis. The Buddhists in general have a strong belief that offerings made to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi have produced significant and positive changes in their life. It has also been customary for many Buddhists to make a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the safe delivery of their babies without malformations and for many other cures. It has also been a long tradition among farmers around Anuradhapura to offer the Sri Maha Bodhi tree the rice prepared from their first paddy harvest. They strongly believe that such offerings lead to a sustained paddy production with the least sufferings from drought as well as pest attacks, including elephant damage.


The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred Bo tree, or Ficus religiosa, that stands in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Not only is it the closest authentic living link to Gautama Buddha, it is also the oldest human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date and a recorded history.

About 2,600 years ago, Lord Gautama Buddha sat with his back against an Esathu tree on the banks of the Neranjana River in Bodhgaya, India. It was at this moment, as he sat against the tree, that the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. In doing so, the tree also gained a venerated status. It became known as the Bodhi tree, and pilgrims came to see it even within the lifetime of the Buddha.

Later, in 236 BC, the Buddhist nun Sanghamitta Maha Theri was sent by Emperor Asoka from India to Sri Lanka. With her, she carried a southern branch of the original sacred fig. This branch was ceremoniously presented to Devanampiya Tissa, one of the earliest kings of Sri Lanka whose reign was notable for the arrival of Buddhism. In 288 BC, Tissa planted the branch of the Bodhi tree in his Royal Park in Anuradhapura.

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, as it became known, has since been cared for and protected by Buddhist monks and dedicated kings. Statues, water canals, golden fences, and walls have been built around the tree over the centuries, and many vows and offerings have been made by Buddhists at the foot of the sacred fig.

At times the tree has faced serious threats, and not only from wild elephants. Two storms in 1907 and 1911 resulted in broken branches. A vandal attacked the tree in 1929, hacking off another branch. In 1985, Tamil Tiger separatists stormed the site and massacred 146 Sinhalese-Buddhists on the upper terrace.


A Photo taken from the Lower Compound, Pahatha Maluwa
A Photo taken from the Lower Compound, Pahatha Maluwa

In the 3rd century BC, it was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Theri (Pali; Skt.: Sanghamitra), the daughter of Emperor Asoka and founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. In 288 BC[4][6][7][8] it was planted by King Devanampiya Tissa on a high terrace about 6.5 m (21.3 ft) above the ground in the Mahamevnāwa Park in Anuradhapura and surrounded by railings.[citation needed]


Several ancient kings have contributed in developing this religious site. King Vasabha (65 - 107 AD) placed four Buddha statues in four side of the sacred tree. King Voharika Tissa (214 - 236 AD) added metallic statues. King Mahanaga (569 - 571 AD) constructed a water canal around the sacred tree and King Sena II (846 - 866 AD) renovated it.[9]

The present wall was constructed by Ilupandeniye Athtadassi Thero during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (r. 1747-1782), to protect it from wild elephants which might have damaged the tree. The height of the wall is 10 ft (3.0 m); and 5 ft (1.5 m) in thickness; its length from north to south is 388 ft (118.3 m) and from east to west 274 ft (83.5 m).[citation needed]

The first golden fence around the sacred tree was constructed by some Buddhist followers in Kandy under the guidance of Yatirawana Narada Thero in 1969. The iron fence below the above golden fence was created by people of Gonagala under the guidance of Yagirala Pannananda Thero.[citation needed]

Ancient statues

Two statues of Buddha can be seen in the image-house; a stone-standing-statue is in the right side of the stone wall. The cobra-stone is a very rare creation, showing the embossed figure of cobra. Several monolith heads with plain incisions are in this religious site.[citation needed]


Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in 1891
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in 1891

Ruins of an ancient building called Mayura Pirivena (Mayura Monastery) have been found to the south-west of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, and the ruins of a stupa called Dakkhina Tupa (Southern Monastery) can be seen nearby.[citation needed]

According to the ancient chronicles in Sri Lanka, some walls and terraces had been built surrounding the sacred tree at some time in the past. Mahavamsa states that King Gothabhaya (249 – 262 AD) built a rubble wall. Dipavamsa reports that a rock-laid terrace and a lattice wall was built by King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna (302 - 330 AD).[citation needed]

During excavation for reconstructing the present wall, the rubble wall with its foundation created by King Gotabhya, and the rock-laid terrace together with a lattice wall constructed by King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna were found. These were preserved at place, and were opened to public in January 2010.[citation needed]


Two branches of the sacred tree were broken during separate storms in 1907 and 1911. An individual cut down a branch in 1929.[citation needed] Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam shot and massacred a number of Sinhalese-Buddhists on the upper terrace in 1985. This incident is known as the Anuradhapura massacre.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Shanika Sriyananda (2011-07-03). "Caring for the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi ". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  2. ^ Weerakoon, Rajitha (11 December 2011). "Sanghamitta Theri forged the liberation of Lankan women". Sunday Times. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  3. ^ Pelpola, Charith (16 August 1998). "Oldest sacred symbol". Sunday Times. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b "19: The Coming of the Bodhi-Tree". Mahavamsa. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  5. ^ Range, Irangika (2014-04-21). "All constructions within 500 m of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi precinct to be halted". Daily News. Archived from the original on 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  6. ^ Sarathchandra, Vimukthi (1 December 2009). "Arrival of the Bo-tree sapling". Daily News. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  7. ^ Wickramage, Florence (25 April 2002). "Mahamevuna Royal Gardens to regain ancient glory". Daily News. Archived from the original on 27 October 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Then and now, spreading its sacredness worldwide". Sunday Times. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  9. ^ a b Kulatunga, Prof. T. G. (2003). "1". Anuradhapura Atamasthanaya (in Sinhala). Maharagama: Tarangi Prints. pp. 8–9.