In Indian culture, the banyan tree is worshipped by suvasini on Vat Pournima. Scores of married Hindu women observe the Vat Savitri Vrat dedicated to Savitri, a chaste woman who rescued her husband from the clutches of Lord Yama, the God of death.
On the day of the vrat, married women worship the Banyan tree (vat vriksh), tie a sacred thread (kalava) around its trunk, observe a day-long fast, and pray for their husband. This year Vat Pournima is being celebrated on June 14.
The tree is multi-faceted and provides oxygen 24 hours a day. Gives a dense shade in the scorching sun. The importance of this plant has been explained in Ayurveda.
Ecological: Vata (Banyan tree) is a big tree distributed all over India in the temperate climate, growing to a height of 15-20 meters and wide in radius. The flowers are not visible in the tree. The male and female flowers are enclosed in red fruits. The tree is pollinated only by its own species of tiny wasps that breed only inside the figs of their partner trees.
This remarkable pollination system has a fundamental impact on tropical forest ecology. When the pollen-bearing wasp leaves a Ficus plant, the fruit crop ripens quickly, providing a rich feast that attracts a host of mammals and birds. This pattern results a steady supply of fruit for many animals during times of food shortage. Figs are known to sustain at least 1,200 bird and mammal species hence it is known as “Keystone species of forest ecosystem”.
Cultural: Banyan tree is respected and is considered as sacred by the people in India. Nashik has very interesting and old relation with Banayan Tree, The name ‘Panchavati’ is derived from the words Panch which means five and Vati which means banyan tree. Indians knew the Banyan tree as the ‘vat-vriksha’.
Scientific: Roots of the banyan tree, have been found to possess anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. According to Biological Diversity Act, 1972, The Banayan Tree is listed under Schedule 1 species.
The uniqueness of the Banyan tree lies in its aerial roots. These roots bend towards the ground, eventually gain a hold into the soil and offer strength to the tree. For onlookers, it appears as if one tree is the agglomerate of many trees. But in practice, the reverse is true. One tree gives rise to many roots, and over time the Mother root degrades and disappears. This is why this Indian national tree is also called Bahupada – the one with many legs.
Ayurveda: Ayurveda shows that Banyan is a cure for many ailments. The bark of this Indian tree is useful to control the bleeding of wounds. The sap is also useful in treating piles, rheumatism, pain, and lumbago.
All in all, Banyan symbolizes immortality, constancy, knowledge, longevity, growth, and prosperity. Hence, the banyan tree is made the national tree of India.
- Pooja Kothule, Field officer, Nature Conservation Society of Nashik