Vat-Pournima: Worship of the banyan tree

via,prtpage-1.cms published on June 8, 2009

By Rajendra P Kerkar @

Tree worship is an integral part of Indian culture. Right from the days of the Indus valley civilization, there are references to tree worship. The Vat-Pournima which will be celebrated on Sunday, the full moon day of the Jyeshta, symbolizes the worship of the banyan tree. Jyeshta is the third month of the Hindu calendar.

There is a mythological story associated with the ceremony of Vat-Pournima which tells that Savitri, by worshipping the banyan tree on the Jyeshta Pournima, brought back to life her dead husband by the grace of Yama, the god of death.

In Goa, Hindu married women observe a whole day of fasting and perform pooja of the banyan tree, urging the tree to grant a long, healthy and happy life to their husbands.

The banyan tree has the ability to support its ever growing branches by the development of adventitious roots from its branches. These roots, which hang down and act as props over an ever widening circle, represent eternal life and are regarded as a symbol of a long life.

The banyan tree is considered as sacred by various tribal communities. As Gautam Buddha sat under this tree for seven days it is regarded as holy by the Buddhists. The first Tirthankara of Jainism, Rishabhanath received perfect knowledge under the banyan tree. Thus, it is sacred to the Jains.

The leaves of the banyan tree are used as fodder for elephants and for making leaf-plates. The fruits are eaten by birds, monkeys and bats. The aerial roots are used to make tent-poles and cart-yokes.

“Different parts of the banyan tree have been used as medicine for the treatment of several ailments”, says Dr Pramod Sawant of Cothanibi-Pale.

The Goan culture has given importance to the banyan tree and throughout Goa there are some huge banyan trees. Dr Nandkumar Kamat says, “The banyan tree at Parce-Pernem spell binds you due to its height, whereas the giant banyan tree of Partagal Canacona is a charming creation of nature’s phyto architectural skills.”

In the name of folk deities like Rashtroli, Vathari, Mharingan, Brahman and others these trees are considered as holy, worshipped and thus protected.

Devidas Kotkar, a lecturer of biology from Valpoi says, “By protecting a banyan tree, we can get cool shade and it helps by providing a large quantity of oxygen”.

In city areas, Hindu women go to the market and fetch a twig as an alternative for a tree. “This is a false practice. Planting a banyan tree in the locality and worshipping it is the need of the hour,” says Sarojani Bhiva Gaonkar from Copode Sattari.

As this festival comes in the monsoon season, during the rains women enjoy the fresh and cool atmosphere under the banyan tree. Besides, in the leaf-cup, women distribute prasad consisting of pieces of different juicy fruits.

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