Banyan trees as sacred groves – Andhra Pradesh

Frontline Magazine, Volume 29 – Issue 11 :: Jun. 02-15, 2012

Arboreal wonder

in Kadiri

With a canopy area of 19,107 square metres, Thimmamma Marrimanu in Andhra Pradesh is said to be the biggest tree in the world. […]

THE dusty town of Kadiri in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh is just a few hours’ drive from Bangalore. The hub of the local economy, it is also famous for being the town closest to Thimmamma Marrimanu, which is often described as the world’s biggest banyan tree.  […]

Several giant banyans ( Ficus benghalensis) in India have aroused curiosity historically. There is something in the soil and climate of the subcontinent that provides the right mix for these giant trees to flourish; it is no wonder that the banyan is named the national tree of India.

India’s giant banyans find mention in the work of the Roman scholar Pliny, who lived between A.D. 23 and 79. In his magisterial work Naturalis Historia, he describes the superlative canopy area of the “Indian fig tree” thus: “The upper branches spring, like a forest, from the vast body of the mother tree: most of them measure sixty paces in circumference; and they cover a space of two stadia with their shadow.”

Pliny’s knowledge of the giant Indian banyans came from Alexander’s army, which sought refuge under the Kabir Vad Banyan on the outskirts of Bharuch in Gujarat. The army of 7,000 men is supposed to have sheltered under the broad and intricately linked branches of this great tree. […]

Many banyan trees have survived for centuries because they are revered locally as sacred groves. Publications such as the Sacred and Protected Groves of Andhra Pradesh (World Wide Fund for Nature-India, A.P. State Office, 1996) and organisations such as the ENVIS Centre on Conservation of Ecological Heritage and Sacred Sites of India have endeavoured to chronicle such sacred trees in the past.

Many scholars have also written on the importance of sacred groves for the conservation of tree and animal species and on how traditional tribal belief systems have been appropriated by other faiths. Often, once a tree is “recognised” as holy, a temple is constructed at the location and a part of the tree or the grove is cleared to facilitate the construction. […]

Source: Arboreal wonder
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Date Visited: Tue Jun 05 2012 00:53:12 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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