Thursday, June 28, 2007

For sacred Bodhi tree new lease of life

The Bodhi tree was a large and very old specimen of the sacred Fig, located at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya (about 100 km from Patna in the Bihar ) under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism later known as Gautam Buddha , arrived at Bodhi. The Bodhi Tree belongs to the Sacret Figs (Ficus religiosa), also known as Bo, Pipul (Peepal) or Ashwattha trees, which are sacred to Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is easily recognizable from 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 growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is probably a direct descendant of the original specimen. This tree is a frequent destination for Pilgrims, being the most important of the four holy sites for Buddhists. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism are theAnandabodhi tree in sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura . Both are believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.

The Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute has been given the responsibility of maintaining the sacred bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.

Following the Bihar government's decision, a team of FRI will visit Bodh Gaya on Friday to make a preliminary health assessment of the tree and inquire into the alleged cutting of a branch.

The government also plans to install surveillance cameras at strategic points to keep vigil on the tree and the temple.

"High mast cool lights would also be installed," Home Secretary Afzal Amanullah said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar inspected the tree during his visit to Bodh Gaya on Wednesday after Buddhist monks demanded a Central Bureau probe into the cutting of a branch.

Last week, a Buddhist monk, Arup Brahmachari, had filed a criminal complaint case against the top officials of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee.

Arup Brahmachari filed the complaint in the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Gaya. He submitted evidence -- including eight photographs -- to support his claims.

In July 2005, it was widely reported that unidentified people cut off a branch of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained enlightenment 2550 years ago.

But the state government denied the claim. However, under pressure after worldwide protests, the state government got samples collected from the cut point in the tree and sent it to a Pune-based forest laboratory to ascertain the truth.

Arup Brahmachari told the complaint has been filed under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988.

The complaint was supported by an affidavit filed by Deepak Malakar, a temple gardener, who used to look after the Bodhi tree, Arup Brahmachari said.

Malakar in his affidavit claimed that he cut off the branch of Bodhi tree on July 10, 2006, allegedly on the order of Bahadant Bodhipal, the temple chief priest and carried it to his residence.

Arup Brahmachari accused the top temple officials of trying to tamper Malakar's affidavit.

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