Friday, July 21, 2006

Lankan envoy rushes to Bodh Gaya

The Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India, Romesh Jayasinghe, rushed to Bodh Gaya on Friday, after it was reported in the media that a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree under which the Buddha secured Enlightenment 2,550 years ago had been chopped off.

"He first went to Patna and has just reached Bodh Gaya," the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi confirmed.
The High Commissioner will be meeting Buddhist monks, the Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee and other officials to take stock of the situation," a top official in the High Commission said.

Chaos marked the Buddhist heritage site after it was alleged some miscreants had cut a branch of the sacred Bodhi Tree, believed to be the sixth generation of the peepul (Ficus religiosa) tree under which Gautam Buddha attained Nirvana.

The matter is of great concern for the Sri Lankans, 70 per cent of whom are followers of Buddhism.

And it was due to the intense efforts of a Sri Lankan monk, Anagarika Dharmapala, that the site of the Maha Bodhi Temple was secured by the Buddhists of the world from a Hindu Mahant. The Mahant had fought tooth and nail to keep it with himself. The site was also very badly maintained, which pained Dharmapala and other Buddhist pilgrims.

The Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist established the Mahabodhi Society in the latter half of the 19th century to spearhead his campaign. But it was only in 1949, long after Dharmapala's death, that the Buddhists secured the site and the tree.

The Maha Bodhi Temple is a world heritage site and one of the most sacred destinations for Buddhists around the world.

This is the second time in the history of the Bodhi Tree that it has been attacked. Earlier, in the seventh century AD, King Shashank had ordered the tree to be cut down.

The incident is likely to have international repercussions, as Buddhists from all over the world travel to Bodh Gaya to worship this tree.

The tree is considered to be the embodiment of the Buddha, and it is one of the few physical objects worshiped by the Buddhists who otherwise do not believe in idol worship.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has sent his top officials to the spot to investigate given the international importance of the place.