Undoubtedly, the most sacred fig tree ever to grace the Earth was the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment. Buddha was said to have stared unblinkingly at the tree in an awed gesture of gratitude and wonder after his enlightenment. Today, pilgrims and tourists alike flock here to pray and meditate at the most important of Buddhism’s four holiest sites.
Known as Sri Maha Bodhi, the original tree was paid special attention by Ashoka, a mighty Indian emperor who ruled most of the subcontinent from 269 to 232 BC, a century or so after the date the Buddha is believed to have died. Ashoka's jealous wife, Tissarakkhā, felt the emperor should have been directing his devotion towards her, rather than towards a tree and, in a fit of rage, she caused the tree to perish by piercing it with poisonous thorns.
Thankfully, before its death, one of the tree’s saplings was carried off to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta (Ashoka’s daughter), where it continues to flourish. A cutting was later carried back to Bodhgaya and planted where the original once stood. The red sandstone slab between the tree and the adjacent Mahabodhi Temple was placed by Ashoka to mark the spot of Buddha’s enlightenment – it’s referred to as the Vajrasan (Lightning Throne).