Friday, January 3, 2014

Sacred Trees & Plants

Sacred Trees & Plants


Though banana is not a tree but it is considered a tree because of its structure and size. It is a very sacred tree and all parts of the tree are used for some purpose or the other. For example, the trunk of banana is used to erect welcoming gates. The leaves are used to make the ceremonial pavilion. In some pooja, the leaves are used to serve "prashad".

Just as leaves of bel tree are customarily offered to Lord Siva, it is believed that offering of the leaves of banana pleases Lord Ganesa. Banana as a fruit is offered to Lord Vishnu and Laksmi. In fact, the eleventh day of the bright half of Pausa (December-January) is considered to be very auspicious to offer banana to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi and sixth day of the bright fortnight of Kartika (October-November) is considered auspicious to offer banana to the Sun god.

In some regions, banana tree is worshipped while performing Kadali Vrata or fast. According to tradition, during Vaisakha, Magha or Kartika sukla caturdasi, a banana tree is planted and nurtured till it bears fruit. It is said that worshiping the tree with flowers, fruit, etc. will help in the welfare of one's family.


Mangoes are represented in religious themes of South Asia's diverse communities, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Christian. The leaves adorn entrances to new homes to signify good fortune. Their use is particularly widespread in Hindu rituals of divine blessing, called pujas. A 'purnakumbha' or clay pot filled with water is topped with fresh mango leaves and a coconut. The pot signifies mother earth, water is the life-giver, mango leaves denote vibrant life, and the coconut represents divine consciousness. The whole object symbolizes Lakshmi the goddess of fortune.

There are famous Hindu temples in the Indian states of Orissa and Tamil Nadu where legend states that Shiva appeared as Linga (the phallic form of Shiva) under a mango tree.

Mango is also a rich part of Buddhist folklore. It features in the Jataka tales and frequently appears in Buddhist art. The Great Miracle of Sravasti, which is today on the border between India and Nepal, took place when Buddha converted people by miraculously reproducing himself in various forms in front of a mango tree. Buddha also caused a mango tree to sprout instantly from a seed to convince non-believers. A mango grove was said to be his favourite place to rest and meditate and he was presented with one by the courtesan Amrapali, who became a disciple. Ancient Indian paradises, like later Islamic ones, reflected ideal gardens. These were full of fruit trees, sweet-scented flowers and water. They would have mango groves to provide shade and fruit. Sanskrit drama usually contained a garden scene, with symbolic trees and flowers.

The fruit of the mango tree represented love and fertility. The creation of orchards was a passion of the Muslim conquerors who came from the Persian and Afghanistan region. This was the one element of life in Central Asia that they truly missed, and they lavished time and attention on recreating this earthly paradise. The mango tree became a favored plant, its shade defying the violence of summer heat.


Ashvattha (in Sanskrit), the peepal or Pipal (Ficus Religiosa) is a very large tree. Its bark is light gray, 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 Civilization.

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 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.”

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.

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’.

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.
Women circumambulate the peepal tree to be blessed with children or to gain a desired thing or person. Peepal tree is planted in the temples of Shani and Hanumanji. The tree is worshipped on Saturday, especially in the month of Shravana, because goddess Lakshmi sits under the tree on this day. Any person who waters the tree is believed to earn merit for his progeny, his sorrows are redeemed and diseases cured. The peepal tree is also worshipped to escape from contagious diseases and enemies.

A peepal tree is planted to the east of the house or temple. Eight or 11 or 12 years after the tree has been planted, the upanayan ceremony is performed for the tree. A round platform is constructed around the tree. Different gods like Narayan, Vasudev, Rrukmini, Satyabhama are invoked and worshipped.

The Peepal tree is generally used to scare Shani away. It is the tree that sheltered Sita. Upon it Lord Hanuman sat and saw all the miseries of Sita. Hence this tree has a special place in the heart of Lord Hanuman or Anjeneya Swami.
          To pay your respects, take a ribbon of raw thread (Kachha suta) and wrap it around the trunk while wishing that a particular problem be solved by the deities that live in the Pipal tree. 

