TODAY -

The Banyan

S Balakrishnan *



We all know that our national bird is the beautiful Peacock, national animal is the majestic Tiger and that our national flower is, you guessed it right, BJP's Lotus. Well, if Congress can have in its flag the three colours of our national flag in that exact order, can't BJP have the national flower as its party symbol! Now, to be frank, until this very moment I was not aware that we do have a National Tree and it is the Banyan. The blame goes to my teachers. Now that I have found someone to blame for my failure, let me happily proceed further.

But a great religious sin is being created by mixing up banyan tree for peepal tree. It was under peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) that Gautam Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment; hence it is called the Bodhi Tree. The descendant of the original tree is still worshipped in Bodh Gaya complex. But in the internet many incorrect references wrongly attribute that it was under a Banyan tree (Ficus bengalensis) that Siddharth attained Buddhahood.

Significance: Almost all parts of the banyan tree the leaf, latex, bud, bark, aerial root, fruits have medicinal value in curing various health problems. A Tamil proverb says that banyan is good for the teeth and that if you lose your teeth you lose your word. Not the MS Word but the spoken word.

The Banyan is a much venerated tree by the Hindus. Lord Dakshinamoorthy sits under the cool shade of the banyan tree. An image of Lord Ganesh is installed and worshipped under banyan trees. In a few temples it is also the sacred sthala viruksha (temple tree). The tree has commercial value also in that its wood is used in house building and furniture making, besides in paper production.

Naming game: The common name, banyan, is derived from 'banias' (merchants; remember that Mahatma Gandhi is also from the Bania community) who, in the olden days, met under the shade of Banyan trees to conduct their business. It was also believed that deals struck under banyan tree would be fulfilled and amount agreed upon would be promptly settled.

Eventually 'banyan' turned out to be the name of the tree itself. The generic name Ficus is a Latin word meaning fig fruit; the specific epithet 'benghalensis is after Bengal, its place of origin.

The Tree: Banyan is a very large evergreen tree growing up to 20 m tall with spreading branches and aerial, prop roots that look like pillars. It is found throughout the Indian subcontinent, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It usually germinates from the cracks and crevices on buildings, bridges or a host tree. The aerial roots aid in its longevity and virtual immortality.

The Banyan is a refuge for many bird varieties that create a sweet cacophony of tweets and chirps throughout the daytime. Similarly, naughty kids also surround it and swing happily from its aerial roots. Called Vat Viruksha in Sanskrit, it does not permit any other plant to grow under its shade. Because of its cool shade, Kings ordered it to be planted along the highways which we have now mercilessly cut down for National Highways! Banyan tree has silently acted in many movies as the traditional venue for gram panchayts.

Seed & Story: Banyan is such a vast tree but its fruits are small and its seeds are such miniscule ones that you need a magnifying glass to view them. It has male, female and gall fruits. A fable revolves around its microscopic seed A tired traveller was once taking rest under a shady banyan tree. He saw the fruits scattered all around and wondered aloud 'What a fool is the creator! Such a huge tree but its fruits are so tiny!', and he slept away.

Then a fruit fell on his forehead with such a force from such a height that he praised aloud 'How wise is the creator! If a pumpkin-sized fruit had grown, I would be dead by now'. From such a miniscule seed, the tree spreads so widely even to accommodate a king's army (all of its four divisions infantry, cavalry, chariot and elephant), an old Tamil poetry sings in praise. Flowering and fruiting happen between April and July. Botanists say that its flowers are pollinated by a single species of wasp Eupristina masoni, while the seeds are dispersed by fruit-eating birds like Indian Mynas, crows, bats and squirrels.

Big Banyans: India has some really big and vast Banyan trees. It is claimed that the world's 'largest' Banyan tree is at Thimmamma Marrimanu in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. It covers an area of 2.5 ha, and is 650 years old. It has branches spread over 8 acres and has 1650 prop roots. It has entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989.

The banyan in Kolkatta's botanical garden is actually called the 'Great Banyan Tree'. Found in the AJC Bose Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah, it is said to be the 'widest', and one of the largest trees in the world. It is only around 250 years old but has about 2900 prop roots that help cover 1.5 ha. Thus, the circumference of its canopy extends to about 450 m. This tree, too, has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Well, Chennai too has its landmark Adyar Banyan Tree within the peaceful campus of Theosophical Society HQ. Estimated to be the 'second largest' banyan tree in India, it is around 450 years old and is thought to be one of the largest banyan trees in the whole world. The total area occupied by the tree and its offshoots is estimated to be around 40,000 square feet. It has withstood the severe storm damage to its main trunk in 1989. It is a shame I had never had a darshan of it, or the one in Kolkatta during a hop-stop visit to that city.

I once saw a Banyan Tree in Bonsai version. It was a mixed feeling of awe and pain that such a mighty tree had been tortured into a miniscule version. Still, if someone gifted me a bonsai Banyan, I would really love to have it.

