Sanghamitra – Sangamitta – Daughter of King Ashoka and Maharani Devi – Buddhist Monk – b. 285 BC

The contribution of Mauryan Dynasty was remarkable in the arena of Art, Cultural and Socio-Religious revolutions in the post Buddha period. Some of these rulers who were liberal in their early life toward religion embraced Buddhism along with their kith and kin.

Sanghamitra - Daughter of King Ashoka - A Buddhist Monk - 285 BC

Sanghamitra – Daughter of King Ashoka – A Buddhist Monk – 285 BC

Sanghamitra – Birth and Leagacy

The second daughter of Asoka and Maharani Vidisha Devi b. 285 BC, Sangamitta was inclined towards religious leaning from her childhood. She had little interest in the pleasures of the palace and accepted a simple life of piety and purity. Sanghamitra was swept away by the simple tenets of Buddhism and imbibed the religious texts very early on from her preceptor Ayupala theri.

Sanghamitra – Marriage, Motherhood and Ordination

When Sanghamitra entered wedlock with Agnimitra, she was barely 14 years of age. The Buddhist couple had a son named Sumana. In spite of being an excellent homemaker and a loving mother and wife, she was always soaked in religious practices and principles to the extent of getting ordained by the Dhammapala as a bhikkhuni. At the youthful age of 18 she was already a practicing nun in Theravada Monastic Order of Buddhism. She continued on her spiritual path in Magadha as Sangamitta Arhat Theri.

Sanghamitra - Left all worldly pleasures and became a nun 267 BC

Sanghamitra – Left all worldly pleasures and became a nun 267 BC

Sanghamitra – The Journey to Sri Lanka   

On her path of purity Sanghamitra came to face a turning point in her life when she was called upon by Mahindra, her brother who had dedicated his life to Buddhist preaching in Sri Lanka and the ruler of the land Devanampiyatissa, to share her knowledge amongst likeminded women who were keen to become bhikkhuni.

Sensing the potential to realize her life’s mission Sanghamitra left for Sri Lanka much to the disdain of her father, as he knew that she left for her life time never to return again. While she left, Sanghamitra carried golden vessel with legacy of Buddha symbolically by taking Bodhi sapling from Bodh Gaya. Her journey from India to Sri Lanka was flanked by other Bhikkhuni who shared her vision and mission.

The Royal Court of Sri Lanka received her with much respect. People thronged to see her as a messenger of Buddhism. Her very first step toward fulfilling her life mission was the planting of Bodhi sapling in Mahavihara at Anuradhapura. The same tree stands tall today at the same place as an evidence of this historic occasion.

Soon after the installation of Bodhi plant, Sanghamitra joined the Royal Court and gave Sri Lanka her first Bhikkhuni, Anula the princess. Later on she established a nunnery for women who were keen to join the monastic order of Theravada Buddhism. Sumana, her son is believed to have joined his mother in her quest to help the Sri Lankan people.

Sanghamitra continued to impart her spiritual knowledge to uplift the people of Sri Lanka especially the women. Sangamitta made Sri Lanka her home for over 50 years.

Sanghamitra – Her Last Days and Death

Sangamittha Theri helped the spread of Buddhism far and wide in Ceylon. She opened many Sangharama to promote Buddhism which was already deep rooted in the Island. We find names of Vihara Somadevi, Vihara Mahadevi and many  other prominent spiritual thinkers who joined her mission to further the religious propagation in the form of Bhikkhuni Sangha.

She entered Mahanirvana at 79 at Anuradhapura. Each year Sri Lankan Buddhists celebrate her Mahanirvana day to express their gratitude and reverence as messenger of peace.

By : Rashmi P Rao

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