The glory of the Kalutara Bodhi | Sunday Observer

The glory of the Kalutara Bodhi

28 February, 2021
The Kalutara Bodhi
The Kalutara Bodhi

The city of Kalutara unlike other urbanised cities is redolent of the ancient Buddhist Sinhala culture. It is because of the most sacred Kalutara Bodhi encircled with the gold fence seemingly holding the sky with its massive branches and standing majestically in the upper terrace of the temple premises. Even the gentle breeze blowing through the branches of the “Bo” tree heals the hearts of people.


The Kalutara “Bo” tree is proven to be one of those 32 saplings of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi which was planted on the advice of Arahat Mahinda Thera during the reign of king Devanampiya Tissa. Back in 1052 AD, a pandyan prince by the name of Wickrama Pandyan, said to have been the viceroy of Kalutara had planted a “Bo” tree at the Pahala Maluwa of the Kalutara Temple.

Influence of the Portuguese

The tragedy struck this Buddhist country after the invasion of the Portuguese. The lamp of the wisdom lit with the Buddhist teachings and the Sinhala culture blew out. The virtues instilled into the people’s hearts began to vanish. Not the morality but the immorality began to engulf the city.

Considering the geographical location of the city, the Portuguese used the Bodhi premises for their military purposes.

Railway bridge

Bridging the Southern border and the Western border together, the British Government decided to construct the Kalutara railway bridge. The only obstruction they had was the “Bo” tree. As a result, they proposed to uproot the “Bo tree” and continue the construction of the bridge.

But later due to the protests led by a layman named Sandanayaka, the British Government decided to construct the bridge without harming even a leaf of the Bo tree. The history of the Kalutara bridge dates back to 1990s. What is more picturesque is that in the morning, anyone can catch the glimpse of “Sri Pada” veiled with the morning mist.

Another striking scenery is the Buddhist devotees attired in the immaculate white meditating in the lotus position around the Stupa. It is common to see even the foreigners meditating in the temple like the Buddhist devotees.

Sir Cyril De Zoysa

The relationship between the Kalutara Bodhi and Sir Cyril De Zoysa is inseparable. Born in Galle, Sir Cyril De Zoysa dedicated himself to protect the dispensation of Buddhism. After having received his primary education at S Thomas’ College and Richmond College, Sir Cyril entered the law college.

Winding back the clock of his childhood, it is said that his father had to travel in a hired-buggy cart because he could not afford the expense of buying a new buggy cart. But later with the little money Sir Cyril earned, he purchased a brand-new buggy cart for his father. This is only a glimpse of his childhood.

No one might have thought that the day on which the Kalutara Bodhi flourishes would dawn. But miraculously Sir Cyril De Zoysa had to come to Kalutara and saw the Kalutara Bodhi which had been isolated and degraded for a long time. Later, he set up a committee to protect the sacred place. From that day, everyone pays homage to this most sacred Bodhi.

Righteous life

According to the Buddhist teaching, “The one who behaves in Dhamma is protected by Dhamma.” It is clear that Sir Cyril De Zoysa is one of those who had believed in the Dhamma until his demise. Never in his life had he neglected to observe the Buddhist rituals.

He started his day at 6.00 O’ clock by paying homage to the Kalutara Bodhi. The last words he said will prove the Buddhist life he lived.

“Now I am free. The state of your wealth does not really matter. These are all illusions. I was born without any wealth. I will die just as I was born - without any wealth. As I reach the end of my days, Buddhism is my sole consolation, my happiness and my strength.”

The glory of Kalutara

The city of Kalutara enriched with the natural beauty and blessed with the sacred Bodhi Tree has overflown with the aroma of the burning joss-sticks and the Buddhist sermons.

At night, the temple illuminated with a myriad of twinkling lights scatters the light of wisdom throughout the city, planting the seeds of generosity, discipline and love in the hearts of people. The moon beams brighten the reflection of the illuminated lights on the still water of the “Kalu Ganga” as if in a surreal world. All we hope is “May the glory of the Kalutara Bodhi shine forth blissfully forever.”