Why should I suddenly sing praise of the Banyan Tree? The other day, as we climbed up and down a steep hill fort in Gingee on sultry day, a grand old banyan tree kindly extended its cool shade to rest a while. I felt heady that many kings of the Gingee Fort too would have rested at the same spot in the past.

I decided then & there to pen a piece on Banyan that gave peace to me. Does the Banyan care! In a way this is also to atone for my sin of not knowing that we do have our National Tree and that it is the majestic Banyan Tree.

Let me end this with the Tamil blessing "aal pol thazhaithu, arugu pol paravi ' meaning, let your generations propagate like the ever-spreading banyan (aal / aala maram) tree and the arugu (dhub / durva) grass.

Amen!


* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on January 28 2019.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #3 : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • Modi's arduous journey & fate of Naga peace
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Autism: Why fit in, when you can stand out?
  • Bloodstained Masquerade :: Poem
  • Dharamvir Singh: Forgotten hero of TV
  • What is keeping the clash going on ?
  • Warning of a coming politico-military storm
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #6
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Timeline
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Gallery
  • Are we on track to end AIDS by 2030 ?
  • 3 writers from Manipur for Sahitya Akademi
  • Manipur's traffic, parking: A big nuisance
  • Career in elderly care
  • Keeping the folks under a state of confusion
  • Nothing neat about NEET
  • Aid to relief camps @ Jiribam : Gallery
  • Id Festival- 'Id-Ul-Azha' :: Book
  • World Day to Combat Desertification 2024
  • NDPP did not lose LS due to local problem
  • RSS chief says, priority Manipur
  • What if not IIT ?
  • Waiting for a response from the PM
  • The test of leadership failed
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #35: Download
  • Gastronomy tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Triathlon : Manipur bag 6 medals (3 gold)
  • Illegal immigrants/fugitives from Myanmar
  • Eid-ul-Adha: Embracing sacrifice
  • A solution to Meitei-Kuki-Zo conflict
  • The Power of Poppy - 35 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: R K Brojen Singh
  • Brief sketch on General Balaram Sougaijamba
  • Non-violent for peaceful, mutual co-existence
  • Homeless person ..alcoholism & defeated TB
  • Cancer on rise among young adults
  • Defending, fighting for Idea of Manipur
  • From partiality to complicity
  • Bike Rally - Sekmai to Kangla : Gallery
  • 'Modi must announce finality of Naga pacts'
  • Gliding over Brahmaputra
  • Question leaks cause stress among student
  • Home remedies for prickly heat
  • After IIT, AIIMS it is now IIM
  • Stealing spotlight from Manipur crisis
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #2 : Gallery
  • Strongly condemns violence in Jiribam
  • Lessons from outcome of LS election
  • Tumcho releases "Goodness of God"
  • Right diagnostic for antimicrobial resistance
  • 12th June is World Day against Child Labour
  • Hands of geo-politics ?
  • The row over NEET-2014
  • 2nd Annual Art Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Chilli Chicken: Film Spotlighting NE in B'lore
  • Committee of Narcotics Anonymous - Imphal
  • The Power of Meditation
  • Oceans as a career choice
  • Getting more and more audacious
  • A test of leadership
  • Education Fair @Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Gifting two seats to Cong
  • Voters empowered democracy
  • Postcards from Meghalaya premieres
  • Milk : Essential nutrient for a healthy body
  • Failing in competitive exam not end of world
  • Delhi : A mere spectator
  • Abandoning Jiribam
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #5
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #2 : Gallery
  • Mainstream in Shoes of Alternative
  • Protect the medicines that protect us
  • Lets take action for our land & our future
  • Democracy and independent media
  • Agenda at work to shut Western Gate
  • Keeping Manipur on the boil
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #34: Download
  • The Enigmatic Journey of 'Laikhutshangbi'
  • Individual and the Social
  • An Ardent Appeal to All Concerns
  • Condemnation of Attack & Govt Inaction
  • The Power of Poppy - 34 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: Laishram Shanta
  • Alien fishes spotted in Manipur's rivers
  • Training on mushroom at Langthabal
  • Digital avatars or deepfakes ?
  • 7th June is the World Food Safety Day
  • How to prepare for UPSC after 10th ?
  • The Jiri violence
  • Beginning of a new vote culture ?
  • Bimol Akoijam (Cong) wins Inner PC : Gallery
  • BJP, NPF & other NDA pay heavy price
  • Nature is one of greatest blessings of God
  • Plantation drive in Tripura, Assam & Manipur
  • Summer beauty
  • Environment conservation & over-exploitation
  • Is Modi cut out for leading a coalition ?
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #2: Gallery
  • Scholarship for Johnstone Hr Sec students
  • 1st foundation day of Interfaith Forum
  • World Environment Day: Our land, our future
  • Indonesia stronger anti-tobacco measures
  • Navigating a fragile Myanmar: India's policy
  • New breed entering electoral politics
  • The road to formation of new govt
  • International Dance Day #1 : Gallery
  • Matchbox marketing mantra
  • Stop harming nature :: Poem
