From Kandyan period to present day: Saga of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

With this being the 2600th Buddha Jayanti year, Dhananjani Silva looks at the conservation work carried out at one of Sri Lanka’s most venerated Buddhist sites

The history behind the maha gal prakaraya which encircles the weli maluwa of the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi dates back to the time of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe who ruled the country from Kandy. During his time, the Buddhist monk Illupendineye Atta Dassi Thera suggested to the king that a wall be built around the sacred Bo tree to protect it from wild elephants eating its tender leaves. The monk then came with over one thousand people; collected stones from places nearby and stacked them around the Bo tree, explained Deshamanya K.H.J. Wijayadasa, chairman of the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Development Fund.

The dilapidated state of the maha gal prakaraya
Chairman of the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Development Fund, K.H.J. Wijayadasa
The newly built moonstone
Existing Maha Viharaya building

Today this maha gal prakaraya is in a dilapidated state and it is to restore and conserve not just the gal prakaraya but the entire Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi compound that the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi development fund was initiated in 2002.

The fund is incorporated by an Act of Parliament (No. 41 of 2006). “The project is done with public funding and we are conforming to highest international standards in conserving the site to last at least for thousand years. This is a unique experiment of government- NGO partnership,” Mr. Wijayadasa elaborated. The project is managed by a Board of Governors comprising 20 eminent persons. The chief patron of the project is Atamasthanadhipathi Nayake Thero Ven Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa.

Since its inception a quantum of work had been done; the first task being to put up a ran weta (golden fence) around the bo maluwa. Originally there was a ran weta on the upper maluwa; however the iron railing right round the lower maluwa was replaced with a ran weta at a cost of Rs. 35 million, the chairman explained. The Bodhi prakaraya which has also come down was replaced. “History associated with the Bo tree says it performs miracles.

Especially in the event of a national disaster it gives a warning. Exactly two weeks prior to the 2004 tsunami, on December 12 at 9.05 a.m. this bodhi parakaraya just collapsed. The Nayaka Thera of the temple called me and said; ratata mona wipaththiyakda weida danne na (don’t know what disaster would befall the country),” Mr Wijayadasa recalled.

Among the other restoration work completed were building the sathsathiya mandiraya, the new moonstone and new flight of steps leading to the Vihara Prakaraya. The next phase of the project to be undertaken includes restoring the dilapidated maha gal prakaraya and the present maha viharaya sangawasa at a cost of Rs. 250 million. It will be built according to a new plan based on panchawasa system.

The conservation project is carried out with public support - collections are done through selling donation certificates priced at Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500, Rs. 1000, Rs. 5000. The certificates sold only at the Shri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura and Project office at No: 54 Kithulwatte Road Colombo 08 in order to prevent fraudulent collections from taking place.

Contributions can also be directed to Bank Of Ceylon Personal Branch Colombo 01 AC: 0070038242 or People’s Bank Borella Branch AC No; 078100290005575. More details can be obtained on 2673982.

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