Bodhi tree branch cut three years ago: report


Patna : A scientific report has vindicated allegations by Buddhists that one of their most sacred religious symbols — the Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya — had a branch cut off three years ago.

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The Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI), in its detailed report submitted to the Bihar government, said a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree was cut three years ago.

“The report has proved that a branch of the Bodhi tree was cut three years ago instead of last year as claimed,” home secretary Afzal Amanullah said Friday.

In June, the state government had ordered an inquiry by a team of FRI scientists after a monk, Arup Brahmachari, filed a criminal complaint against officials of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee for allegedly cutting a branch of the tree.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar inspected the Bodhi tree after the controversy surfaced.

A team of scientists from FRI visited Bodh Gaya in June to make a preliminary assessment of the Bodhi tree.

It was widely reported in July last year that some miscreants had cut off a branch of the Bodhi tree but the Nitish Kumar government was quick to issue a denial.

However, after a worldwide hue and cry over the incident, the Bihar government got samples collected from the affected part of the tree and sent it to a Pune-based laboratory to ascertain the truth. Nearly 14 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 cutting of the tree branch.

Amanullah said a team of experts from FRI would now look after the tree. “The FRI was formally handed over the responsibility of proper conservation of the Bodhi tree,” he said.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed Thursday between the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee and the FRI for upkeep and maintenance of the tree. The state government has also given Rs.700,000 to FRI for maintaining the sacred tree, Amanullah said.

The government has also decided to install surveillance cameras at strategic points to keep round-the-clock vigil on the Bodhi tree and the Mahabodhi temple.

Millions of Buddhists around the world consider the Bodhi tree to be sacred because it has grown from the original Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment about 2,550 years ago.

An official of the Mahabodhi temple, which the Unesco has declared a World Heritage Site, said the Bodhi tree is the sixth regeneration of the original banyan tree.