  • Saving for oneself & the Nation
  • Model United Nations (MUN) conducted
  • Tobacco: Threat to health & environment
  • Candidate from ruling party biting the dust
  • The verdict
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #4
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #3 : Gallery
  • Navigating Remal amidst Manipur conflict
  • We are #GenerationRestoration
  • Intl Day of Innocent Children Victims
  • Apparel Industry Skills & Innovation CoE
  • What's in a cyclone's name ?
  • Ongoing clash, the floods, the losses
  • Exit poll predictions
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #33: Download
  • Evading flood & rethinking urbanization
  • Manipur Flood: Health Advisory
  • Onus on civil bodies to ensure NNPG unity
  • Rats also cause flood
  • Benefits of JEE Main mock tests
  • People have spoken, now the results
  • The fury of Remal
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #1 : Gallery
  • The flood in our Stars
  • The Power of Poppy - 33 :: Poem
  • 'Group of people misrepresented themselves'
  • EV industry and career options
  • Scientist of Manipur: Chandrakant Aribam
  • Candy flavoured traps to hook next Gen
  • Commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day 1951 #2
  • Tobacco affects health & environment too
  • Jio extend validity for Customer in Manipur
  • Students must learn about AI irrespective
  • As vote count day approaches : Floods
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #2 : Gallery
  • Flooded : Sacrifice of Yairipok's Maiden
  • World No Tobacco Day 2024
  • Chandam Rishikanta wins NPC Nat'l C'ship
  • Flood: Helpline numbers for emergency
  • Battling body odour ?
  • Floods : Not entirely natural phenomena
  • PM Modi's purpose
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #1 : Gallery
  • June Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Flood: Control Rooms & Helpline numbers
  • Economic impact of ongoing conflict
  • Army Recruitment Rally for Manipur
  • Cut deficit, boom likely
  • Are Gods angry ? Wake up call for Manipur
  • Beating of the Retreat #2 : Gallery
  • We did Overcome: Mayhem of Month of May
  • Training on mushroom at Potshagbam
  • Famous female Mathematicians in India
  • Disinformation campaign thengnare
  • Human trafficking puts humanity to shame
  • Sky opens up in all its fury
  • Licypriya meets Italy PM & Pope Francis
  • HSLC (Class X) 2024 : Full Result
  • HSLC 2024 : Important Info & Grading System
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC 2024 : Comparative Statement
  • Combined Defence Services Exam 2024
  • Good show in Class X exams
  • Downplaying the crisis
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #3
  • Reviving Lamphelpat : Conservation : Gallery
  • Commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day 1951 #1
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Hojai
  • The Power of Poppy - 32 :: Poem
  • Insights from CUET-UG Counselling
  • International Day for Biological Diversity
  • Unseen force at work: Time to unravel it
  • Sheikh Hasina's revelation
  • The Vanishing Meitei Tribe
  • Building career in defence & strategic study
  • Why example of model code of conduct ?
  • Ownership of responsibility
  • Will pressure mount on key players in NE
  • How to save your foot after an accident
  • Children Camp @JNMDA Imphal #3 : Gallery
  • Education Fair @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Project Associate @ CSE, Assam Univ
  • Understanding schizophrenia
  • Advancement in Multi Objective Optimization
  • When will women in voter list increase ?
  • Making 2 plus 2 is equal to 5
  • Changing face of drug menace
  • Scientist of Manipur: Jayanta Manoharmayum
  • 25 yrs since Atal Vajpayee visit to RIMS
  • 4 Lakhs donated to support (L) Maipak Family
  • Clarification: Guwahati Meet on Humanitarian
  • Start UPSC prep after 12th for success
  • Tips to avoid melting makeup in summer
  • Giving a big solid push to ST demand
  • Time to come clean
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba: 1 occasion, 2 narratives #3
  • Khongjom Day @Khebaching #2 : Gallery
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #1: Gallery
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #2
  • Scientist of Manipur: Amom Ruhikanta
  • Preserving Thang-Ta :: Rare Photos
  • Regarding Human Rights Situation in Manipur
  • Malemnganbi Laishram : Science Topper
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2024 #2: Gallery
  • Thokchom Sheityajit : Arts Topper
  • Aiena Naorem : Commerce Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Science Topper
  • HSE 2024 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : District Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : Candidates with Highest Marks
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Science Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Arts Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Commerce Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Arts Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Commerce Topper
  • Aftermath of ferocious hailstorm #1 : Gallery
  • Radio E-pao: Manipuri Film OST (130+ song)
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing : Full Book
  • A ferocious hailstorm @Imphal : Gallery
  • '365 Days of Chin-Kuki Aggression' : Gallery
  • National Science Teacher workshop
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #2 : Gallery
  • Scientists of Manipur : Ngangkham Nimai
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD