Bodhi tree is a very old and sacred tree located at Bodh Gaya. It is also known as BO and Peepal Tree. BO is a Singhalese word which represents wisdom or enlightened. It carries the same meaning of the Sanskrit word Bodhi. Peepal or Peepulor Pippal is most commonly used terms for Bodhi Tree in Nepal and India. This tree is derived from the species called Ficus Religiosa or sacred fig, mostly found in Myanmar, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, south-west China, and Indo China. Bodhi Tree belongs to Mulberry family.
Bodhi Tree is a holy fig under which Siddhartha Gautama attained his enlightenment. He is a spiritual leader who is later called Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. He attained his enlightenment in 528 B.C, after 9 years of ascetic life. This tree is a scared and most revered place for Buddhists. The history of the Bodhi tree states that the daughter of the Emperor Asoka, Sanghamitra took a sapling of original Bodhi Tree to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, which is later brought back here and planted in the place of the original Bodhi Tree after its death. The tree now in Bodh Gaya is of 116 years and a potential attraction of Bodh Gaya. It is situated behind the Maha Bodhi Temple.
The tree is up to 98 Ft. height and trunk diameter of 9.8 Ft. the tree has heart shaped leaves with a distinctive extended tip at the end the leaf. The leaf is between 10-17 cm long and 8-12 cm broad with 6-10 cm of petiole. There are also fruits to this tree which are small green colored figs with 1-1.5 cm diameter. This tree is large and semi-evergreen tree.
A verse from Bhagavad-Gita says “Of all trees I am the Peepal tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila.”Buddhists worship this tree as the tree of wisdom under which the founder attained his salvation. The place where the spiritual leader Siddhartha or Gautama Buddha is called Bodh Gaya, in which this tree is located.Hinduism has entirely marked its importance to worship Bodhi Tree in the history. Saints still meditate under this tree. Hindus do circumambulations called pradakshinas to the tree as an act of worship. These pradakshinas are usually done on morning or evening with a count of 7 by chanting “Vruksha Rajaya Namah” meaning The King of Trees. It is believed that the 27 stars of the zodiac system represents 27 Maha Vruksha, and Bodhi Tree is believed to represent the star Pushya or Cancri star in Cancer Constellation.
Bodh Gaya is a place where Gautama Buddha attained his salvation under the Bodhi tree. According to Buddhism, it is said that Gautama Buddha stood in front of the tree unblinkingly for a whole week in gratitude. The shrine named Animisalocana Cetiya is constructed there at that place where he stood. Even the lifetime of Buddha the shrine is prayed respects. The emperor Asoka paid homage to Bodhi Tree and held a festival every year in its honor in the month of Kartika that is late November and early December s.
The queen of Asoka was jealous of the tree and caused the tree to be killed by the thorns of mandu. However the tree again grew again.The king Pushyamitra Sunga and King Shashanka again cut down the tree in 2nd BC and 650 AD respectively. Every time a new tree was planted in the same place after the destruction.In 1881 a British archeologist planted a new tree after the aged one has died. Angarika Dharmapla took a sapling to Hawaii where he presented it to Mary foster, a preacher of Buddhism. She took the sapling and planted it in her house Honolulu. After her death the house was left to the people of Honolulu which now is a Botanical Garden. Buddhists celebrate December 8 as Bodhi day as per dharma they greet each other saying “Budu Saranai” meaning May you be protected by the noble power of Lord Buddha. It is a Sinhala greeting.
Bodh Gaya can be reached by any means of transportation. The nearest airport is Gaya which is 17 km, and the other is Patna which is 135 km. Bodh Gaya can also be reached through railways. The nearest station is Gaya which is 17 km. The roadways to Bodh Gaya include Gaya-17km, Nalanda-101km, Rajgir-78km, Patna-135km, Varanasi-252km, Kolkatta-495km. The nearest tourist spots that can be visited are Sun temple-32km from Bodh Gaya, Pretshila Hill-12km, Barabar Caves-41km and Nalanda-96km.