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Trees of Life: 5 Sacred and Symbolic Trees in the World Today

Biblically, the ‘tree of knowledge’ and ‘the tree of life’ symbolize the close relationship between man and the plant

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Symbolic Trees
The Giant Sequoias live in Sierra Nevada, California. NewsGram

July 04, 2017: Humans and animals have treated trees and plants with utmost sacredness and spirituality. Having played a huge part in the evolutionary success, trees have existed before the emergence of dinosaurs. Biblically, the ‘tree of knowledge’ and ‘the tree of life’ symbolize the close relationship between man and the plant. Gautam Buddha also meditated and attained Nirvana under a tree, along with many other spiritual people. Thus, it is important to know some of the most sacred and symbolic trees in the world today.

Giant Sequoias: 

Symbolic Trees
Giant Sequoia is the biggest tree in the world. NewsGram

In the Californian Nevada Mountain range lives a plant called the Giant Sequoia, alternatively called the Sequoiadendron giganteum in the academics. It holds the record for being the largest as well as the longest tree in the world right now. These trees can live up to 3000 years! These trees are protected now, partially because the timber does not serve the human purpose very well.

Symbolic Trees in the world today
The Giant Sequoia in Nevada, California. NewsGram

The General Sherman, a popular Giant Sequoia, is the largest living tree and even more broadly the largest living organism in the world. The 2,100-year-old Sherman weighs a massive 2.7 billion pounds! Standing at 275 feet tall, its branches are 7 feet in diameter.

The Giant Sequoias are the third longest-lived tree species. These largest living residents of America are also known to have the thickest bark which also serves as a super-strong protection.

Symbolic Trees in the world Today
Information about the General Sherman in Nevada, California. NewsGram

Interestingly, while forest fires lead to the death of trees, the Giant Sequoias actually thrive on it. The fire helps release the seed inside and leaves nutrient rich ash as a residue on which the saplings can prosper. They are also known to be immune to various diseases that otherwise kill plants.

Symbolic Trees
Information on Giant Sequoias in Nevada, California. NewsGram

The tree symbolizes wellness, safety, and longevity. The tree has seen a lot of the history.

Visitors to California often visit the Nevada Range to witness the Giant Sequoias. Theodore Roosevelt was left awestruck when he first stumbled upon the tree. In a famous 1903 Sacramento speech, he quoted,

“As regards some of the trees, I want them preserved because they are the only things of their kind in the world. Lying out at night under those giant Sequoias was lying in a temple built by no hand of man, a temple grander than any human architect could by any possibility build, and I hope for the preservation of the groves of giant trees simply because it would be a shame to our civilization to let them disappear. They are monuments in themselves”

 

Symbolic Trees in the World
General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. NewsGram

Banyan Tree:

Also known as Strangler Fig and Argad (in Hindi), it is one of the largest trees in India and also in the World. Banyan, less familiarly Nyagrodha, is indestructible due to its massive size and strength. The Great Banyan Tree in Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden (Kolkata) is the largest tree in India. It is over 260 years old! The Banyan’s roots can grow in rough and concrete floorings which further emerge out to connect with the branches, supporting their heavy weight. The Banyan has sacred value. The tree at Jyotisar is where Lord Krishna stood and delivered the sermon of the Bhagwat Gita. Other texts reveal the tree being referred to as a cosmic tree that brings blessings to humanity. The tree also has medicinal value. These reasons make Banyan the National Tree of the Country.

Symbolic Trees
The National Tree of India. Wikimedia

Here is a little extract on Banyan Tree by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore,

“O you shaggy-headed Banyan tree standing on the bank of the pond, 

And to float like those ducks among the weeds and shadows.”

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 that plunged underground?

The women would come to fill their jars in the pond,

And your huge black shadow would wriggle

On the water like sleep struggling to wake up.”

Also Read: Sacred Trees in Hinduism by Dr. Bharti Raizada

Bodhi Tree: 

Also known as the Sacred Fig and more popularly the “tree of enlightenment”, the Bodhi tree is perhaps one of the most symbolic trees. This tree in Bodhgaya is where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment and reached the point of Nirvana. Emperor Ashoka’s daughter Sanghamitta, in the 3rd century BC, brought a branch of the Bodhi tree to Sri Lanka. The planted tree in Anuradhapura still grows there today. The tree is thus holy to a lot of people. Buddha’s followers plan their pilgrimage. It was the symbol of Gautam Buddha during his lifetime.

