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A Tree for the Gods

Many years ago, in fact so many years that no one remembers if it was hundreds or thousands of years or even longer, a group of village wise men had a debate on the merits of the Banyan Tree.

"This tree," the first man said, "its wood won't burn, it can't be used to make a fire."
"We can't make tools from it either," said another.
"The wood is too porous."
"The fruit is dry, too bitter to eat," complained the fat one.
"And just see how big it is! Takes up too much space in the village," they went on and on.
"For man," they insisted, "this tree is absolutely useless!"

Then the wisest of the wise men pondered over the question.
At last he said, "It seems to me that this useless Banyan tree must be a very special tree. If it is absolutely useless for man - then it must have been created for the Gods!"

"Ah ah! Ama! True wisdom! No problem!" they all agreed.
And ever since that day the Banyan Tree has been sacred and taken care of for the Gods.



Most of us know the Banyan Tree…
Or we think we do… or we thought we did…
But? Where are the flowers? Has anyone ever seen one? When was it summer or monsoon time?

Do you remember if the flowers were yellow? Red? Purple with green spots? Pink?

We do know the tree has fruit; little balls that look like ripe cherries. They grow in pairs along the leaf axils. During fruiting season the tree is filled with hundreds of birds.

We know that all fruit must have a blossom - or do they?

Sometimes the Banyan fig is called a fruit without a flower. This is nonsense of course. But- where are the blossoms?

You will need better eyes than even our Shikra hawk to find a Banyan flower. That's because they are hidden inside the fig.

The blossoms are very small and hundreds of them spend their entire lives inside the fig.

The flowers have a unique friend called a fig wasp. Each kind of Ficus (fig tree) has its own special species of wasp attached to it. The wasp's job is to pollinate the fig flowers.

The wasp enters the fig through a natural hole in the top and lays its eggs. When the insects hatch and leave their home they become covered with pollen. Then they make their way into another fig and fertilize its blossoms, making sure it will produce seeds.

Now that we have found the flower let's try and find a baby Banyan seedling. 
To find one we have to look in a Palmyra palm.

Most of the Banyan trees in Auroville started their lives high up on the trunk of a Palmyra. Why? And how did it get up there? It was planted by a bird. A bird ate a fig and made a dropping on the Palmyra. Of course it could have landed on a temple roof or a rock or…

The dropping cemented the seed to the wall of the tree. If you observe carefully you might find a seed just starting to send out tiny hair-like roots.

These minute aerial roots will become stronger and thicker and cling to the trunk of the tree. Eventually the roots will completely envelope the Palmyra and can even strangle the host tree. But in the embrace of the Banyan the two can co-exist for many years, or until the Palmyra grows old and dies.

The Banyan grows wide spreading branches that send down aerial roots, like clumps of rope, until they enter the ground and become trunks. So the tree widens and covers a larger and larger area.

One famous Banyan was said to be 600 m. around. It was so big that 20,000 people could all shelter at once in its shade. The Great Banyan of Calcutta has one thousand trunks and a walk around the tree is almost a quarter mile long. It is one of the biggest trees in the world.

The Banyan is indigenous (native) to south India, but it can now be found all over the country.
Thanks to the Birds.


Banyan Tree, Banyan Tree, ...What is the Latin name?  Ficus Bengalensis
A bird ate the fig and made a dropping on a tree. Of course it could have also landed on a temple roof, or on a rock or…

A bird ate the fig and made a dropping on a tree. Of course it could have also landed on a temple roof, or on a rock or…








This very special tree, The Banyan, was chosen by the Mother to be at the heart or center of the Auroville Township, and she called the center 'Peace'.


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