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Indian Banyan Tree And Peepal Tree

Updated on August 15, 2016
sacred fig trees picture
sacred fig trees picture | Source

Indian banyan tree and peepal tree are sacred trees of Hindus and Buddhists in India and other Asian countries. Peepal trees are also known as the sacred figs, bodhi trees or pipal trees.

Read all about Indian banyan trees and peepal trees including facts regarding their lifespan and other features. You can also see pictures of the sacred figs here, which should help you to identify both the trees.

Banyan trees usually refer to the Indian banyan trees which has the scientific name Ficus benghalensis. They are very large evergreen trees, in fact the largest in the world in terms of circumference, and they are found commonly in the Indian sub continent. They have strong aerial roots which turn woody as they grow up. In India these trees are planted near roads as large shading trees which can give shelter to numerous birds as well as the tired travelers. The Indian Banyan trees are considered very sacred in Hinduism.

Apparently, the leaves and other parts of sacred figs are used in many traditional medicines too, although honestly I am not very well aware about the exact uses of the Indian banyan trees and peepal trees in medicines. If at any time, I could gather more information on the use of banyan trees and peepal trees with regards to medicine and such, I will add them to the article.

Peepal tree or pipal tree is a very similar species with the scientific name Ficus religiosa. This is also a tropical tree which is evergreen, and it grows very large and woody in time and it is considered very sacred too. Peepall trees are also very large trees which can be grown as shading trees.

Why do I mention the Indian Banyan tree and the Peepal tree together?

Both Indian banyan trees and the peepal trees are very similar species, in fact different varieties with in the fig trees, with much similarity in appearance and other features. The major noticeable difference being in the appearance of leaves. Even though the roots of peepal trees also grow deep and large and woody in time, they are not aerial.

The most important thing to be known about the Indian banyan trees and the peepal trees is that both the trees are considered very sacred by Hindus and Buddhists and they are often planted together in the temple surroundings.

The picture in the introduction module is downloaded from Wikimedia Commons Image, which shows a Peepal tree in the front area and an Indian banyan tree in the background.

Cultural Significance of Indian Banyan Trees And Peepal Trees

As I mentioned above, Indian banyan trees and peepal trees are considered very sacred trees by both Hindus and Buddhists. In Hindu legends, there have been mentions about sages who go into 'tapas' or deep mediations for years, under these trees. It is also believed that, Buddha got enlightenment while he was praying under a peepal tree, and so it is also called as 'Bodhi' tree. Actually not every peepal tree is supposed to be called as a Bodhi tree, a peepal tree can be called so only if its origin can be traced back to that of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha got the enlightenment.

All these beliefs might be due to the fact that, these large trees would have provided the best environment for prayers and meditation for even sages and saints, since they are the best trees that can provide shades. This can also be related with a belief which says that your mind will be the most clear and you can think without any stress if you meditate or even spend some time near these trees. Another fact that supports this theory is that the leaves of these trees can freshen the polluted air, and since these are very large trees, the air surrounding the trees will be the most fresh, always, which in turn can help people improve their concentration and clear the negative thoughts, thus bringing positive energy to the mind and body.

In many parts of rural India, it is still a tradition to gather under a banyan tree or peepal tree when there are issues to be discussed and decisions to be made. In many places, especially in temples, a raised floor is built around these giant trees, where people can sit, take rest or even sleep. There are many stories from history, where people describe about using banyan trees and peepal trees as shelters.

Indian Banyan tree is the National tree of India.

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The above picture from Wikimedia Commons Image shows monks praying near the peepal tree or Bodhi tree.

How large is an Indian banyan tree? The growth, size and life expectancy of Indian banyan tree

It is believed that the largest banyan tree in the world is located in the Botanic garden in Kolkata, India. This is known as the Great Indian Banyan tree which is more than 250 years old and it covers an area of about 4 acres. In fact the tree was hit by a lightning in1925 which resulted in the splitting of the main trunk. However, the tree still continues to grow even though it looks like individual trees. The tree covers about a circumference of half a kilometer and it has about 3300 aerial roots.

The average life span of an Indian banyan tree is thought to be more than 1000 years, although no valid records of this can be cited. According to the studies, these trees may live up to even 2000 years.

The banyan trees usually reach a height of about 30 meters, however in terms of circumference, an almost grown tree can cover an area of about 1 acre.