Peepal tree has a wide range of vernacular names in different locales and languages, few of them are -

अश्वत्थ - aśvatthaḥ vṛksha, pippala vṛksha
அரச மரம் -  arasa maram
రావి -  Raavi
araLi mara  - ಅರಳಿ ಮರ
Pimpalla Rook/jhadd
അരയാല്‍ -  Arayal
પિપળો - Pipdo
पिंपळ -  pimpaL
އަޝްވަތި ގަސް  - Aśvati gas
ଅଶ୍ୱତ୍ଥ  - Ashwatth
assattha; rukkha
බෝ bo, ඇසතු -  esathu
โพธิ์  - Pho
peepal  - پیپل
Bangla pipul
পিপুল / অশ্বত্থ  - Ashwattha
Cuban Spanish


Bael (Aegle marmelos), also known as Bengal quince, golden apple, stone apple, wood apple, bili is a species of tree native to India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species. The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range.

The fruit is also used in religious rituals. In Hinduism the tree is sacred. It is used in the worship of Shiva, who is said to favor the leaves. The tri-foliate form of leaves symbolize the trident that Shiva holds in his right hand. The fruits were used in place of coconuts before large-scale rail transportation became available. The fruit is said to resemble a skull with a white, bone-like outer shell and a soft inner part, and is sometimes called seer phael (head-fruit). However, it is quite likely that, the term 'Seer Phal' has coined from the Sanskrit term 'ShreePhal, which again is a common name for this fruit. Many Hindus have bael trees in their gardens.
In the traditional Newari culture of Nepal, the bael tree is part of a fertility ritual for girls known as the Bel baha. Girls are "married" to the bael fruit and as long as the fruit is kept safe and never cracks the girl can never become widowed, even if her human husband dies. This was seen to be protection against the social disdain suffered by widows in the Newari community.
Research has found the essential oil of the Bael tree to be effective against 21 types of bacteria. It is prescribed for smooth bowel movement to patients suffering from constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.
Research also indicates that unripe Bael fruit is effective in combating giardia and rotavirus. While unripe Bael fruit did not show antimicrobial properties, it did inhibit bacteria adherence to and invasion of the gut (i.e. the ability to infect the gut).
The bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree and can reach the size of a large grapefruit or pomelo, and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. It has been described as tasting of marmalade and smelling of roses. Boning (2006) indicates that the flavor is "sweet, aromatic and pleasant, although tangy and slightly astringent in some varieties. It resembles a marmalade made, in part, with citrus and, in part, with tamarind." Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in slimy mucilage.

Few local names of bael tree are - 
ڪاٺ گدرو
बेल - Sirphal
మారేడు  - maredu
வில்வம் – Vilvam
බෙලි - Beli
बेल or कवीठ  - Kaveeth
കൂവളം - koo-valam
ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು
Baela ବେଲ
(Bael)بیل, - Sirphal سری پھل
ព្នៅ /pnɨv/
ໝາກຕູມ /mȁːk tuːm/
pokok maja batu (tree)
มะตูม /matuum


In Hinduism the banyan tree represents immortality and there are many stories about it in ancient literature. In a song called the 'Bhagavad Gita' or 'Song of the Lord', Krishna uses the banyan tree as a symbol to describe the true meaning of life to the warrior hero Arjuna. Banyan is viewed by Hindus as the male plant to the closely related peepul or bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa). It is regarded as a sin to destroy either of these trees. It is commendable for a person to plant a young banyan close to a peepul, and this is done with a ceremony similar to that of marriage. It is customary to place a piece of silver money under the roots of the young banyan.

