Botanical: Ficus Benghalensis | Hindi: बरगद | Marathi: वड | English: Banyan
AboutThe banyan tree (Ficus Benghalensis) holds profound cultural and religious significance, embodying a timeless emblem of wisdom and spiritual resonance. Referred to as the “Kalpavriksha” in Hindu mythology, it symbolizes the wish-fulfilling divine tree, reflecting eternal life and interconnectedness. Its sprawling canopy, supported by an intricate aerial root system, provides shade and shelter, making it a natural gathering place for community activities in an Indian village. The banyan’s presence near temples and sacred sites underscores its sanctity. Beyond its cultural importance, the banyan tree is woven into the tapestry of Indian art, literature, and philosophy, often representing continuity, strength, and the enduring ties between past and present. Revered and preserved, ancient banyan trees stand as living witnesses to India’s heritage, connecting generations through a shared reverence for this majestic and symbolic tree.
Medicinal Uses: The banyan tree’s medicinal uses in traditional Indian medicine are diverse. Various parts, including leaves, bark, and aerial roots, are employed for their therapeutic properties. The bark is believed to have astringent qualities, aiding in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery. The latex is used to address issues like toothaches and gum infections. Additionally, decoctions made from different parts of the banyan tree are applied topically for skin disorders, showcasing its versatile role in traditional healthcare practices.
Tradition and Culture: References to the banyan tree can be found in ancient Vedic literature, showcasing its enduring presence in Indian culture over millennia. Various folk tales and legends highlight the magical and spiritual attributes of the banyan tree, contributing to its mythical aura in Indian cultural narratives. A Banyan tree frequently finds a place in temple precincts as well as at the village school or square called “chaupal”, acting as a place for community events as well as various rituals and festivals. “Vat Purnima/Vat Savitri” is a festival observed by Indian women specially in northern states where in they worship the Vat vriksha expecting good health and longevity for their spouse.
Environmental Impact: The expansive canopy and complex root system of the banyan tree provide shelter and nesting sites for various bird species like crows, owls, parakeets, mynahs, bulbuls and hornbills. Wasp species form deep symbiotic relationship with specific fig trees. Nature has picked a tiny little creature and intertwined its fate with that of the mighty banyan, for co-evolution over the aeons. The Agaonid wasp (Eupristina masoni), commonly called as Fig wasp acts as the sole pollinator for Banyan tree. Scientists identify this singular pact between the agaonid wasps and the fig trees, as “obligate mutualism”. Banyan tree is also a host plant for several butterflies such as Silverstreak Blue, , Cyrestis thyodamas –Map Butterfly and Euploea core –Common Crow.