“O you shaggy-headed banyan tree standing on the bank of the pond,
have you forgotten the little child, like the birds that have nested
in your branches and left you?
Do you not remember how he sat at the window and wondered
at the tangle of your roots and plunged underground?
(The Banyan Tree by Rabinder Nath Taigore)
A Triplet of Banyan Trees near Chehrie, Gujurkhan at G.T Road
While moving from Rawalpindi towards Lahore on The Sher Shah Suri s Grand Trunk Road, A number of Banyan trees stands high and proud along the road, their shade extending over the whole Road. G.T Road being an anciently travelled route of the traders and invaders alike is dotted with mighty cool Banyan Trees. In the villages of Punjab, its not an unusual site to find Two or more Banyan Trees clubbed together over a Pond of muddy green water . As if some old couple, missing their children and sitting hand in hand by the water waiting for centuries . A banyan tree is a symbol of resilience. It makes you nostalgic wondering what intricate secrets they have seen and held in their potent hearts for decades. They must have stood their when the great Alexander roared to claim the world, Moguls dynastical adventures, Sikhs rapid rise to the fame, and as British came and drove the patrons of these trees off their thrones. Borha Burgad saw the Punjab bloodied when their people strived to get the new homelands..must have seen loved ones leave, new ones coming. Must have felt sad or may be angry..but nonetheless held out. Sadly, today a lot of Banyan trees, the old Bargad of children s stories , the sacred bohar or barr of the Hindus, the Sub continent village s congregation place, a shade in the scorching heat, a friend is being cut down mercilessly and covertly at places.
Banayan tree is Native to Indian sub continent. Here it is known as Bargad, Burr, Borh in Urdu/ Punjabi and Wad in Marathi. In Sansikrit Scriptures, it is known as NayaGordha and Vat-varikshya. British Invaders gave it the name of Banayan tree after the Banyas or traders of the Hindu Clans who did their dealings under the enormous tree. Sub continent’s Banyan ‘s botanical name is Ficus Benghalensis.
Hindus belief that in the ancient world, Nirantali, the first mother of the earth was sent by the gods to create the world. She carried with her tiny banyan tree seeds wrapped in leaves. First she made the sun, the moon and the earth. Then she created Human Beings. But the sun beat down on the humans so she with her kind heart gave them the banyan seeds to plant and get shade. The seeds grew and became a tree with providing no shade. People complained to Nirantali, so she pulled on the tiny leaves until they became large and stretched the branches till they came all the way down to the ground. Soon people came to sit, chat, gossip and celebrate under the huge kind tree. Banyan tree became the life line of the sub continent village. The people built ponds of water or the Baoli under the Banyan tree to provide a source of water for the village cattle and population both. This tree is also sacred to the Buddhists. After attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha is believed to have sat under a Banyan tree for seven days, absorbed in his new-found realization. South Asian art has featured banyan trees throughout history. One example dating from the 2nd century BC is a stone pillar found in the Vidisha region (now the state of Madhya Pradesh in India).
In Pakistan‘s villages it is still revered as the community heritage planted by their ancestors. Children use its hanging roots as swings, villagers for Punchayat, women as a wish fulfilling tree where they burn oil lamps every Thursday and hope for a good harvest, or a heir or rectification of a strayed husband. A Burgad is a father figure for the community, where local poems analogize a Burgad to the head of the family, the old Father or a Grandfather in the village s extended joint families.
The tree is not merely a symbol of the glory bygone. It also has the medicinal value, and revered to be a remedy for pain, infertility, Diabetes, sours, ulcers, rheumatism, lumbago, Teeth and gum disorders, chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Banyan tree is also best for preparing the Bonsai, an art of creating miniature trees.
These days the fad is to plant exotic trees like Paper Mulberry and Pine Trees. This is equivalent to the colonization by the foreign trees as this old native looks on waiting for some attention. A number of trees have been cut down at a lot of places including Islamabad and along the Punjab province. In an effort to save this old companion, the trees are being numbered in order to keep a record. However, they are still being cut down. An effort deems necessary to photograph and archive it for the ever-changing Administrative bodies, so that they can be used as reference for the periodical checks of the state of the banyan trees. New Bargad trees need to be planted as a part of promoting native sustainable trees. They must be clubbed in a group for a specific area and declared a national heritage in danger of extinction. Communities be encouraged to adopt banyan trees and monitor them. The Bargad tree is known as the wish fulfilling tree by the villagers, it’s a beacon of hope which must not die.
Writer is a Civil Servant who can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org