Bodhi fig (Ficus religiosa).
* A large, fast-growing deciduous tree.
* Smooth grey bark, fluted trunk.
* Heart-shaped leaves on long, thin stems. These shimmer easily in a light breeze.
* The bodhi (or bo) tree is revered by Buddhists (who regard it as the personification of Buddha ( see information on Basic Buddhism)) and Hindus (who regard it as the tree beneath which Vishnu was born).
* "Bodhi" means "tree of knowledge."
* Grows naturally in India and Nepal.
The Bodhi or Bo or Peepul tree (Ficus religiosa), is a type of fig species (Family Moraceae) and the sacred tree for Buddhists. The most famous Bodhi tree is located about 60 miles from Patna in the Indian state of Bihar, under which Gautama Buddha, spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, arrived at Bodhi (lit. (supreme) knowledge, enlightenment).
The tree near Patna is a frequent tourist destination for pilgrims since it is next to the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, one of four holy sites to Buddhists. It was while meditating under this tree (mentioned as Assattha in the Tipitaka) that Siddhartha Gautama achieved Nirvana. Therefore, the Bodhi tree or tree of wisdom is considered sacred and symbolic to Buddhists. The leaves of this tree are somewhat unusual, being cordate in shape with a distinctive extended (or caudate) apex or tip
Peepal (ficus religiosa)
Tree of eternal life
The peepal tree, with its heart-shaped leaves, is considered sacred by most Indians. It is also called ashwattha and has its mythical origin in the personality of Indra, the ruler of the skies. In scriptures, the Peepal is recognised as the tree of eternal life whose roots originate in heaven. Its branches spread on Earth to bring munificence to mankind. The peepal has inspired artists and sculptors for centuries to create graphic designs and sculptural friezes which stylise its branches as a symbol of a rich life. The ashwattha symbolises the continuity of life because the tree itself lives and grows for hundreds of years. Childless couples devoutly believe in its powers and worship it, tying threads of white, red and yellow silk around it to pray for progeny and rewarding parenthood.
'The holy Fig Tree' The concept of divinity even in vegetations, trees etc has been prevalent in Indian civilization since time immemorial and have been accepted as a tradition.
Lord Sri Krishna has said in Bhagawad Gita that the holy fig tree personifies his own glory. The five-trees (Pancha-vat) are considered as very sacred in India, they are:-
1. Fig tree,
2. A wild fig (Sycamore) tree (Gular),
3. Banyan tree,
4. Pakar (citron-leaved), Indian fig tree,
5. Mango tree.
Among these the holy fig tree is considered as the most sacred. A man who plants this tree goes to the abode of almighty God after his death. He can neither be tormented by the miseries of 'Yama-loka' nor has to face miseries in this world.
Lord Vishnu dwells in the roots of this tree, 'Keshav' (Krishna) in the trunk, Narayana dwells in the branches, Lord Shri Hari in the leaves and all the deities dwell in the fruits of the holy fig tree. This tree is the personification of Lord Vishnu. Great men serve the 'Virtuous roots of this tree. Protection of this tree liberates a man from all his sins and help in the accomplishment of every desire.
The cutting of a holy fig tree without a proper reason is similar to cutting one's own ancestors. By doing this, one destroys his descent. But cutting of this tree for sacred activities like 'Yagya' (sacrificial fire) is not sinful, on the contrary it helps in the attainment of Heaven. The mere worship of this tree is worship all the deities. (Parikrama) moving around a holy fig tree is reverence and pouring water on it daily destroy all kinds of inauspiciousness. Pouring water on the roots of this tree in the month of May (Vaishakh) gives immense virtues,thus worshipping it with devotion gives long life.
There is a rule of making three circumambulations of a holy fig tree. Planting this tree on any auspicious day one should nurture it with water for eight years, just like his own son. After that, performing the sacred-thread (yagyopavita) ceremony of this tree and worshipping it with proper methods give undiminishing wealth and fortune, the lineage continues without any hitch, gives long life, and the dead ancestors attain salvation by getting liberation from the hell.
Hindu girls perform many fasts connected with this tree right from their childhood. A girl who has a probability of becoming a widow according to the inauspicious combination of planets in her horoscope must worship the holy fig tree. After taking bath she should purify the soil around the holy fig tree by cow dung paste, decorate the tree with threads and Ochre and worship it with the help of a Brahmin. She should invocate Lord Vishnu and Laxmi who dwell in the holy fig tree and worship them by chanting 'Purusukta' Mantras and by performing "Havana' and 'Tarpana'. After that she should circumambulate the holy fig tree for 108 times and tie a white thread around it.
The holy fig tree has medicinal properties too. According to Ayurveda this tree has both sweet and bitter taste and has a cool property. Intaking the bark, fruit and buds with different Combination of things cures the diseases related with Phlegm, bile, inflammation swelling and indisposition etc. The soft bark and the bud of this tree cures 'Prameha' (a disease in which sperms emanate through urine).
The powdered form of the fruit of this tree increases appetite and cures numerous diseases. So the holy fig tree holds a very important place in Indian civilization i.e. religious point of view, medicinal and social point of views, and hence it is worth being worshipped.
