In an initiative that will gladden the hearts of millions of Buddhists across the world, a move has been set afoot to facilitate the longevity of the highly venerated Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, under which Siddhartha, the prince, is believed to have meditated to become Buddha, the enlightened.
Under advice from experts of the Forest Research Institute (FRI), Dehradun, the Bodh GayaTemple Management Committee (BTMC), which manages the Mahabodhi temple, has decided to replace the marble flooring under and around the Bodhi tree with sandstone tiles, to ensure an extended lease of life for the holy tree.
The FRI experts, who visited Bodh Gaya last month to assess the health of the Bodhi tree, are understood to have recommended the dismantling of the marble at the base and its environs, observing that the marble intensified the heat of the sun, due to which, the tree could wither.
However, BTMC secretary N Dorjee said, removing the marble might prove difficult. “As such, the BTMC has planned to superimpose sandstone tiles on the marble flooring under and around the holy tree,” in order to ward off the adverse impact of the heat generated by the sun.
The BTMC move is of much interest to the Buddhist world as the Mahabodhi temple, a Unesco heritage site, is counted among the holiest Buddhist shrines. It is located at the Buddhist pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya, about 14 km from district headquarters town of Gaya and about 140 km south-west of state capital, Patna.
Dorjee also confirmed the initial report of FRI scientists that the holy tree was in sound health and that there was no threat of weather conditions impacting it adversely, as of now. The final report on the latest experts’ reading would be available by the end of this month.
The BTMC pays Rs 5 lakh annually for periodic scientific opinion on the health of the tree and studies are done on it every quarter, for monitoring purposes.
The present Bodhi tree, near which lakhs of tourists visiting Bodh Gaya meditate every year, is a sprouted sapling of the original pipal or ‘Bo’ tree, under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment 2650 years ago. This was testified by British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham.
In 1892, he wrote: “I next saw the tree in 1871 and again in 1875, when it had become completely decayed, and shortly afterwards, in 1876, the only remaining portion of the tree fell over the west wall during a storm, and the old pipal tree was gone. Many seeds, however, had been collected and the young scion of the parent tree were already in existence to take its place.”
In 2007, an experts’ team from Dehradun undertook a DNA test and confirmed that the Bodhi tree standing in the Mahabodhi temple complex at present, was drawn from a sapling of the original tree under which Buddha had gained enlightenment.