mahabodhi-treeThe Bodhi Tree also known as Bo and “peepal tree”in Nepal and Bhutan, was a large and very old sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher later known as Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment (Bodhi means awakening or enlightenment). In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.

The term “Bodhi Tree” is also widely applied to currently existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) growing at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, which is often cited as a direct descendant planted in 288 BC from the original specimen. This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism are the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Both are believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree. Bodhi trees are planted in close proximity to every Buddhist monastery.

Bodhi Day
On December 8, Bodhi Day celebrates Buddha’s enlightenment underneath the Bodhi Tree. Those who follow the Dharma greet each other by saying, “Budu saranai!” which translates to “may the peace of the Buddha be yours.

Origin and descendants

The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath a Ficus religiosa. According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, meditated without moving from his seat for seven days under this tree. A shrine, called Animisalocana cetiya, was later erected on the spot where he sat.The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of the Buddha. King Ashoka was most diligent in paying homage to the Bodhi tree, and held a festival every year in its honour in the month of Kattika. His queen, Tissarakkhā 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 Mahā Thūpa are 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