Banyan tree has the privileged status of being “National Tree Of India”. And it has rightly earned this status as it has its roots planted way back to the Dwapara Yuga. The beauty of the banyan tree is that it represents the essence of life. If there is any tree which truly depicts the flow of life inside plants and trees, it is banyan tree.
The banyan tree is known for its ability to survive and grow for centuries, it holds a very significant place in the mythology and culture of India. The aerial roots of the banyan grow down into the soil and they form additional trunks for the tree, and this is the reason it is also called the tree with several feet.
The banyan offers many benefits to humans, it is one of the biggest suppliers of oxygen to us, it is a very good source of shade especially in the summer season, the bark, seeds, and other parts of this tree are used for making many traditional medicines. Because of these multiple benefits, the banyan tree is considered very important among all the trees.
I still remember the day I first saw a big banyan tree, I was a small kid at that time. I was totally mesmerized by this beautiful big banyan tree. It felt as if I had found a whole new world with the roof of the leaves and walls of the wood. The leaves of the this tree get so dense that they provide you ample of shade. And this is something I used to love, as Indian summers get really hot.
In my opinion, calling this tree as just big is not enough, because it can cover even acres of land with the help of its ever-growing aerial roots. These aerial roots grow downwards and with time they reach the soil and get planted there to form new trunks for the tree. These are not actually trunks but they do resemble and function as trunks for the tree.
The scientific name of the banyan tree is Ficus Benghalensis and it belongs to the Moraceae family and Urticales order. The banyan tree is native to the land of India and it has been a part of the Indian communities, both rural and urban for ages. It has both historical and mythological importance in India.
The banyan is a very large and wide evergreen tree, except for a few dry areas where it shed leaves for a short period of time because of the dryness and dearth of water. This tree can grow up to 20 to 25 meters in height, and it has a wide leafy crown with multiple branches that can spread up to 100 meters wide or even more.
The leaves of the banyan are quite large and elliptical in shape, they have a glossy green color and a leathery texture. This tree has a massive trunk that helps to support the big size of the tree, it has a smooth grey-colored bark. The fruit of the banyan is in the shape of a syconium which is typical to the fig species, the color of the fruits is orangish and it changes to a red color as the fruit ripens.
Benenfits And Uses of Banyan Tree
In the traditional medicinal practices various parts of the banyan tree like bark, roots, stem, leaves, fruits and latex are used to treat many disorders such as dysentery, leucorrhea, diarrhea, diabetes, etc.
The banyan is well known for its medicinal applications for treating the diabetes, different parts of this tree are used in antidiabetic formulations because of their ability in regulating the blood glucose level.
Various parts of the banyan tree are also used in anticancer, antiviral, antidiabetic, antimalarial applications. They are also used for their cardio-protective, hepato-protective, and neuroprotective effects.
Banyan Tree And Indian Culture
Banyan tree is strongly and deeply rooted in ancient and even modern Indian culture (no pun intended!). Even today in almost every Indian village you will find a big banyan tree beneath which people of the village gather around in the evenings.
Some Indians also consider that there is a banyan tree known as “Kalpataru” or “Kalpavriksha”. Which translates to “A tree which fulfills all your wishes and desires”. The “vaidhs” (people practicing ayurveda in rural areas) have been using this tree for treatment of many ailments for ages.
Banyan tree also holds an important place in the freedom struggle of India. It has witnessed a lot of revolutionary acts around it and also provided shelter to the freedom fighters. But it also got to see the sad part of it, as many of the freedom fighters who fought against the colonial rule were brutally hanged by its branches.
Banyan Tree And Indian Mythology
There are hindu texts dating way back more than 2000 years, which state that there was a massive banyan tree which had its roots in the heaven. It hang downwards from heaven with its aerial roots reaching towards the earth.
In Hindu religion Banyan is considered a sacred tree and it has been called as “Ashwath Vraksha”. It represents the growth of life as it keeps on growing always. It provides shelter and shade to all who come under its lee.
According to Hindu texts the Lord Krishna himself delivered the sermon of The Bhagvada Geeta standing beneath a big banyan tree at Jyotisar. The town of Jyotisar is presently located in the district of Kurukshetra in Haryana state.
Some Hindus also associate banyan with the Lord of death known as “Yamaraj” in Hindu mythology. As it is found around most of the “Mukti Dhaam” (cremation grounds of Hindus).
Growing A Banyan Tree
If you wish to grow a banyan for yourself then the first thing that you need to plan about is space. The one thing that banyan tree requires more than any other thing is space. It is an ever-growing tree and even hundreds of square feet would not limit its growth.
The banyan tree can be propagated from its seeds, there are multiple small seeds in the fruit of the banyan. It is advisable to use rainwater for the germination of banyan seeds as it is naturally suitable to aid the germination process.
For starting the germination process separate the seeds of the banyan in a small plastic container and put them in water for a few hours. Now take another plastic container with some small holes in the bottom to allow proper water drainange.
You can put paper on these holes in the container before filling the soil mix in it. For preparing the soil mix you can take 40 percent vermicompost and 50 percent coco peat and 10 percent sand. After preparing this soil mix put a layer of about 2 to 3 inches in the plastic container.
Then sprinkle the seeds of the banyan on the soil, sprinkle the seeds properly so that they do not overlap. Only a few seeds will germinate properly as the success rate is fairly low. After sprinkling the seeds put another layer of about one inch of soil mix on top of the seeds.
Now pat the soil mix slowly so that the soil and the seeds get settled properly and then water the soil mix lightly with the help of a sprayer. Do not over water the soil as it may spoil the seeds. The banyan seeds need continuous moisture for the germination process, as such you should spray some water at regular intervals.
Growing a banyan is fairly easy in warmer climates as it requires proper sun exposure for its growth. It requires water and moisture at moderate levels. It is fairly capable of surviving in areas with less water availability.
At around second to third week you will observe the small seedlings sprouting out of the soil. It is a god idea to start with multiple seeds so that there are multiple options to chose from. After the seedlings have grown to 5 to 6 inches in length they can be planted to their permanent abode.
It is not recommended to grow banyan at areas around the foundations of the building, pavements, streets and other such structures. Banyan has the strength to make some real damages to these structures, it is like a lion and it lives as per its own rules.
Thimmamma Marrimanu, which is located in Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh, is considered the largest banyan tree.
Its canopy encompasses an area of more than 4.70 Acres and for this feat it is also recorded in Guinness Book Of World Records.
The Great Banyan Tree located in Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden near Kolkata is around 250 years old.
This tree encompasses an area of more than 3.5 acres.
Kabirvad banyan tree in Bharuch district is also a massive tree which encompasses an area of around 4.30 acre.
Pillalamarri, a banyan tree in Mehbubnagar, Telangana is considered to be around 800 years old and spreads to an area of around 4 acre.