Friday, December 02, 2005

Ante Diem IV Nonas December

Modern Date : December 2nd

Ante Diem IV Nonas December
Fourth Day to the Nones of December

This is one of the dies nefasti a day on which no legal action or public voting could take place.

On this day in 363 AD, just before evening, Nicomedia was rocked by an earthquake and wholly destroyed along with a good part of Nicaea. The emperor Julian was reigning at the time in Constantinople.

Decima, the middle Fate in charge of the present, presides over December, but the month may have received its name as the tenth month of the Roman calendar. Vesta, patroness of fire also laid claim to the month of December.

The Bodhi Tree
Buddhists pay homage to the world's oldest documented tree on this day. Planted in 288 BC, it is an offshoot of the tree Buddha gained enlightenment beneath.

At the western side of the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, stands a large and historic Pipal Tree ficus religiosa, known throughout history as the Bodhi Tree, under which Shakyamuni Buddha, then known as Gautama, attained Enlightnment some 2500 years ago.

Gautama, had been practicing austerities for six years in the area of the Niranjana river near Bodhgaya. Finally understanding that this could not lead to realization, he abandoned his austerities and in the nearby village of Senani (now also known as Sujata) the Brahmin girl Sujata offered him milk rice. Strengthened by this, he took some kusha grass for a mat and sat under the Pipal Tree facing east. He resolved not to rise until he attained Enlightenment.

The earliest records on the tree are in the 'Kalingabodhi Jataka', which gives a vivid description of the tree and the surrounding area prior to the Enlightenment, and the 'Asokavadana', which relates the story of King Asoka's (3rd century B.C) conversion to Buddhism. His subsequent worship under the sacred tree apparently angered his queen to the point where she ordered the tree to be felled. Ashoka then piled up earth around the stump and poured milk on its roots. The tree miraculously revived and grew to a height of 37 metres. He then surrounded the tree with a stone wall some three meters high for its protection.

Ashoka's daughter Sangamitta, a Buddhist nun, took a shoot of the tree to Sri Lanka where the King, Devanampiyatissa, planted it at the Mahavihara monastery in Anuradhapura. It still flourishes today and is the oldest continually documented tree in the world.

Much later the English archeologist Cunningham records, "In 1862 I found this tree very much decayed; one large stem to the westward with three branches was still green, but the other branches were barkless and rotten. I next saw the tree in 1871 and again in 1875, when it had become completely decayed, and shortly afterwards in 1876 the only remaining portion of the tree fell over the west wall during a storm, and the old pipal tree was gone. Many seeds, however, had been collected and the young scion of the parent tree were already in existence to take its place."

The Bodhi Tree as it appears today, the fourth direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree and oldest continually documented tree in the world.

Shiva the Destroyer
In the Hindu calendar, 12/2 is the Feast of Shiva, the Destroyer, one of the three most important male deities in the Hindu pantheon. The sound and rhythm of his drum are said to be the primordial tone of the cosmos, his dance the creative act that brings all life into being. The third deity of the Hindu triad of great gods, the Trimurti. Shiva is called the Destroyer, but has also the aspect of regeneration. As destroyer he is dark and terrible, appearing as a naked ascetic accompanied by a train of hideous demons, encircled with serpents and necklaces of skulls. As auspicious and reproductive power, he is worshipped in the form of the Linga, or phallus.

Shiva is depicted as white, with a dark-blue throat, with several arms and three eyes. He carries a trident and rides a white bull. His consort is Parvati (Devi).

In the Islamic calendar, this day honors Khadijah, Mother of Islam, who was both wife of the Prophet Mohamed and his amanuensis in writing down the words of the Qur-an.