Called ashvattha in Sanskrit, the peepal (Ficus religious) is a very large tree. Its bark is light grey, smooth and peels in patches. Its heart-shaped leaves have long, tapering tips. The slightest breeze makes them rustle. The fruit is purple when ripe.
The peepal is the first-known depicted tree in India: a seal discovered at Mohenjodaro, one of the cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation (c. 3000 BC - 1700 BC), shows the peepal being worshipped. During the Vedic period, its wood was used to make fire by friction.
The peepal is used extensively in Ayurveda. Its bark yields the tannin used in treating leather. Its leaves, when heated in ghee, are applied to cure wounds.
The Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana, relate how once, when the demons defeated the gods, Vishnu hid in the peepal. Therefore spontaneous worship to Vishnu can be offered to a peepal without needing his image or temple. The Skanda Purana Peepal Tree also considers the peepal a symbol of Vishnu. He is believed to have been born under this tree.
Some believe that the tree houses the Trimurti, the roots being Brahma, the trunk Vishnu and the leaves Shiva. The gods are said to hold their councils under this tree and so it is associated with spiritual understanding.
The peepal is also closely linked to Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, he says: "Among trees, I am the ashvattha." Krishna is believed to have died under this tree, after which the present Kali Yuga is said to have begun.
In the Upanishads, the fruit of the peepal is used as an example to explain the difference between the body and the soul: the body is like the fruit which, being outside, feels and enjoys things, while the soul is like the seed, which is inside and therefore witnesses things.
According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the peepal should be regarded as one. As long as the tree lives, the family name will continue.
To cut down a peepal is considered a sin equivalent to killing a Brahmin, one of the five deadly sins or Panchapataka. According to the Skanda Purana, a person goes to hell for doing so.
Some people are particular to touch the peepal only on a Saturday. The Brahma Purana explains why, saying that Ashvattha and Peepala were two demons who harassed people. Ashvattha would take the form of a peepal and Peepala the form of a Brahmin. The fake Brahmin would advise people to touch the tree, and as soon as they did, Ashvattha would kill them. Later they were both killed by Shani. Because of his influence, it is considered safe to touch the tree on Saturdays. Lakshmi is also believed to inhabit the tree on Saturdays. Therefore it is considered auspicious to worship it then. Women ask the tree to bless them with a son tying red thread or red cloth around its trunk or on its branches (see Sacred Trees).
On Amavasya, villagers perform a symbolic marriage between the neem and the peepal, which are usually grown near each other. Although this practice is not prescribed by any religious text, there are various beliefs on the significance of 'marrying' these trees. In one such belief, the fruit of the neem represents the Shivalinga and so, the male. The leaf of the peepal represents the yoni, the power of the female. The fruit of the neem is placed on a peepal leaf to depict the Shivalinga, which symbolises creation through sexual union, and so the two trees are 'married'. After the ceremony, villagers circle the trees to rid themselves of their sins.
The peepal is also sacred to Buddhists, because the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under it. Hence it is also called the Bodhi tree or 'tree of enlightenment'.
Another great tree of India is the peepul to be found all over the country. Known for its antiquity, it finds a mention in many Hindu scriptures as a sacred tree whose worship is regarded as homage to the Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The tree is treated as a Brahmin and special offerings made to it in the morning and lamps lit there in the evening. The tree is also associated with the old vedic ritual of lighting a sacrificial fire with a twig of the peepul tree
Even now, village women may be seen worshipping the tree by watering its roots and placing some milk and eats for the serpents and insects residing there. Every village has its special peepul tree and the village elders hold their councils beneath its hallowed foliage. The most famous of these trees is the sacred peepul at Gaya under which Buddha sat when he attained Enlightenment. Since then the peepul tree is also called the Bo or the Bodhi tree and Prince Sidharath came to be known as Buddha. It is also believed to be a symbol of fertility and women worship it for progeny. The tree waves its leaves in an uncanny way and their trembling with a fluttering sound is attributed to spirits agitating in each leaf. This puts fear of the gods into the hearts of common folk.
The banyan and the peepul trees are symbols of the male and ceremoniously married to those of the female category. James Forbes, in his Oriental Memoirs (1813), mentions about a wedded banyan tree or the Palmyra and Burr tree united, that he saw at Salsette.
In India, every local community had its sacred tree, an ancient custom that was not changed by the coming of Hinduism nor Buddhism. The three Hinduistic principal deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are described as the three main branches of the World Tree. The Rig-Vedas see Brahma as the infinite World Tree and his essence is manifested in trees. When Prince Siddhartha (the ongoing Buddha) chose an ancient Pippala tree (Ficus religiosa) for his last struggles for enlightenment he was following a time-honoured custom. The place had been a powerful tree sanctuary before his stay, and after, the Bodhi tree, the Tree of Enlightenment, became the symbol of Buddhism in general. During the first centuries of the new religion the Buddha was not depicted as a meditating human but as the the transpersonal World Tree because he had overcome his human boundaries and become one with the world spirit. Many places in India still have a sacred tree.