April 10, 2008

Cloning the Holy Bodhi Tree

by Rohan Parker

Officials at the temple of Bodh Gaya, where the holy Bodhi tree is situated, have taken steps to ensure the sacred tree is not lost due to its failing health, by having the tree cloned. This is the tree which grew from the banyan tree where, 2,500 years ago, Buddha attained enlightenment.

To ensure that the clone has the same ancestry as the Bodhi tree, the cloning process is to be done in a contained lab. The Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee, who are the care takers of the Unesco World Heritage site, have been prompted into the action after concerns grew over the tree’s collapse, either from natural causes or disease.

Three months ago the committee and the Forest Research Institute (FRI) signed an agreement to clone the tree. The FRI are to create a ‘virtual model’ of the cells of the Bodhi tree using DNA fingerprinting technology. They are to also give the tree a thorough check-up twice every year.

Thousands of Buddhists make the pilgrimage to the tree every year, as it is one of the most important and holy sites to Buddhism.

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