Banyan is mentioned in the Buddhist Jataka tales. In the tale of Satyavan and Savitri, Satyavan lost his life beneath the branches of a banyan. Savitri courageously entered into a debate with Yama, the God of Death, and won his life back. In memory of this couple, in the month of Jyestha during May and June, the tree is celebrated. Married women visit a banyan and pray for the long life of their husbands.
The tree is associated with the life of the 15th century saint Kabir. A giant tree is said to have sprung from a twig he had chewed. People of all religions use its great leafy canopy to meditate or rest. It is said that the wise Markandeya found shelter under it during a torrential downpour.
Minor deities such as yakshas (tree spirits), Kinnaras (half-human, half-animal) and gandharvas (celestial musicians) are believed to dwell in the branches on banyan trees. Ghosts and demons are also associated with its branches. Because it is believed that many spirits are harboured in the banyan, people do not sleep under it at night.


Neem is also called ‘Arista’ in Sanskrit- a word that means ‘perfect, complete and imperishable’. The Sanskrit name ‘Nimbi’ comes from the term ‘Nimbati Syasthyamdadati’ which means ‘to give good health’. ‘Pinchumada’ another name of Neem in Sanskrit mean the destroyer of leprosy and healer of skin infections. Its medicinal qualities are outlined in the earliest Sanskrit writings and its uses in Hindu medicine that dates back to very remote times. The earliest authentic record of the curative properties of Neem and is uses in the indigenous system of medicine in India is found in Kautilya’s “Arthashastra" around 4th century BC.

Neem's medicinal properties are listed in the ancient documents ‘Carak- Samhita’ and ‘Susruta-Samhita ’, the books at the foundation of the Indian system of natural treatment, Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of medicine, which emphasizes a holistic approach to human health and wellbeing. It is described in the Ayurvedic texts as ‘sarva roga nivarini’ (a universal reliever of all illness). Neem has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4,000 years due to its medicinal properties. Records show that the non-edible Neem oil was perhaps the oldest known medicinal oil. Almost every part of the Neem tree has been documented for some medicinal use. They are: Tonic and anti-periodic (root bark, stem bark, and young fruit), antiseptic and local stimulant (seed, oil, and leaves), stimulant tonic and stomachic (flowers), demulcent tonic (gum), and refreshing, nutrient, and alternative tonic (toddy). Neem bark leaves, and fruits have been used in Ayurvedic medicines for a long time and are described in ancient writing of Sushruta.

The ‘Upavanavinod’, an ancient Sanskrit treatise dealing with forestry and agriculture, cites neem as a cure for ailing soils, plants and livestock. Neem cake, the residue from the seeds after oil extraction, is fed to livestock and poultry, while its leaves increase soil fertility. The ‘Brihat Samhita’ of ‘Varahamihira’, dated about 6th century AD, contains a chapter of verses on plant medicines. It recommends that the neem tree be planted near dwellings. Smallpox and chicken pox were cured or staved off with the use of neem leaves. Unani scholars knew Neem’s properties beneficial to human health and named it as ‘Shajar-e-Munarak’, or the blessed tree. Persian scholars called Neem “Azad dirakht-I-Hind,” meaning the noble or free tree of India

Neem in Hindu Mythology:- Neem is deeply imbued with spiritual meaning. Its curative properties were attributed to the fact that a few drops of heavenly nectar fell upon it. A lot of stories had been muttered in the past of Ancient Indian History consider Neem to be of divine origin. Few are here:
  • Few drops of Amrita (Ambrosia, the elixir of immortality) was dropped on the Neem trees which was carried by The Garuda (part human and part bird: creature from Hindu Mythology) to the heaven.
  • In other story, Amrita was sprinkled by ‘Indira’ (the celestial kind) on the earth, which gave rise to the neem tree and thereby bestowing upon it numerous of much properties of much use to humans better than those of ‘Kalpa-vriksha ‘, the wish-fulfilling tree.
  • In another instance neem tree is related to ‘Dhanmantri’ (the Aryan god of medicine). The ancient Hindus believed that planting neem trees ensured a passage to heaven. It was believed that the goddess of smallpox, ‘Sithala ’, lived in the neem tree.

