There is a beautiful verse in the Panchatantra about Banyan Tree:
"Deer recline in its shade;
Birds in multitude gather to roost
Darkening its dark-green canopy of leaves;
Troops of monkeys cling to the trunk;
While hollows hum with insect-throngs
Flowers are boldly kissed by honey-bees;
O! What happiness its every limb showers
An assemblage of various creatures;
Such a tree deserves all praise,
Others only burden the earth."
Ancient story teller Vishnu Sharma of Pancha Tantra fame composed the above poem; modern poet Southey did not lag behind:
"It was a godly sight to see
The venerable tree
For over the lawn, irregularly spread
Fifty straight columns propt its lofty heads
And many a long depending shoot
Seeking to strike a root
Straight like a plummet grew towards the ground
So like a temple did it seem that there
A pious hearts first, impulse would be prayer…."
Read more amazing things about the tree below:
Alexander the Great amazed at the Banyan tree;
Angkor Wat got its name;
Bania entered Oxford English Dictionary;
Bhagavad Gita used it as a simile;
Seers of Upanishads used it for boys’ experiments;
Tamil and Sanskrit literatures sang its glory;
Shiva and Vishnu sat under/on it;
Salman Rushdie, Daniel Defoe and Southey used it in their stories and novels;
Guinness Book of Records published it under its Tree records;
Banyan is the Sthala Vriksham of many Tamil temples;
Spread its branches in the Unites States;
Used as tooth picks and medicines by Indians;
Worshipped by Hindu women in Vata Savithri Vrata;
Served as the meeting point of villagers for thousands of years
The story of the great and glorious BANYAN TREE is a never ending story.
Swetaketu said to his father : “Please sir, tell me more of this teaching.
Very well my son. Go and pick a fig from the Banyan tree
Here you are, sir
Split it open and tell me what you see inside
Many tiny seeds, sir
Take one of them and split it open and tell me what you see inside.
Nothing at all, sir
Then the father said, “The subtlest essence of the fig appears to you as nothing, but, believe me my son, from that very nothing this mighty banyan tree has arisen.
That being which is the subtlest essence of everything, the supreme reality, the Self, the self of all that exists, THAT ART THOU Svetaketu.”
This Chandogya Upanishad is full of practical demonstrations and experiments ( salt and glass of water etc.). This shows the scientific approach that was followed even in the teaching of philosophy.
NATIONAL TREE OF INDIA
Banyan tree is the national tree of India.
Over six temples in Tamil Nadu have got the tree as its temple tree (sthala Vriksha): Thiru Alankadu, Thiru Alampozil, Thirup pazuvur, Thiru Anpilanthurai, Thiru Meyyam and Thiru Vilipputhur temples. Ancient Tamil native doctors used its root, leaves and latex(milk) as medicines. The tooth brushes made up of its stick are used throughout the length and breadth of India.
Indian merchants are called banias. They did their business camped under the tree and the Europeans called this tree as Bania (n) tree.
Alexander was wonder struck when he saw this tree in India. He camped with 7000 soldiers under banyan trees in North West India.
Aswatthama got the idea of attacking Pandavas when he saw crows attacking owls at the dead of night.
Vata is banyan tree in Sanskrit. Throughout India people worshipped gods and goddesses under the banyan tree in the olden days. In Cambodia where Hindu culture was established by two saints called Agastya and Kaundinya, the same worship was followed. When big stone temples were built in those places, they were still called Vat giving the name Angkor Vat. Because of carelessness and the civil war, huge banyan trees have covered the temple walls now.
Kalidasa, the king of similes, used banyan tree simile appropriately. Like the roots of a banyan tree creeps insidiously into the adjoining tower and shake its very foundations, grief entered King Aja’s heart and shook him. Sri Krishna was floating on a banyan leaf as a child. Lord Shiva did give upadesh under the tree as Dakshinamurthy.
Lord Sri Rama consulted engineers about building a sea bridge to Sri Lanka under the green wood banyan tree. When the birds were making a big noise he made them quiet by hand gestures according to Sangam Tamil literature.
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (15-1): The scriptures speak of the eternal Asvattha, the World Tree, whose roots are in the most high, branches in the lower regions, and leaves in Vedic hymns. He who knows it, understands the Veda really. The same thought is in Katopanishad II-3.1 and Rig Veda I-24-7;I-16420.
Botanical term for banyan tree is Ficus Bengalensis (nyakrodha or Vata in Sanskrit).It belongs to the family Moraceae. Other three important trees of this family are also worshipped by Indians. Ficus religiosa (peepal; in Tamil Arasa maram),Ficus Benjamina (Fig tree; aththi in Tamil), Ficus glomerata (udumpara). Vishnu Sahasranamam praises Lord Vishnu with the names of three Ficus trees (Nyagrodha, Utumpara, Asvaththa).
Hindus worship Banyan tree (Ala Maram in Tamil) for thousands of years. Sanskrit and Tamil literature has innumerable references to it. They consider it represents Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva (Tri Murti). They reside in its roots, barks and branches respectively.
FAMOUS BANYAN TREES
LARGEST TREE: The latest discovery of a huge banyan tree in Fategarh district of Punjab surprised all nature lovers when they came to know its dimensions. The tree is in a village called Choti Kalan and the tree is called Kaya Kalpa Vriksha. It occupies four acres. A temple and a rest house have been constructed under the tree. Punjab Government has taken steps to preserve it as a bio diversity area. Though private lands surround the tree, people believe that stopping the growth of the tree will bring bad luck. The people are so scared they don’t even collect the fallen twigs for fire wood.
Great Banyan Tree- Kolkatta Botanical Gardens-250 year old-occupy four acres-3300 aerial roots
Thimmamma Marimanu, Near Kadiri,A.P-1100 aerial roots- said to be 600 year old-Thimmamma committed SATI and a banyan tree came in that place. Thousands of people go there on Shivratri day every year to worship Thimmamma.
Adyar Theosophcal Society Tree- Chennai -200 year old-3000 people can stand in its shade.
Kabir Vad tree, Gujarat-300 year old tree.
Doda lara mara- near Bangalore- spread over three acres-
William Owen Smith Banyan tree-Hawai,USA (Banyan trees were brought to USA by nature lovers)
VAT SAVITHRI VRAT
Vta Savitri Vrata (fasting) is observed by married women for health and wealth of their husbands. It is mostly observed in Eastern parts of India. People worship Savitri in Banyan (Vat) trees on the full moon day of Jyesta month (May-June). They wear new clothes and bangles on that day.
Tamils have named many towns after Banyan tree like Gujarat (Vatodara). They have proverbs and poems praising the strength of banyan tree. A poem describes how small seeds of a banyan tree bring forth huge trees. A didactic book called Vetri Vekai says that the seeds of a banyan tree are smaller than the eggs of fishes in a pond, but it gives shade to a big army of a king with elephants and horses when it is fully grown. Good people’s wealth may be little but it will benefit a great number of people. Naladiyar, another didactic book, compares small seeds for the good work one does. It says it will give huge benefits for the person who does such work.