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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Trees in ancient Indian culture

ब्रम्ह तद वनमं, ब्रम्ह सा वृक्ष: असा ।।
Brahma tad vanam, Brahma sa vriksha asa (Rig Veda, X.81.4)
Forest is god, tree is god.
Trees are God

Be it oldest rock paintings or seals of Indus Saraswati civilization we see tree inscribed everywhere with reverence. Even the Vedas have praised trees and given them utmost importance. In above shloka trees and forest have been correlated with Brahma or God. There is a long list of trees, plants, shrubs and even grasses which are listed in the Vedas as sacred. Most of these trees have also been found in seals of Indus Saraswati civilization which indicates that both cultures are correlated. In ancient Indian scriptures wood of Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Shami (Prosopis spicigera) are used to kindle sacred fire, drink made of Soma plant is said to make the user immortal, Peepal tree was known as 'Akshaya Vat' (meaning Indestructible tree) and Bargad (Ficus indica) or Banyan tree was said to be a Cosmic tree.

Trees have been praised in all Hindu Scriptures, it continues to Ramayana, Mahabharata and many rituals related to trees have even continued to modern times. You can see women worshiping Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) or Pepal tree even today. Tulsi is known to be a very sacred shrub, dear to lord Vishnu and planting it in house is said to bring good luck. Even Jain and Buddhist scriptures have named many trees as sacred and all Tirthankaras and Buddhas are known to have attained enlightenment under specific tree. Many trees find place with stories of Lord Krishna like Kadamb (Neolamarckia cadamba) is always seen with him in most of his pictures. In one of the stories it is narrated that Agni disturbed lord Shiva and his concert Parwati wherein she gave a curse to all devetas (demi gods) to become trees. On penance she agreed to reduce the intensity of her curse and now a part of all devetas remain in the trees.  It is said that Lord Vishnu lives in Peepal, Goddess Lakshmi in Neem (Azadirachta indica) and Lord Shiva in Bargad. Hence, killing trees or cutting a live one is a crime against devetas and we are killing a part of them.

Matsya purana compares planting and rearing of one tree with 10 sons. Mahabharata, the great epic also talks of saving trees and forests and goes on to say that devetas, yakshas and rakshasas live on trees as such we should never hurt or injure them rather worship them as deities as they also have life. Rig veda goes on to say that plants incarnate the god and trees are 'Vanaspati' or lord of the forests, everlasting and self-regenerating. Most of these trees, plants or even grasses have been praised or known as sacred due to their inherent curative properties which are very useful to humans and environment. This shows how foresighted our ancestors were. They understood very well that human race and earth’s environment is dependent on trees and forests as such they in some or other way related trees to gods to save them from destruction.

छायाम् अन्यस्य कुर्वन्ति तिष्ठन्ति स्वयम् आतपे |
फलन्त्यपि परार्थाय वृक्षा: सत्पुरुषा इव ||

Chhaayaam anyasya kurvanti tiShThanti svayam aatape
phalantyapi paraarthaaya vrukshaa-haa sat-puruShaa iva

They give shade to others, while standing in the heat themselves.
They bear fruits for the benefit of others, trees are like the virtuous Men.

Banyan Tree

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