MP: Gifted by Sri Lanka, Bodhi tree at Sanchi wilting for lack of care

  • Neeraj Santoshi, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Oct 13, 2014 18:31 IST

The famous Bodhi tree near Sanchi world heritage site is dying and wilting. Not being taken care of properly by the state government, the leaves of the tree looked withered and pale. Also, lack of water has killed most of the potted plants around it and the soil around this sacred tree has cracked.

This Bodhi tree has grown from a sapling that was planted by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 21, 2012 at the site of the International University of Buddhist and Indic Studies, just a few kilometers from Sanchi world heritage site.

Rajapaksa had brought the sapling from Sri Lanka, where he had cut it from Anuradhapura's Bodhi tree. The planting of the sapling in a way completed a circle that started over two millennia ago.

In 3rd century BC, Ashoka's daughter Bhikkhuni Sangamitta had taken a branch of the original Bodhi tree from India to Sri Lanka. Also, Vidisha, just 10 km from Sanchi, is the place of birth of Asoka's wife Sridevi.

Their daughter Sanghmitra and son Mahindra started their missionary journey to Sri Lanka from Vidisha and took along a Bodhi sapling which they planted in Anuradhapura while propagating Buddhism in the distant land.

When HT visited the site where Bodhi sapling had been planted -- nearly 45 kms from Bhopal -- it found that the tree had grown over 20 feet and its branches were struggling with metallic wire-mesh that had been put over the sapling when it was small.

The lower branches have now got entangled with the roof of the mesh. Most of the potted plants around the Bodhi tree have died for lack of water and the Bodi tree is withering away because of the combined effects of the disease and lack of water.

Just a few meters from the tree, four guards — in-charge of the security of the Bodhi tree — are themselves struggling, mostly on account of sultry weather, deficient water and power supply and no toilet facilities.

They also fear for their lives from snakes and scorpions that have been seen running and crawling on the rocky hillock. With no toilet facilities, the guards are left with no other option but to defecate in the open some distance away from the sacred tree.

"Our duty is to ensure security of the tree and we are doing that despite so many odds. Regarding the disease it is suffering and why it is not being watered regularly, you can contact senior officials," said Atar Singh, one of the guards.

In-charge of Mahabodhi Society of India at Sanchi, Bhante Vimal Tisse, was furious when HT apprised him about the condition of the sacred tree. "If the Government of India accepted the tree as a gift from Sri Lanka, it is its moral responsibility to take care of it. The negligence has hurt the sentiments of Buddhists and all those who love Buddha," he said.

When HT contacted collector Raisen JK Jain, he said he will look into the issue. "I will pass instructions to the officers concerned that the sacred tree be regularly watered.

We will also arrange for an agricultural expert to look into the disease that has afflicted the tree. The administration will make all possible efforts to see that the tree is healthy again," he added.

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