The banyan tree is one of the most venerated trees in India and has significant importance in Indian culture. The famous story of “Satyavan – Savitri” is well known. The story revolves around her knowledgeable conversation on death with Yamaraj , getting back the lost empire and the wealth of her husband , saving her husband’s life and getting the boon of having courageous and brave sons who will rule their empire . Celebrating Vatpurnima i.e worshiping the banyan tree has been started in the society so as to achieve all those things which Savitri had achieved. But what is the significance behind worshiping Banyan tree? We will focus on some important elements which are focused in the story above.
When Savitri came to know that the life span of her husband Satyavan was limited to few days, she performed वटपोर्णिमा व्रत and the rest of the things happened as mentioned in the story above. We will try to analyze some of the scientific facts of this tree and the resemblance of same with this व्रत.
1 ] अक्षयवट –
Ficus benghalensis i. e. Banyan tree produces propagating roots which grows downwards as aerial roots. Once these roots reach the ground they grow into woody trunks, hence it is also called as बहुपाद, the one with several feet. It symbolizes longevity and represents the divine creator Brahma. According to puranas, at the time of destruction (प्रलय) this is the only tree that survives on the earth , hence it is called as ‘अक्षयवट ‘. So, the tree is worshipped to sustain our lineage for long periods.
2 ] शिव and यमराज –
In iconography, Shiva the god of destruction is visualized sitting under the banyan tree as दक्षिणामूर्ती , who faces towards south, which is the direction of यम [दक्षिणायै दिशे यमाय नमः – (ऋग्वेद)] , the god of death and fear . We can observe many crematories having shiva’s temple under the shadow of Banyan tree in India . It is said that Shiva , the god of destruction unfears us from Yamaraj – the god of death . Savitri too had sat under the shadow of this banyan tree in the story.
3 ] Tree of Knowledge –
A} Generally, leaf of any tree produces 5 ml oxygen per hour that lasts for approximately 12 hours. While oxygen producing capacity of leaves of Tulsi , Neem ,and Banyan trees is for long span i.e. about 20 hours .
B } In sanskrit , Banyan tree is called as न्यग्रोध वृक्ष (न्यक् +रोध) means the tree that arrests secretions. Science too have discovered that the bark and leaf buds of Banyan are useful in arresting secretions and bleeding. (According to science, feelings are the product of secretions occurred at limbic system in brain.)
C } The fruit of the tree exercises a soothing on the skin and mucous membrane , alleviates swelling and pain , and serves a mild purgative . It is also nutritious. Also the latex is useful in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism and lumbago.
For the above reasons, it is said that वटमुले तपोवास: – (ऋषि पराशर), means one who desires to get knowledge should stay under Banyan tree (also the students sitting under this tree (वट )and learning are called as बटु in gurukuls). There are many saints and तपस्वी who have done तप, साधना and समाधी under this tree. Lord Buddha and Jain Tirthankar Rishabhdev are believed to have sat under a Banyan tree and achieved enlightenment.
The discussion between Yamaraj and Savitri about secrets of death and immortality also held under the Banyan tree . The conversation between Shrikrishna and Arjuna about Knowledge (भगवद्गीता) happened near Vatvruksha at Jyotisar in Kurukshetra .
4 ] Women and Banyan Tree –
Tender roots of Banyan tree are considered to be beneficial in the treatment of female sterility. A regular douching of the genital tract with a decoction of the bark of the Banyan tree and the Fig tree is helpful in leucorrhoea. Douching with the lukewarm decoction keeps the tissues of vaginal tract healthy.
Savitri too got the boon of having courageous and brave children who will rule the empire and lineage. We find women worshiping this tree since long years that means they were aware of the above medicinal effects of the Banyan tree.
Hence, all the things that happened in the story are the various effects of the Banyan tree which we tried to analyze from the glass of science . Secondly, the वटपोर्णिमा व्रत is just a system which will make the coming generations aware about the medicinal, scientific as well as philosophical facts related to the banyan tree where the story shows the positive results of the application of above knowledge and inspires us to pass it on to the next generation.