The trees have flowers and fruits, but these are not edible. The tree can be either planted from a new plant, a branch or its seeds. The tree can propagate naturally from its seeds, and the seeds can germinate on even muddy walls, structures, other buildings and also on the wood of other trees. However, for the young plants to grow properly, either the seeds have to germinate where there is enough space for the roots to grow, or someone has to replant it in well drained and prepared soil. The main thing that one need to keep in mind while planting an Indian banyan tree is that the tree will grow very large in years and hence there should be enough space for the spreading of large tree branches and also the aerial roots which grow very deep and long in the soil.

Great Indian Banyan tree
Great Indian Banyan tree | Source

The above image from Wikimedia Commons Image is that of the Great Indian Banyan tree, which looks like individual trees. This is actually a single tree.

The trunk and leaves of an Indian banyan tree
The trunk and leaves of an Indian banyan tree | Source

Have you ever seen an Indian Banyan tree?

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More Facts About Peepal Trees

The peepal trees are sometimes referred to as pipal trees, pippal trees or pippala trees and they can grow up to a height of 98 feet, with the main trunk diameter reaching up to 3 metres.

The oldest peepal tree in earth is planted in 289 BCE and it is currently located in Sri Lanka. This is the oldest flowering plant in the world and it is planted in Sri Lanka using a branch of the Bodhi tree, where Buddha is believed to be enlightened, brought from India in 289 BCE.

The natural propagation of the trees happen through the seeds, however, just like the case of the Indian banyan trees, they need enough space to grow up. The new plants grown from the seeds can be replanted or the cutting of a branch can be used to plant this tree.

Pictures of peepal tree

In the above pictures from Wikimedia Commons Image, the first image shows the leaves in a peepal tree and the second image shows its trunk.

The Indian Banyan trees and the peepal trees produce small green berries which turn orange or red in color as they ripen, and these fruits are known as figs but they are not edible.

There is a myth that says young people should never plant these sacred trees since this can reduce the lifespan of those who plant them.

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      You are very welcome!

    • VioletteRose profile image
      Author

      VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Jackie Lynnley, that is so kind of you! Thank you so much :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    • VioletteRose profile image
      Author

      VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks again Alun! I have searched using the said words in google and found what you have mentioned. That looks really unique and interesting, which I never knew before. Thank you so much for sharing the information!

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

      Thanks VioletteRose for your reply. I have a picture on one of my pages, but typing the two words 'banyan' and 'Ayutthaya' into Google Images will bring up dozens of photos of the Buddha head embraced by a banyan tree. It's really quite an evocative sight to see, particularly for Buddhists who regard the tree as sacred. Best wishes. Alun

    • VioletteRose profile image
      Author

      VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks so much for reading Alun, and I am so sorry for the late reply. I agree with you, actually the banyan tree is more popularly known but the pipal tree is something many have not heard of. Thanks for sharing the information about the famous banyan tree in the Thai capital. I didn't know of that yet, but I am going to read more about that now.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK

      VioletteRose, although I have heard of Ficus religiosa, I did not know the common name of pippal. The banyan tree, on the other hand, is very familiar to me, not only as a specimen plant in horticultural gardens, but also on travels to Asia, and in particular to Thailand. It must be one of the most distinctive looking trees in the world. There is a famous tree - I think a banyan, though it may be a pippal - in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya, in which the broken head of a Buddha statue is surrounded at ground level by the roots of the tree in what is seen as a symbolic loving or protective embrace. It is one of the most iconic images from the site, and the tree is consequently much revered.

      Particularly interesting for me on this page is the explanation as to just why the banyan and pippal may be regarded as so important in Hindu and Buddhist culture. So thanks for that - an informative hub about two very attractive and significant trees. Voted up. Alun

    • VioletteRose profile image
      Author

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you so much :)

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Interesting,informative and well written enhanced by beautiful images. Voted up,beautiful ,useful and interesting.

    • VioletteRose profile image
      Author

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you all for your kind comments, I am glad you all like these trees :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      These are beautiful trees I have never personally encountered, and I enjoyed learning about them. This was a great educational hub with terrific photos, too.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I LOVE banyan trees, I live in the subtropics and they have a few very stunning, very old ones around my city and these trees are just fascinating! I love to hang out near them on picnics, I can just gaze at them and their intricacies for so long. Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub, great photos too! Voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I enjoyed this hub very much, VioletteRose. I like learning about plants. I loved the cultural and religious information that you discussed in relation to the trees. The picture of the banyan tree that looks like many trees but is really one tree is fascinating!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful trees with a unique shape and height I have learned so much more about these trees from your hub.