Asoka’s devotion to the teachings of the Buddha was so strong that he even permitted his dear son Venerable Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to be ordained, with their consent. At that time, Sanghamitta was eighteen. She was born in Ujjeni, married and had a son named Sumana. She lived in Pataliputra.
In Sri Lanka when subqueen Anula and her 500 companions had expressed desire to become nuns. Thera Mahinda then suggested to Devanampiya Tissa to send an embassy headed by Maha-Arittha to King Asoka, with a request that Theri Sanghamitta should come to Sri Lanka to confer ordination to the nuns, bringing a branch of the Bodhi tree from Bodhi Gaya. The request was granted.
Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta sailed for 7 days with eleven other nuns, landed at northern port of SL, at Jambukola. King Devanampiya Tissa and a large gathering received her. After her arrival at Anuradhapura, Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta ordained Anula and her 500 companions. All the Bhikkhunis who accompanied Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta to SL taught the doctrine and discipline at Anuradhapura.
Following in the footsteps of the Buddha, who treated women with consideration and civility, and pointed out to them, too, the path to peace, purity and sanctity. Sanghamitta did all in her power to raise womankind from lower to higher levels of life. She worked with unflagging devotion and undaunted courage for the moral, intellectual and spiritual uplift of the womenfolk of this country.
Bhikkuni Sanghamitta lived at Upasikavihara with newly ordained nuns. She had 12 buildings erected there for the use of the nuns. Later, the king built Hatthalhaka nunnery where she resided till her death at 59. In 5th century AD, Sinhala Bhikkhunis are said to have gone to Nanking in China to start the Bhikkuni order. Bhikkhuni Tisara was the leader and conferred higher ordination upon over 300 Chinese nuns in 434 AD. The bhikkunis living in Chendu in Sichuan province are convinced that they belong to the same Bhikkhuni order introduced to SL in the 3rd century BC by Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta.
Ceremonial planting of Bodhi tree in SL
The advent of Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta to SL with a sapling of the Bodhi tree from Bodhi Gaya in the 3rd century BC was a historical event proved not only by literary sources but also by archaeological evidence. The preparation of the Bodhi sapling taken from the southern side of the tree is recorded in detail. A solemn ceremony was held when Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta left the Indian port of Tamralipti (Tamluk). To look after the Bodhi Tree, King Asoka sent members of 18 families of devakula and 8 families each from ministers, Brahmins and farmers together with the number of guardians, weavers and potters.
On arrival at Sri Lanka, King Devanampiya Tissa received the Bodhi sapling with a royal guard of honour. It was placed in a pavilion specially built on the beach and honored for 9 days. On the 10th day, it was placed on a chariot and taken to Anuradhapura in a grand procession with great pomp and pageantry. In Anuradhapura, it was planted ceremonially at the royal garden Mahameghavana.
Agriculture & Irrigation
The engineers who arrived with Their Sanghamitta to SL introduced the system of irrigation to Anuradhapura. Huge tanks were constructed to contain irrigational water.
18 types of craftmen accompanied Their Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka. This helped SL’s progress as a society.
Their Sanghamitta lived till 59, contributing to the growth of the Bhikkhuni order in SL. When she passed away, she was cremated at Cittasala. King Uttiya erected a stupa over her ashes. The engineers and craftsmen that Sanghamitta brought along to Sri Lanka helped in the development of agriculture, irrigation and other society progression. Both Venerable Mahinda and Sanghamitta were regarded as heroes of Sri Lanka as they contributed a lot to establish Buddhism, introduced Asokan indian culture and know-how in Sri lanka.