Symbolic Trees
The Bodhi Tree. Wikimedia

Baobab Tree:

The Baobab tree is sacred to the African Savanna and Madagascar region and is considered the “Africa’s Tree of Life”. It is considered a holy creation by the God almighty. It was also used to cure the villager’s cuts from crocodile attacks. The tree is excellent for the timber industry. The leaves of the tree can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It also has the ability to regenerate itself. It can take draughts and fire easily but falls prey to fungus. The fruits of the tree are rich in Vitamin C making it popular in the daily diet. Up to 80% of its trunk is water! It also boosts the immune system.

Symbolic Trees
The Baobab Tree in Madagascar. Wikimedia

Major Oak Tree: 

Voted England’s Tree of the Year 2014 lives in the Sherwood Forest Country Park, Nottingham. It was known as the Queen’s Oak in the whole of the 19th century. The 1000-year-old tree is the biggest oak tree in Britain. The Major Oak is also referred to in the story of Robin Hood. Robin Hood and his associates had taken shelter in the Oak when they were on the run from the Nottingham Sheriff. The fungi has caused the Oak to have a hollow interior. The mighty weight of the tree requires external supports to keep up its branches. On the acorn-gathering celebration held once a year, the tourists and fans get to hug the tree. The tree was named after Major Hayman Rooke.

Symbolic Trees
The Major Oak in Nottingham, Britain. Wikimedia

Notable Mentions:

 

Symbolic Trees
Tule Cypress, Mexico. NewsGram

Symbolic Trees
Biggest and Tallest Pine Tree. NewsGram

Symbolic Trees
The Tallest Tree in the world. NewsGram

– By Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Ten Trees that have Spiritual Significance Attached to them: Find Out!

You will be surprised to know what spiritual representation each of the trees contains

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Trees Landscape
Trees have spiritual representation. Pixabay

June 20, 2017:

Trees have some spiritual representation and symbolic meaning attached to them. A tree is a symbol of endurance, perseverance, antiquity, and magnanimity.  With body rooted in earth and crown dancing in the sky, a tree is a symbol of life.

You will be surprised to know what spiritual representation each of the trees contains. Here is a list of trees with different symbols:

  1.  APPLE 

Apple Tree. Pixabay

It symbolizes happiness, youthfulness, vigor, beauty, and magic.

 

2.  BAMBOO 

Bamboo Tree. Pixabay

It represents spirit, rejuvenation, and versatility.

 

3. BONSAI 

Bonsai Tree. Pixabay

It conveys meditation, harmony, the balance of thoughts.

 

4. CEDAR 

Cedar Tree. Pixabay

The symbolic meaning includes purification and healing.

 

5. CHERRY 

Cherry Tree. Pixabay

It signifies awakening and rebirth. It is also called a symbol of romance.

 

6. EUCALYPTUS

Eucalyptus Tree. Pixabay

It purports wealth and foretelling.

 

7. OAK 

Oak Tree. Pixabay

It is a symbol of prowess and strength and is the most powerful of all trees.

 

8. OLIVE 

Olive Tree. Pixabay

It implies reward, success, and fruitfulness.

 

9. PINE 

Pine Tree. Pixabay

It is a symbol of holiday celebration and eternal life.

 

10. PALM 

Palm Tree. Pixabay

It exhibits firm, unbreakable and an opportunity to nurture the soul.

 


prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94
NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Sacred Trees in Hinduism

While trees are considered sacred in Hinduism, that is not the case in Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, but they are mentioned for their benefits in Bible and Quran.

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This image is of BodhGaya. Trees are of religious significance according to Hinduism. Wikimedia

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.

Tulsi
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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Banyan
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.

 

Peepal
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.

 

Ashok
‘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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Parijaat
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.

 

Kalpvriksh
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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Bael
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.
Neem
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.
Coconut
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.
Sami
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. 