In Andhra Pradesh, south of central India, Neem in Telgu language is known as ‘Vepa’ or the purifier of air. Mere presence of the Neem tree near human dwellings is believed to materially improve human health and even act as a prophylactic against malarial fever and even cholera. In Uttar Pradesh in northern India, village surrounded with Neem trees, were frequently cited as proverbially free form fever, when the neighboring villages without Neem suffered severely (Mitra 1963). Belief in curative properties of Neem in some population in India is so strong that it defies explanation. In south India, people lay a patient suffering from smallpox, chickenpox, or even syphilis on a bed of Neem leaves and fanned with a Neem branch. The medicinal properties of neem help him to suffer less and regain his health sooner. The Khasi and jaintia tribes in northeastern India use Neem leaves for curing diarrhea and dysentery, while leaves and fruits are used in treating tuberculosis and heart diseases. Because of such diverse curative properties, Neem is appropriately known as “The Village Pharmacy” in rural India and has secured a place in the Indian Pharmacopoeia. The common preparations are the powdered bark, the fresh leaves, a decoction and tincture of powdered bark, and a poultice of Neem leaves. The bark is said to be astringent, tonic and anti-periodic, while the leaves are said to act as a stimulant application to indolent and ill-conditioned ulcers.

Local names of Neem in india & around the world
Nim, Nimgachh
Vembu, Vempu
Veppu, Aryaveppu
Bevinmar, Kahibevu
Margosa, Neem, Indian Lilac
Azarirae d’lnde, Margousier
Indischer Zadrach
Azade Darakhte Hindi
Azad Darkhtu Hind
Tamabin, Kamakha
Dawoon Nambu, Baypay
Azadirachta indica A.
 Azad darkht 1 hindi
Kohumba, nimba
 Don goyaro
Margosa, Nimbo

website for the promotion of sacred Neem :-


Shami, the sacred tree taxonomically known as Prosopis spicigera Linn, is sacred to Hindus who worship it before going on an important journey and on the occasion of Dushehra festival. They worship it to check bad impacts of Shani, as they believe. Religious Hindu ladies worship the tree regularly.

Shami is a Sanskrit word which means: one who removes or cleans, or suppresses. It is believed that the worship of Shami removes, cleans, or suppresses all the sins of a person. In ancient times, especially during the Epic age the Hindu warriors would offer prayers to this tree before proceeding to the battle field. The great Hindu Text Mahabharata has a legend that when Pandavas were exiled for 14 years, they had to spend one last year in disguise. It was during that period that they submitted all their arms to a Shami tree and received them back intact after the period of disguise was over i.e. after one year. They worshiped the tree and asked for power and victory in the ensuing battle that was fought in the battle field of Kurukshetra between Pandavas and Kauravas. Pandavas won the battle and hence it is believed that the Shami tree gives power and victory to those who pray to it. On Vijayadashami day people exchange Shami leaves and greet each other. This custom is popular in in Maharashtra and Karnataka states of India.

In Mysore of India, a Dushehra procession marches to a great Shami Tree (also known as Bani tree in the local language there) and the Maharaja performs royal prayer to the tree, carries a branch of this tree back to his palace. Bisnois of the Indian state of Rajasthan consider shami a sacred tree because the tree has proved itself to be a valuable source of food to them and of fodder to their cattle.

The worship of Shami is called as "Shami Pujan". It is done with recitation of the following prayer-
Shami shamyate paapam-
Shami shatruvinashanam,
Arjunasya dhanurdhari-
Ramasya priyadarsini.
Meaning: The Shami Tree cleans sins. Its thorns are redish in colour. It is lord Rama's favourite tree and in such a tree, pandavas hid their arms. O Shami, Lord Rama has worshipped you. I now embark upon my journey to victory. May you make it pleasant and free from obstacles.

Many communities in the central India worship shami during dushehra. They soak the leaves of shami in water and take bath with this water on the day before Deepawali.

Local names of Shami in india & around the world 
Vanni-andara, katu andara

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