The Legend of Bodhi Tree
Bodhi tree, also known as Bodhivriksa, ficus religiosa, or peepal tree, is considered sacred around the world. It has come to symbolise clear vision, love, and purity after Gautam Buddha sat underneath the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. That was centuries ago, but the legend and the folk stories around the Bodhi tree still exist today. The tree has special significance in Buddhist and Hindu literature, and is popularised even by great rulers like Ashoka. Here are some legends about the Bodhi tree that are worth noting:
1. Gautam Buddha distantly watched this tree for seven days, and when he finally did take those sixteen steps to approach it, a lotus flower blossomed under each step.
2. In the Jataka tales, a piece of Indian literature that documents Buddha’s journey, the claim is that Buddha informed all his devotees that in case he is not around to see them and should they like to show their respect to him, the Bodhi tree is the rightful substitute in his absence.
3. Ashoka was a famous Buddhist ruler and he declared the Bodhi tree as a ruler of his land.
4. Ceylon is a place in India where Buddhism has been evolving since millennia. Bodhi trees are known to be planted all across that region, in temples, relic chambers, and monasteries.
5. For Hindus, Bodhi trees are a source of religious merit. Since ancient centuries, it is believed that those who plant this tree will be rewarded with heavenly bliss and will never go to hell. In modern India, people plant the Bodhi tree near a tank believing that when the leaves end up falling in the water, they turn into offerings for their ancestors.
6. In Kerala, the fame and reputation of a temple depends on the height of the Bodhi tree inside of it. It is also called the tree of councils, and the leaders in Kerala are known to have conducted courts of justice as well as elections under this tree, since it serves as a force of truth and a deterrent of lying.
7. There is a Bodhi tree is almost every village in India, except in the Himalayas where temperatures are too cold for it to grow.
8. Groups of three and five trees including a Bodhi tree are considered both a blessing and an auspicious step. When these groups of trees exist in a community, they are known to clear the air, invite much happiness, help initiate lasting marriages and fertility, and bring great wealth in the community. In other words, together, the trees strengthen the surrounding community and improve the lives of its people.
9. Bodhi tree is paired with banyan for prosperity. Triads include Bodhi tree with: a) Banyan and neem; b) Bael and neem; c) Neem and Mango. A group of five including the Bodhi tree (east side), commonly called Panchavati, may include: a) Banyan (west side); b) Bael (north side); c) Amla (south side); d) Ashoka (southeast side). One can also replace Bael with Neem to form a Panchavati. Pachavati is present in Pratapgarh farms too!
10. In India, there is an occasion called the tree marriage. It basically implies that two trees, including the Bodhi tree, can be married to each other, to gods, and even to humans. Such a union is supposed to be a powerful natural force.