The banyan tree is considered as the symbol of immortality. It has aerial roots that grow down from its branches forming additional trunks and anchor the tree to the ground, therefore this tree is also known as Bahupada, or the one with several feet. This tree symbolizes the creator Brahma, as it symbolizes longevity.
In Hinduism, trees have held great significance. They are considered sacred are often associated with Gods and goddesses. The Vat, Bargad or Banyan tree is one of the most venerated trees in Hinduism. It has the ability to grow and survive for centuries and is compared to as God’s shelter to his devotees. It has large leaves, which are commonly used worship and rituals. For time immemorial, it has been associated with various Hindu rituals.
The Hindu religion values this tree, as the Trimurti, or the sacred trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
In India, the Banyan has been ascribed its own temperament – one that implies it is a kind and generous ruler that nourishes all. The motif of its massive and exquisite leaves is usually recreated in rituals of worship. The Banyan is mentioned in several ancient Indian texts and scriptures, representing the divine creator and symbolizing longevity. In Hindu mythology, the tree is believed to give the fulfillment of desires and provide material gains.
As per the Agni Purana, one in all the eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts, the Banyan is symbolic of fertility and may provide help to those that wish for children. As such, the tree and its leaves are never cut and are only used in the time of famine for food.
The main trunk of this tree represents Shiva, hence worshipping the tree with bhava or true spiritual emotion, helps us gain the fruit of divine consciousness or Chaitanya.
Women in northern India, are often seen trying cotton threads on the trunk of the banyan tree. The women perform this sacred ritual on Vat Savitri Puja (typically in May or June). This based on the famous Katha of Satyavaan Savitri. It is believed that Satyavaan was breathing his last under this tree on a Full moon in Jyeshta. While Yama Raja ( God of death) appeared to take his soul, his wife Savitri begged him to return his soul. But instead of his soul, Yama Raja gave her many other gifts but with her intelligence, she was able to get her husband’s soul back. To commemorate this mythology, women fast the entire day and tie a cotton thread around the trunk of the banyan tree 108 times while praying for a long healthy life for their husbands.
In Hong Kong, the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees, located at Tim Hau Temple are also Banyan trees. These are a popular shrine in Hong Kong. Thousands visit this shrine every year and make a wish by writing their name, birth date and wish on a yellow piece of paper and the throwing it on the tree. If it hangs from the branches, then your wishes come true.