Buddhist monk files suit for cutting of Bodhi tree

IANS, June 25, 2007

Patna, India -- A Buddhist monk has filed a criminal complaint against top officials of the Bodh Gaya temple in Bihar for allegedly cutting a branch of a Bodhi tree there, considered sacred to millions the world over as it is believed Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under it about 2,550 years ago.

<<  BODHI TREE CHOPPED OFF: The Bodh Gaya Temple management finds itself in the midst of a fresh controversy, with a criminal complaint filed in the court against the cutting off a branch of the famous 'Mahabodhi' tree. Image from Times Now TV.

Arup Brahmachari, a monk in his 30s, has filed a criminal complaint case against officials of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee in the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Gaya.

"I have filed a criminal case against officials of the temple with evidence, including eight photographs, that a branch of the Bodhi tree was cut off," Arup Brahmachari told IANS Sunday over telephone from Bodh Gaya, 110 km from here.

Around a year ago it was widely reported that some miscreants had cut off a branch of the Bodhi tree. The Nitish Kumar-led government was quick in issuing a denial.

However, after a hue and cry over the incident worldwide, the state government got samples collected from the cut area on the tree and sent it to a Pune based forest laboratory to ascertain the truth.

Ironically, nearly 11 months after, the laboratory report is yet to be made public. The Gaya district administration said the report was awaited. Some Buddhist monks suspect that the government is trying to hide truth.

"My complaint was supported by an affidavit filed by Deepak Malakar, a gardener of the temple, who used to look after the Bodhi tree," Brahmachari said.

In his affidavit, Malakar claimed that he cut off a branch of the tree on July 10, 2006, allegedly on the order of Bahadant Bodhipal, the temple chief priest, and carried it to his residence.

Brahmachari has accused top temple officials, including the ex-officio chairman, secretary Kalicharan Yadav, chief priest Bahadant Bodhipal and the Gaya district magistrate, of trying to temper with Malakar's affidavit. "These powerful people are doing everything to frighten Malakar to change his mind over the issue and police have even raided his house," Brahmachari claimed.

Brahamchari, who has been spearheading a campaign against the mushrooming of fake NGOs in Bodh Gaya, said that last week when he went to the police station to file the criminal case the police refused to register it.

The Bodhi tree behind the Mahabodhi temple, which has grown from the original banyan tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment, saw new leaves after four years last year.

Last month IANS reported that the tree was threatened by an unknown disease. Hundreds of fresh leaves of the holy tree are falling off daily.

Brahamchari blamed the temple officials of negligence of the Bodhi tree.

Sources in Bodh Gaya said plant scientist A.K. Singh had suggested some corrective measures after examining the tree.

Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from across the world carry back leaves from the tree.

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.