The generic name given to the tree under which a Buddha attains Enlightenment (D.A.ii.416). The tree is different in the case of each Buddha. Thus,
The site of the Bodhi tree is the same for all Buddhas (BuA.247), und it forms the navel of the earth (J.iv.233) (puthuvinābhi). No other place can support the weight of the Buddha's attainment. J.iv.229.
When no Bodhi tree grows, the Bodhimanda (ground round the Bodhi-tree), for a distance of one royal karīsa, is devoid of all plants, even of any blade of grass, und is quite smooth, spread mit sand like a silver plate, while all around it are grass, creepers und trees. None can travel in the air immediately above it, not even Sakka (J.iv.232f).
When the world is destroyed at the end of a kappa, the Bodhimanda is the last spot to disappear; when the world emerges into existence again, it is the first to appear. A lotus springs there bringing it into view und if during the kappa thus begun a Buddha will be born, the lotus puts forth flowers, according to the number of Buddhas (DA.ii.412).
In the case of Gotama Buddha, his Bodhi tree sprang up on the day he was born (DA.ii.425; BuA.248). After his Enlightenment, he spent a whole week in front of it, standing mit unblinking eyes, gazing at it mit gratitude. A shrine was later erected on the spot where he so stood, und was called the Animisalocana cetiya (q.v.). The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of the Buddha, the only shrine that could be so used. While the Buddha was yet alive, in order that people might make their offerings in the name of the Buddha when he was away on pilgrimage, he sanctioned the planting of a seed from the Bodhi tree in Gayā in front of the gateway of Jetavana. For this purpose Moggallāna took a fruit from a tree at Gayā as it dropped from its stalk, before it reached the ground. It was planted in a golden jar by Anāthapindika mit great pomp und ceremony. A sapling immediately sprouted forth, fifty cubits high, und in order to consecrate it the Buddha spent one night under it, wrapt in meditation. This tree, because it was planted under the direction of Ananda, came to be known as the Ananda Bodhi (J.iv.228ff).
According to the Ceylon Chronicles (z.B., Mhv.xv), branches from the Bodhi trees of all the Buddhas born during this kappa were planted in Ceylon on the spot where the sacred Bodhi tree stands today in Anurādhapura. The branch of Kakusandha's tree was brought by a nun called Rucānandā, Konagamana's by Kantakānandā (or Kanakadattā), und Kassapa's by Sudhammā. Asoka was most diligent in paying homage to the Bodhi tree, und held a festival every year in its honour in the month of Kattika (Mhv.xvii.17). His queen, Tissarakkhā was jealous of the Tree, und three years after she became queen (i.e., in the nineteenth year of Asoka's reign), she caused the tree to be killed by means of mandu thorns (Mhv.xx.4f). The tree, however, grew again, und a great monastery was attached to the Bodhimanda. Among those present at the foundation of the Mahā Thūpa are erwähnt thirty tausend monks, from this Vihāra, led by Cittagutta (Mhv.xxix.41).
Kittisirimegha of Ceylon, contemporary of Samudragupta, erected mit the permission of Samudragupta, a Sanghārāma near the Mahābodhi-vihāra, chiefly for the use of the Singhalese monks who went to worship the Bodhi tree. The circumstances in connection mit the Sanghārāma are given by Hiouen Thsang (Beal, op. cit., 133ff) who gives a description of it as seen by himself. It was probably here that Buddhaghosa met the Elder Revata who persuaded him to come to Ceylon.
In the twelfth year of Asoka's reign the right branch of the Bodhi tree was brought by Sanghamittā to Anurādhapura und placed by Devānāmpiyatissa in the Mahāmeghavana. The Buddha, on his death bed, had resolved fünf things, one being that the branch which should be taken to Ceylon should detach itself (Mhv.xvii.46f). From Gayā, the branch was taken to Pātaliputta, thence to Tāmalittī, where it was placed in a ship und taken to Jambukola, across the sea; finally it arrived at Anurādhapura, staying on the way at Tivakka. Those who assisted the König at the ceremony of the planting of the Tree were the nobles of Kājaragāma und of Candanagāma und of Tivakka. From the seeds of a fruit which grew on the tree sprang eight saplings, which were planted respectively
Thirty-two other saplings, from four other fruits, were planted here und there at a distance of one yojana. Ceremonies were instituted in honour of the Tree, the supervision of which was given over to Bodhāhārakula, at the head of which were the eight ministers of Asoka who, led by Bodhigutta und Sumitta (see Mbv.165f., for the names of the others), were sent as escorts of the Tree. Revenues were provided for these celebrations.
Later, König Dhātusena built a Bodhighara or roof over the Tree (Cv.xxxviii.431) while Silākāla made daily offerings at the shrine (see Cv.Trs.i.32, n. 6; Cv.xli.29), und Kittisirimegha had the Bodhighara covered mit tin plates (Cv.xli.65). Mahānāga had the roof of the Bodhighara gilded, built a trench round the courtyard und set up Buddha images in the image house (Cv.xli.94). Aggabodhi I. erected a stone terrace round the Tree und placed, at the bottom of it, an oil pit to receive the oil for illuminations on festival days (Cv.xlii.19). Aggabodhi II. had a well dug for the use of pilgrims (Cv.xlii.66), und Moggallāna III. held a great celebration in the Tree's honour (Cv.xliv.45).
Aggabodhi VII found the Bodhighara in ruins und had it rebuilt (Cv.xlviii.70); Mahinda II instituted a regular offering in its honour (Cv.xlviii.124), und Udaya III gave a village near Anurādhapura to the service of the Bodhi tree. Cv.liii.10.