Bodhi tree

Symbols and art

The term bodhi tree means ‘tree of awakening’ (Skt. bodhi, ‘awakening’). Even before the rise of Buddhism, certain trees in ancient India were regarded as sacred. The Buddha legend recounts how Buddha Shakyamuni attained awakening following prolonged and intensive meditation under a peepul tree (ficus religiosa) by the river at Bodhgaya. Ever since, Buddhists have regarded this tree as sacred and named it bodhi tree. In early Buddhist art, it represents the Buddha’s awakening, or even the Buddha himself. It is told that the giant peepul tree next to the temple in Bodhgaya grew from an offshoot of the tree under which the Buddha once meditated.

According to tradition, Buddhist missionaries took a second offshoot to Sri Lanka. The tree that grew from it is still an important Buddhist pilgrimage site today.