Faith and beauty rustling in the wind
Commonly referred to as the Bo in both English and Sinhala and Aresu in Tamil (Ficus religiosa), this large tree is often as broad as it is tall. It is easily identified by its leaves, which are constantly rustling even in the lightest of winds. These leaves are heart shaped with long pointed tips and are a delicate pink when young, and bronze yellow when old.

The Bo tree can be found all over the country and one can be seen in every Buddhist temple or shrine. Conversely wherever there is a Bo tree growing it is likely that a shrine would have been established at the base of the tree. The Buddha attained enlightenment under a Bo tree and it is a sapling of this very tree that was brought from India by Sanghamitta theri and planted in Anuradhapura. This event is recorded in the Mahawamsa making this Sacred Bo Tree the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world, dating from 252 B.C.

Describing the revered Bo tree in his book "Dambulla: A Sanctuary of Tropical Trees" Sam Popham writes thus: 'The fine outlines of Bo leaves are the tree's crowning glory. The rendition of their heart-shaped outlines with long dangling tails and long slender stems creates the sense of ceaseless movement even in light airs, a gentle ripple of foliage against foliage simulating the patter of rain".

In the minds and souls of the faithful these tips radiate Samaana Vaya, a vital air absorbed from the sun by the Bo leaves and passed onto the human body by way of the tips.

Like so many of the trees found in this country almost every part of the Bo tree has medicinal value. The juice of the bark is used as a mouthwash; leaves and young shoots as a purgative; root bark as a cure for ulcers; fruit as a laxative; and powdered bark and fruits taken in water for asthma and to promote fertility in women. However since it is considered a sacred tree and is venerated by both Buddhists and Hindus alike, the tree is not used for medicinal purposes on a large scale.

Compiled by Ruk Rakaganno, The Tree Society of Sri Lanka

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