Arahat Sanghamitta Theri
Arahat Sanghamitta Theri arrived in Sri Lanka with a sapling from the
southern branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree under which the Buddha
attained Enlightenment. This event bears much significance in Sri
Lanka's history as it laid the foundation for religious, cultural and
She arrived in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. soon after the
official introduction of Buddhism to the country by her brother Arahat
Mahinda. Her arrival also paved the way for the establishment of the
Bhikkuni Order (Bhikkuni Sasana) in the country.
Arahat Sanghamitta was the grand daughter of Emperor Bindusara. She
was the daughter of Emperor Ashoka and Queen Devi.
She entered the Order together with her brother Arahat Mahinda. The
two later came to Sri Lanka to spread the teachings of the Buddha at the
request of King Devanampiyatissa.
Historical records reveal that she landed in 'Mathagal,' situated 16
km away from the present day Jaffna town, in the north of Sri Lanka.
Buddhist Emperor Ashoka sent her to Sri Lanka together with several
other nuns to establish the Bhikkuni Order at the request of King Tissa
and ordained queen Anula and other women of Tissa's court at
They wished to be ordained as nuns after Arahat Mahinda converted
them to Buddhism.
After Sanghamitta's contribution to the propagation of Buddhism in
Sri Lanka and her setting up the Bikhhuni Order, her name became
synonymous with the "Buddhist Female Monastic Order of Theravada
Buddhism" that was established not only in Sri Lanka but also in Burma,
China and Thailand as well.
The most sacred Bodhiya, a sapling of which was brought by her to Sri
Lanka and planted in Anuradhapura still survives. The day is celebrated
every year on the Full moon day of December as "Uduvap Poya" or "Sanghamitta
Day" by Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
The sapling was planted by King Devanampiyatissa in the Mahameghavana
The planting of the sacred Bodhiya was a grand ceremony performed by
the king himself with assistance from the nobles of Kacharagama,
Chandanagama and Tivakka-Bamunugama in the presence of Sanghamitta
Therani and her brother Mahinda.
The Sacred Bodhiya took eight roots, yielded fruits and seeds. As the
fresh eight saplings emerged, they were moved and planted at Jambukola
in the village of Tivakka, at Thuparama, at Issarasamanarama, in the
court of the Pathamacetiya, in Chatiyagiri, in Kacharagama and in
The Sacred Bodhiya stands on a raised mound. It was 32 feet in height
with 8.17 feet (2.49m) in girth in 1907.
The Sacred Bodhiya and the shrine have been built around a compound
wall measuring 61 feet (19 m) x 57 feet (17 m) and 21 feet (6.4 m) in
height. Ten more sacred bodhiya's of the same species are also seen
within the precincts of the enclosure.
The Sacred Bodhiya is Anuradhapura was well tended by successive
royal family members of Sri Lanka over the centuries.
A village near Anuradhapura was also earmarked to ensure the
maintenance of the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya.