Dr. Bharti Raizada
Trees give us shade, fruits, wood, oxygen, shelter, fragrance, medicines, sap, flowers, leaves, etc. They also prevent erosion near water bodies. But trees can also be sacred, according to religious beliefs.
Some trees are considered sacred in Hinduism. Many of these are big, have a long life, and provide many things to humans and have folklore associated with them.
It is also known by the name of Haripriya or Vishnupriya or Shripriya.
It is usually planted and grown in front or center of a Hindu house and the structure around it is called Tulsi Vrindavan. Tulsi plant is considered very auspicious. Tulsi Vivah is celebrated between Prabodhini Ekadasi and Kartik Purnima.
Its leaves are used in puja and offered to Vishnu Bhagwan. It is used in making tea, tulsi water, and jap mala or tulsi mala.
This plant is useful in the treatment of cough, cold, muscle aches, gout, rheumatic arthritis, and insect bites.
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Just to clarify, banyan tree is not banana tree. In Hindi it is called argad. It is also known by the name of Strangler Fig or Nyagrodha. One indestructible Banyan tree is in Prayag and is called Akshya Vat. Another is in Gaya, Bihar, and one is in Varanasi. It is the national tree of India. This tree’s roots and branches grow over a very large area and it has a very long life. The roots and branches can grow in fissures of stones, concrete, walls of building, etc. The roots even grow upwards and connect to branches to give them support. This tree usually grows on or around a host e.g. other tree, and eventually destroys that host tree, building, stone, etc. Nothing grows under its shade. Initially they need a lot of water, but when fully grown they can live without water for a long time.
The Great Banyan tree in the Indian Botanic Garden is the largest Banyan tree. It has many aerial roots and looks like a forest. Bargad tree provides a lot of shade to temples, homes, shops, and pedestrians. People sit down under its shade and hold meetings, discussions, etc. Rishis and sadhus sit down under this tree and meditate. Women offer prayers to this tree and ask for a long married life on Vat Savitri Purnima. This tree is used to treat skin diseases, female infertility, to stop bleeding, diarrhea, joint pain, tooth ache, etc. Milk sap is used to polish brass utensils. Sap is also used as an adhesive and polish.
Also called fig, Bodhi, and ashvat. It is considered to be the king of trees. Mahavir Buddh got enlightenment under a Peepal tree and Bhagwan Krishn left his human body under a peepal tree. It keeps growing as it ages, its branches hang down, its roots grow very deep inside the earth, and it has a very long life. Rishis and sadhus meditate under its shade. In the morning people do seven pradakshinas around this tree.
Its medicinal use is in treatment of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, gastrointestinal upset, and wounds.
‘Shok’ means sorrow or grief. Ashok means no sorrow or grief. This tree has a zillion names. Some are- sita-ashoka, anganpriya, ashopalav, asupala, apashaka, hemapushp, kankeli, madhupushp, pindapushp, pindipushp, vanjula, vishoka, and vichitra. It is found in rain forest and its flowers are red and yellow. Its fruit contain multiple seeds. Lots of folklore is associated with this tree. Ravan kept Sitaji in Ashok Vatika. It is used to treat depression and infertility.
There is one other tree which resembles the Ashok tree. It is called false Ashok tree. Its flowers are green in color, its fruit has only one seed, and it is taller than the Ashok tree.
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It is in Kintoor, near Barabanki in U.P. It is also known as kalpvriksh. It is believed that Krishn brought this tree to earth from Indralok and it is more than a thousand years old. There are many stories associated with this tree. It grows flowers, but not fruit or seeds, so more parijaat trees cannot grow.
Sandalwood or Chandan
It has a very nice and unique fragrance and its powder or paste form is used for tilak.
It is also used to make agarbatti, soap, and in aroma therapy. Its wood is used in temple construction. The wood retains its fragrance for many years. Oil is also extracted from wood. Jains, Buddhs, Sufis, Zoroastrians, Chinese, and Japanese also use sandalwood. It is grown in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Australia.
It is used to treat cold, bronchitis, skin, liver, gallbladder, urinary tract and heart diseases, general weakness, fever.
Also called kalptaru, kalpdrup, kalpadapa, surtaru, devtaru, and kalplata. It is the wish fulfilling tree. It appeared during samundra manthan. Indra Devta took it to Devlok and planted it in Surkanan Van. There are five Kalpvriksh in Devlok — Banyan, Parijat, Mandana, Santana, and Harichandan.
On Earth, banyan tree, coconut tree, ashvatta or sacred fig tree, mahua, shami, chyur or indian butter tree, and kalplatha are considered kalpvriksh.
Jains believe that there are 10 kalpvriksha and Buddists believe that there is one kalpvriksh.
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Also known as shivadruma or shriphal. Its branches are straight. Its leaves grow in a group of three, have a very sweet fragrance, and are called belpatra. The leaves have anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are used for protecting stomach and controlling cholesterol. Bael leaves are offered to Shivji. Its fruit is called Bilva, and is like wood from outside, and therefore this tree is also called wood apple tree. It grows in dry climate and is usually grown in temple gardens. It is used as a laxative, tonic, and in treatment of diabetes and hemorrhoids. It has antibiotic and antiemetic properties.
It is also called healing tree, and is drought resistant. Its leaves are offered to Shivji. Dried leaves are used to protect clothes from insects. Neem tree has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is used for skin diseases and to treat diabetes. Its twigs are used to clean teeth. Smoke made by burning neem leaves makes bees, insects, etc. fly away. Its fruit is called nimboli. Neem is eaten on the occasions of Ugadi and Gudi Padva.
Coconuts are offered during arti and prayers and are broken on auspicious occasions. Copra or dried water is used to make oil, husk or coir is used to make ropes, the white part is eaten, and the brown shell is used as wood to make boats. Its flowers give sugar.
Mango leaves are used for auspiciousness and offered to Saraswati Devi. They are also used in hawan.
Banana leaves are offered to Laxmi Devi and Vishnu Bhagwan and also used as plates. Fruit is offered as Prasad.
Bamboo is used to make Bansuri.
The leaves are offered to Ram Bhagwan and are used to treat leprosy and intestinal diseases and have anti-inflammatory properties. Its roots are used in diarrhea and dysentery. Flowers are used to prevent miscarriage and pods to treat urological diseases.
Sami tree can grow in adverse climate and its roots go very deep into the soil. Its leaves remain green even in drought.
Jackfruit tree or Kathal
It has a unique aroma. Its pulp gives a mixed smell of pineapple and banana. It is the largest fruit in the world and has multiple seeds in one fruit. Wood is used to make musical instruments e.g. veena, mridangam, thimila and kanjira. It is also used to make furniture, doors, windows, and roofs.
The sacred Jackfruit tree site is on Kaina Hill of Bhashmukh parvat in Manipur. Seven Krishna images were carved from this tree and then placed in different temples.
Trees are not considered sacred and prayers are not offered to them in Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, but they are mentioned for their benefits in Bible and Quran. Jews have some rules and guidelines to follow before cutting trees, particularly fruit bearing trees.
There is a Gurudwara known by the name Shree Ber Sahib. Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak Dev sat down and meditated for more than 14 years under a Ber tree near this gurudwara.There are three Ber trees in Golden Temple, Amritsar—Dukhbhanjan Beri, Ber Baba Budha Sahib, and Lachi Ber.
Some trees mentioned in Quran are the date, palm, fig, olive, pomegranate, and tamarisk. Tuba is like Kalpvriksh.
Trees mentioned in the Bible are almond, apple, date (khajoor), palm (devdar in Hindi), fig (anjir in Hindi), oak (baloot), pine, tamarisk (jhaoo or farash or jhambook) , pomegranate, walnut, acasia (babul).
Druits and Celts—alder, apple, ash, birch, blackthorn, cedar, elder, elm, fir, hazel, holly, juniper, mistletoe, oak, pine, rovan, willow, yew.
Nine sacred trees to build a bonfire in Wiccan tradition are birch, rowen, ash, adler, willow, hawthorn, oak, holly, and hazel.
General Sherman is the largest tree in the world, by volume. It is located in Sequoia National Park, California, U.S.A.