Bodhi tree ailing: Scientists


Patna : The Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, considered sacred by millions as it is believed Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under it, is suffering from an unknown disease, a team of scientists from the Dehradun based Forest Research Institute (FRI) has confirmed.

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"The Bodhi tree is ailing and its health is far from good. We have to go for a detailed test to identify the exact disease and treat it," N.S.K. Harsh, one of the scientists from FRI said.

He said only after the release of the test report, FRI will be able to suggest measures for the upkeep of the tree.

The Bodhi tree behind the Mahabodhi temple saw new leaves after four years last year when agricultural scientists of a Bihar university treated it. The tree was attacked by the milibug disease, a common plant ailment, in early 2000.

The three-member team of FRI scientists including Harsh, Subhas Nautiyal (tree physiologist) and Ram Dayal (tree preservation scientist) examined the tree Thursday, a day after chief minister Nitish Kumar decided to hand over the upkeep of the sacred Bodhi tree to FRI.

The FRI team has collected samples of the bark, leaves, branches and soil of its root for a laboratory test. They would also conduct a molecular test to ascertain its health and future requirements.

"We will first study the samples at FRI laboratory in Dehradun through the DNA pattern," Harsh, a plant pathologist said.

The scientists, however, were tight-lipped about the alleged cutting of a branch of the Bodhi tree. The team also took snaps, video footage and fingerprints of the tree.

"You have to wait till the test reports are out," they said.

The government has decided to install surveillance cameras at strategic points to keep round-the-clock vigil on the sacred tree.

"High mast cool lights would be installed for surveillance cameras," officials said.

About a year ago, some criminals had allegedly cut off a branch of the Bodhi tree.

The Nitish Kumar led government had issued a denial initially. However, after a lot of hue and cry, the government got samples collected from the affected area of the tree and sent them to a Pune-based forest laboratory. Nearly 11 months have passed but the laboratory report is yet to be made public.

Buddhist monks have been demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incident.