Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura Overview

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is one of the most ancient trees which are living even today standing tall in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. The tree is believed to have sprouted from a cutting brought from Bodh Gaya in India, where Gautama Buddha had attained enlightenment. The tree is an authentic and living link to Gautama Buddha and is often respected as the oldest tree in history which has a recorded date of the plantation.

This ancient Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree has been protected and cared for by many years by the ancient kings and queens as well as the Buddhist monks. Today the tree is surrounded by statues, water canals and golden fences which make the site even more holy and spiritual enhancing its natural beauty. Although the tree is sacred for the Buddhists, many people belonging to other religions also pay a visit to the tree to immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty and to get a sense of calm from their day to day life.

Another prominent feature is the Prarthana Bo tree. Many devotees believe that this tree has the power to grant the wishes of every person who pays a visit to the complex. The Buddhists make many offerings and vow at this sacred fig tree till today. The Sri Maha Bodhi tree is the most sacred tree in Sri Lanka and is revered and respected by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and all over the world.

There are sermon sessions organized every day, where the Buddhist devotees visit the premises of the tree. On this occasion, you will find the atmosphere filled with the fragrance of the incense sticks and the burning of the oil lamps. We recommend visiting the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in the morning when one can make the most of the visit by participating in the rituals and also witnessing the breathtaking sunrise over the city.

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Festivals at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

The Buddhists in the country revere and look up to the site as if it is Gautama Buddha himself in his pure form which involves performing of different rites and rituals which are usually of two types. Either it can be a daily ritual when the offerings of the food and drinks take place in the shrine room, or it can be annual festivals which take place at different times of the year.

There are four main annual festivals which devotees celebrate with great dedication. These include:
  1. Duruthu Mangalle
  2. Parana Avurudu Mangalle
  3. Aluth Avurudu Mangalle (Nanumura Mangalle)
  4. Kartika Mangalle

1. Duruthu Magalle:
This festival falls on the first full moon day of January, and it is also known as the Festival of New Rice since an offering of the first portion of the new rice collected after the harvest is made to the tree.

2. Parana Avurudu Mangalle:
The festival is held one week before the Sinhala New year. The festival involves offerings of Gilanpasa, flowers, incense which is accompanied by the playing of the drums to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. The monks chant and finally the festival concludes with the offerings made to the tree.

3. Aluth Avurudu Mangalle (Nanumura Mangalle)
This festival resembles the coronation of the king with the offering of jewellery to the Sri Maha Bodhi tree. The belief is that Buddha himself is the royal personage or the world emperor.

4. Kartika Mangalle:
The Kartik festival is also known as the festival of lights and is celebrated on the full moon day of the Sinhala month (October to November). The festival takes place with the lighting of thousands of oil lamps and offerings of milk rice to the Bodhi tree.

Specialised programs at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

The Poya program takes place on the full moon days of every month to pay homage and to invoke the blessings. The ‘Undvap’ is regarded as the full moon day and month as per the lunar calendar. The ‘Undvap’ or the full moon day was when the sapling was brought to the island.

On the Undvap day, the Buddhists gather around the Bodhi tree to pay homage and invoke the blessing. Various kinds of religious activities take place on that day, which includes puja, Dhamma talks, and discussions, stories from the Jataka tales and meditation programs.

History of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree

About 2600 years ago, Gautama Buddha sat under the Esathu tree on the banks of the Neranjana River in Bodhgaya which is in India and attained enlightenment. Today, many people from all over the world come to visit this ancient tree in India.

In 260 BCE, it is believed that the Emperor Asoka sent the Buddhist nun Sanghamitta Maha Theri from India to Sri Lanka. On her way to Sri Lanka, she carried with her the holy branch of the original sacred fig tree. On reaching Sri Lanka, she presented the divine cutting to the King Devanampiya Tissa. The King later planted the branch of the holy Bodhi tree in 288 BCE at his royal park in Anuradhapura where it is presently known as the Maha Bodhi Tree.

How To Reach Sri Maha Bodhi

One will have to rent a private vehicle or a tuk-tuk to the place.

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