|Trees are significant in many of the world's mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages. Religion can be a strange phenomenon. Every religion entails myriads of beliefs and religious people follow these beliefs with all the devotion. Hinduism also referred as 'Sanatana Dharma' is the oldest and one of the most widely practiced religion. This religion does not belong to one single God or prophet. In Hinduism, there are many Gods to worship. Hinduism adores divinity not just in the forms of humans but also in the form of nature. Mountains, rivers, animals, plants, rocks, planets and even stars are considered angelic. Trees have been worshiped by the Hindus as a matter of obligation and have long been a subject of interest and a topic of discussion - and it's no wonder; they represent religious belief, life, growth, peace, and nature. Manu believed that they were conscious like humans and felt pleasure and pain. Indian sages and seers eulogized Asvattha or Peepal, Bel, Bargad or Banyan, Asoka, Arjuna and many other trees which acquired social as well as religious sanctity with the passage of time. The Pauranic belief has it that Brahma metamorphosed into a 'Palasa', Visnu into a 'Peepal' and Rudra into a 'Bargad' after being cursed by Parvati, the wife of Lord Siva. Neem is customarily believed to be the abode of the goddess Sitala; Peepal of the goddess Laksmi (on Sundays), 'Amala' of both lord Visnu and Lord Siva, and 'Sami' of Lord Hanuman. Deodar is believed to be the adopted child of Lord Siva. Peepal is said to form a link between earth and heaven. |
Hinduism, which also arose from the ancient Vedic religion, also placed marked value upon trees. There are many sacred trees which have a place in Hinduism. Hindu culture believes "to honor nature is to honor ourselves, to honor ourselves one should honor all of nature". Tree/Plant worship has its roots in ancient times and continues to be an element of modern Indian tradition. 'Naimisharanya' is the holy forest where Shree Veda Vyasa taught the Vedas and all the Puranas to his disciples. In the scriptures, the kalpavriksha and chaityavriksha are mentioned, indicating that the worship of the trees is indeed an ancient Indian practice. Some plants are believed to have originated from bodies or limbs of Gods and hence, the sanctity. For example, the 'Flame of the forest' (a common name for several plants) is believed to have originated from the body of Lord Brahma and the Rudraksha tree arose from the tears of Lord Shiva. There are many trees which are considered sacred. Sacred trees are invoked on special days for long life, for the expiration of sins, for averting mishaps, or for the fulfillment of a particular wish. The wood of sacred trees is never used as fuel as it invites the wrath of gods.
When we refer religiosity of trees, the verse 1 of chapter 15 of Bhagavad Gita bounce into our consciousness, wherein Lord Krishna interpret that, for the soul, this material world is like a colossal "Ashvattha Tree" (Sanskrit, pronunciation of the Peepal Tree). The tree is mentioned in Rig-Veda. It is honored since it is the holiest of all the holy trees. It can very well stand as a true symbol of the 'Parabrahma Paramatma'. Even Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under the Asvattha (Peepal) tree and thus also sacred to Buddhist. It is also called the Bodhi tree or "tree of enlightenment". It is under this tree that Siddhartha Gautama became Bhagavan Buddha. It is inspiring. It has a divine life. In northern India, on the 'Somavati Amavasya' worshippers pour water and un-boiled milk on the roots and 108 times circumambulate the tree. Women worship the tree to bless them with a son tying red thread or red cloth around its trunk or on its branches. In Rajputana, married women worship the Peepal tree to avoid widowhood. Customarily, trees have their roots below and branches above, but this tree has its roots above, i.e. it has originated from God; it is based in him, and is supported by him. Its trunk and branches extend downward encompassing all the life-forms in all the abodes of the material realm. The 'Ashvattha tree' is said to be imperishable, with the Vedas as its leaves. In fact, the three principal gods in Hinduism, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu, all have associations with the "Ashvattha Tree" and is regularly worshipped.
Palasa known as Brahmavriksha in Sanskrit is one of the sacred trees worshipped in India. There is a mention of the Palasa tree in both Ramayana and Mahabharatha. In Mahabharata, Sage Jamadagni performed a sacrifice to the gods in the forest of Palasa.
Banyan tree is one of the most venerated trees in India. In Hindu mythology, the tree is called 'Kalpavriksha', the tree that provides fulfillment of wishes and other material gains. It finds mention in the Vedic scriptures, believed to have emerged from the primal waters during the 'Samundar Manthan' (ocean churning). Believed in Indra's "Devaloka" the five Kalpavrikshas, are: Mandana, Parijata, Santana, Kalpavriksha and Harichandana, all of which fulfill various wishes. It symbolizes Trimurti - Lord Vishnu is believed to be the bark, Lord Brahma the roots, and Lord Shiva the branches. Believed Lord Krishna stood beneath Kalpavriksha, when he delivered the sermon of the Bhagavad Gita.
Ashoka tree is sacred to the Hindus, being dedicated to Kama Deva, God of Love. The tree is a symbol of love. Ashoka is a Sanskrit word meaning without grief or that which gives no grief. Ashoka tree is symbol of fertility in Indian culture. It is considered to be sacred tree in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The Ashoka tree has a symbolic importance in Buddhism. Queen Maya of Sakya is said to have given birth to the Buddha under an Ashoka tree in a garden in Lumbini, so it is planted in Buddhist monasteries. This tree is also regarded with veneration in Jainism. In the Jain tradition Mahavira is said to have renounced the world under this kind of tree in Vaishali. In Indian epic of Ramayana the Ashoka tree is mentioned in reference to the Ashoka Vatika (garden of Ashoka trees) where Hanuman first meets Sita.
The Sandalwood is another plant that is considered holy and is used in worship rituals all over India. The tree itself is not worshipped but its wood, which is very fragrant, is used in worship which gives it a lot of religious significance. The heartwood of Sandal is used in religious 'Pujas' to make "Chandan pastes". These pastes are applied to the forehead of gods and of the worshipers.
The coconut (Sanskrit: Sriphala - God's fruit) alone is used to symbolize 'God'. Sage Vishwamitra is said to have got the first coconut tree grown on this earth by the power of his 'Tapasya' (austerities). The coconut is associated with Lord Ganesha, at the beginning of any auspicious task people smash coconuts to propitiate Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles. In India one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. Coconut trees are used for all kinds of religious purposes, mainly utilizing the coconut fruits in religious ceremonies. Coconut plays a vital role in all puja rituals. The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva.
Mango tree is another auspicious tree in Hindu religion. The significance of this finds mention in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The mango as a fruit is a symbol of love and fertility. The leaf of the tree is used during most religious and social ceremonies of the Hindus. The branches are used for 'Yagna' workship. While the Mango leaves are considered very sacred. On auspicious occasions, mango leaves are tied to a string and hung at the entrance symbolically to absorb negative energies from entering the home. Mango leaves are put in earthen pot filled with water (kalash) to worship Varun (god of water). The mango leaves and coconut fruit placed in earthen pot filled with water, has its own importance as "Purnakumbha" that is placed at every 'Puja Sthal' in Hinduism that symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi and good fortune. The Jain goddess Ambika is traditionally represented as sitting under a mango tree. In Hinduism, the perfectly ripe mango is often held by Lord Ganesha as a symbol of attainment, regarding the devotees' potential perfection. Mango blossoms are also used in the worship of the goddess Saraswati.