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Buddha Purnima: Remembering Gautam Buddha

Buddha Purnima falls on 21st May this year. Buddha is considered to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and 9th incarnation of Lord Krishna in North India.

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Statue of Gautam Buddha in Nepal Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Shubhi Mangla

Buddha Purnima is an important festival for the Buddhists in several countries across the world. The festival marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha and is also called ‘Vesak’ or ‘Buddha Jayanti’. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm among Buddhists living in India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and various other countries.

Gautam Buddha was born around 563 BCE in Lumbini, Nepal. He was a spiritual teacher all through his life. He was born to King Suddhodana as Siddhartha Gautama. At the age of 29 he gave up royal life after learning through four encounters called ‘four sights’ in Buddhist literature which were- ordinary people, an old man, a sick person and a holy man, content with the world. His teachings led to the foundation of Buddhism. Buddha wandered to many places and took shelter under a Banyan tree in India called Bodhi Gaya. He swore to meditate till he achieved enlightenment which he did after 49 days. Buddha is considered to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and 9th incarnation of Lord Krishna in North India.

Buddhist pilgrims at Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar Source: Wikimedia Commons
Buddhist pilgrims at Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • The festival falls usually celebrated in May, on the full moon day (In Buddha Purinama, ‘Purinma’ means full moon). The festival can be celebrated on different days by different Buddhist communities. This is because of the difference between the interpretations of Lunar calendar. All government and private organizations are closed or their opening hours are reduced on this day.
  • On this day, Buddhists visit temples to listen to speeches given by monks who also recite ancient verses. Some temples display small sculptures of Baby Buddha placed in a basin filled with clean water and embellished with flowers. People who come to the temple pour water on the statue which symbolizes a new beginning especially in Taiwan.

Devotees bathing baby Buddha statue Source: Wikimedia Commons
Devotees bathing baby Buddha statue
Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • Bodh Gaya, a small town in Bihar is a famous pilgrimage related to Lord Buddha where the main celebrations take place. The Mahabodhi Tree where Buddha was known to attain enlightenment is worshiped and offerings are made.

Mahabodhi Tree Source: Wikimedia Commons
Mahabodhi Tree
Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • Some Buddhists dedicate this day to Lord Buddha. They wear white clothes and eat pure vegetarian food. Some people help the poor, elderly people and the sick. Caged animals are often bought and set free to display affection for animals as preached by Lord Buddha. In India, a sweet porridge in remembrance of a maid who offered Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.
  • During Vesak, Dharma chakra or Dharma wheel can be often seen. The wheel is known to symbolize the path of Buddha’s teaching towards enlightenment. The wheel has eight strokes which symbolize eightfold path of Buddhism which are right belief, right intention, right thinking, right living, right efforts, right conduct, right words and right meditation.
  • Buddha’s four noble truths are the foundation of Buddhism. They are− all human conditions lead to suffering, suffering has a cause, the cause is desire or craving and there is a path for ceasing desires.
  • Buddha’s 5 percepts help a person to follow the right path in life. They are− not killing, not stealing, not misusing sex, not lying and not consuming alcohol.
  • In Cambodia, Vesak is a public holiday. People are seen carrying flags, incense and candle sticks and lotus flowers to celebrate the day. People also offer money or goods to the monks.

Jokhang Monastery - Dharma Wheel, the eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism Source: Wikimedia Commons
Jokhang Monastery – Dharma Wheel, the eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism
Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • In Korea, temples are decorated with lotus flowers. Free meals and tea are served to temple visitors.
  • In Sri Lanka, people decorate their houses with lanterns. People practice ‘Dansalas’ which refers to the practice of offering food and drinks to people. Stories from Buddha’s life are depicted through electric display.

People giving alms to Buddhist monks Source: www.thaibuddhist.com
People giving alms to Buddhist monks
Source: www.thaibuddhist.com

  • Buddha’s teachings mainly centered on the sufferings of people in this world. Simple living and care towards fellow human beings and animals were his greatest lessons. His teachings bring peace to the mind and content to our soul.

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Shubhi Mangla is an intern at Newsgram and  a student of Journalism in New Delhi. Twitter @shubhi_mangla