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Following the Journey of Arahatī Sanghamittā Therī & the Great Bo Tree

Tathālokā Therī


Image, Sanghamitta with ship pencil drawing by Abhisek ARTS 12 March 2017

Today, the first day of the brightening fortnight of the Indic lunar month of Maggasira (Margashirsha or Agrahayana), that is, the first day of the December waxing moon, is the day the ancient Pāli-text chronicles preserved in Sri Lanka record as the Day of the Great Departure of Sanghamittā Therī & Bhikkhunī Sangha with the southern branch sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree and a great delegation of eighteen royal families, eight ministers' families and eight of the various trades' families, highly-skilled in various branches of knowledge, arts, crafts, and technologies. According to the chronicles, they departed from the ancient Tamralipti port (modern Tamluk), seen off personally by Sanghamittā Therī's father, the great Emperor Ashoka himself, who had personally attended to preparing this great embassy. It was one of Ashokan India's great moments.


The Great Chronicle Mahāvaṁsa (long version) tells the story like this:


"Maggasirasukkapakkhe dine pāṭipade tato

On the first day of the lunar fortnight in the bright half of Maggasira


ukkhipitvā Mahābodhiṁ tehi yevaṭṭha-aṭṭhahi [13]

Sālamūlamhi dinnehi jātuggatakulehi so,

after raising the Great Bodhi (Tree) with (help) given by eight of each from the high-born families appointed at the root of the Sāl tree,


sabbapūjāvidhānehi galamattaṁ jalaṁ tahiṁ [14]

orohitvāna nāvāyaṁ patiṭṭhāpiya sādhukaṁ,

with all kinds of offerings, having descended into the water up to his neck and established (it) properly on the ship,


Saṅghamittaṁ Mahātheriṁ sahekādasabhikkhuṇiṁ [15]

nāvaṁ āropayitvāna pūjehi vividhehi vā,

and having invited Mahātherī Saṅghamittā with eleven other bhikkhunīs onto the ship with various offerings,


Mahāriṭṭhaṁ mahāmaccaṁ idaṁ vacanam-abravi: [16]

[the Emperor Asoka the Great] uttered this statement to chief minister Mahāriṭṭha:


“Ayaṁ Tāta Mahābodhiṁ tikkhattuṁ Jambudīpake

sakale vijjamānena rajjena abhisiñcayiṁ. [17]

“This Mahā Bodhi (Tree), Dear, I consecrated three times

with sovereignty over the whole of the Rose-Apple Isle.


Idāneva Mahābodhiṁ ānayitvāna-m-attano,

Now, after bringing the Great Bodhi (Tree) myself,


sabbapūjāvidhānehi patvāhaṁ idha paṭṭane, [18]

and arranging all kinds of ceremonies here in the port town,


galappamāṇe udake orohitvā, tahiṁ imaṁ

having descended up to my neck into the water, and herein


patiṭṭhāpiya nāvāyaṁ Saṅghamittāya Theriyā, [19]

established (it) on the ship with the Therī Saṅghamittā,


purato me sahāyassa pesesiṁ tava passato,

seeing that you are sent back from the city to my friend,


evaṁ evābhipūjetu Rājā rajjena me sakhā. [20]

the King [of Sri Lanka] should also honor (it) with sovereignty in the same way.


Sabbapūjāvidhānāni katāni idha sabbaso

Having made all kinds of ceremonies and offerings there


Devānampiyatisso tu Mahārājā sakhā ca me [21]

my friend the Great King [of Sri Lanka] Devānampiya-Tissa


karotu sabbapūjāni mayā pūjaṁ pi yādisaṁ.”

should also make all the offerings that have been made by me.”


Sahāyassa vaco datvā, Mahīpālo jutindharo [22]

Having given this advice to his friend, the resplendent Guardian of the World,


assūni parimuñcanto, idaṁ vacanam-abravi:

lamenting tearfully, uttered this statement:


“Aho pi vata re tassa Dasabalassa tādino, [23]

vīsarasaraṁsijālaṁ muñcamāno idāni so,

Bodhirukkho pasādento amhe ohāya gacchati.” [24]

“Alas, the Bodhi Tree of the virtuous one, the One of Ten Powers, while it is still emitting a net of twenty-colored rays, we have gladly given (it) up.”


Idaṁ vatvā, Mahārājā sirasi katvāna-m-añjaliṁ,

Having said this, Mahārāja [Dhamma Asoka], after making reverential salutation with his head,


passamāno Mahābodhiṁ gacchantaṁ saha Theriyā, [25]

seeing the Mahā Bodhi (Tree) going with the Therī [Sanghamittā],


assudhāraṁ pavattetvā, tīre aṭṭhāsi dummano.

with a shower of tears set rolling, stood depressed on the bank.


Mahābodhisamārūḷhā sā nāvā passato gatā [26]

While watching the ship with the Great Bodhi (Tree) on board going


mahājanassa Rañño ca, pakkhanditvāna toyadhiṁ,

from the multitude and the King, after crossing the water (someway),


samantā yojane vīcī sannisīdi mahaṇṇave. [27]

the waves settled down for a league all round on the great sea.


Supupphi pañcavaṇṇāni padumāni samantato,

Five coloured lotuses on all sides blossomed,


antalikkhe pavajjiṁsu anekaturiyāni ca. [28]

and in the firmament manifold instruments played."


....to be continued....


Source text, with English translation adapted from Ancient Buddhist Texts.



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