A string of information:
- the Buddha was enlightened in 528 BC under the peepal or Bodhi tree as it is now known. In 262 BC, Emperor Ashoka sent his daughter Sanghamitta to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka with saplings of this Bodhi, which till date is being regenerated. It is considered to be the oldest specimen of a tree that has been regenerated for over 2,000 years.
- In 254 BC, Tissarakkha, Ashoka’s queen, destroyed the original Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, as she did not favour Ashoka embracing Buddhism. A second tree grew from the roots of the first. It was eventually destroyed several times due to storms and invaders. Each time it was destroyed, a new tree was planted in its place, not necessarily regenerated.
- After the decline of the Mauryan empire around 180 BC, the temple and the tree were neglected and covered under mounds of sand. Between 1862-1878, Alexander Cunningham, who had excavated the Nalanda ruins and several other Buddhist stupas in Bihar, excavated the Mahabodhi Temple. He then discovered a much-decayed Bodhi tree, which had been completely destroyed in a storm in 1876. Cunningham planted a new Bodhi tree in 1881.