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THE MAHA BODHI TREE
       
The Maha Bodhi Tree

Sacred Fig tree (Ficus religiosa)

The Bodhi tree grew from a cutting taken from the original Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya (India) under which the Buddha was enlightened in 520 BCE. It had been brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta, a Buddhist nun and daughter of the Indian Emperor, Ashoka. The cutting was rooted near Anuradhapura, at that time the capital city. It was planted on a high terrace surrounded by a railing with gates at the four cardinal points. There is also an empty throne (asana) beneath the tree as an iconic reminder of the Prince Gautama, who disavowed his royal status and, after enlightenment, became known as the Buddha. This shrine is surrounded by a stone wall erected in the 18C CE by the builder-king of Kandy, Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747 - 1780 CE) and is a place where worshippers bring theirofferings of flowers, incense and lights. This shrine was eventually replicated at almost every vihara (monastery) on the island. It has been a tradition of the Buddhist monks to collect the heart-shaped leaves as they fall from the Bodhi tree. The original tree in Bodhgaya was destroyed but there is respectable validation that the cutting is real.

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