Have you ever wondered about the significance of Peepal tree? People regard the peepal tree as the most sacred tree in India. Peepal tree benefits are also quite noteworthy. Let’s explore and dive into the details of origin, history, unique features, and peepal tree significance that makes it so sacred.
History of Peepal Tree
Well, historical evidence proves that the Peepal tree grew even during the days of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). Yes, you heard that right! A seal was found at Mohenjo-Daro, one of the cities of the IVC (3,000–1,700 BC), which shows the people worshipping the Peepal tree.
Testimonials also indicate that during the Vedic times, the wood of the peepal tree was a part of the process to make fire with the help of friction. The tree enjoys great eminence since the early days of Indian society. Therefore, no wonder it is nothing but the king of all trees.
Ancient and Spiritual Significance of Peepal Tree
In Hindu thought and ideology, the peepal tree is associated with the Sanatan Trinity, i.e., Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh or Shiva. According to popular belief, the tree houses the Trimurti, wherein its roots represent Brahma, the trunk Vishnu and the branches Shiva. The gods are said to hold their councils under the tree. Hence, the tree assumes ample spiritual significance.
Another unique feature of this tree is that its roots creep upwards. Yes, upwards! Therefore, unlike the banyan tree whose roots fall from above to the ground, the Peepal tree symbolizes that the man moves from the mortal world to the immortal one.
Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana are some of the most common ancient texts available in Sanskrit. It contains various mythological accounts of ancient times that relate to Vishnu. It states that Vishnu once hid in a peepal tree when the gods lost a battle against the demons. Therefore, spontaneous worship to Vishnu is possible to a peepal tree without needing his image or temple. The Skanda Purana considers the peepal as a symbol of Vishnu, who was born under this tree.
Connecting Bhagavad Gita – Religious Significance of Peepal Tree
The peepal is also closely linked to Krishna, shocking right? Well, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says:
“Among trees, I am the ashwattha.”
One believes that Krishna died under this tree. After which the present Kali Yuga (Man in this age ) is farthest from Mother Nature. His social and moral standards are at the lowest during this time. During the Vedic days, the peepal tree had another name such as ashwattha. The great spiritual saint, Adi Shankaracharya, explains that the peepal tree represents the entire cosmos.
“Shwa” in Sanskrit means ‘tomorrow’. “A” indicates negation, and “tha” means one that remains. He, therefore, interprets ashwattha to indicate ‘one which does not remain the same tomorrow, like the ever-changing universe itself’. However, ashwattha means ‘where horses rest’ or ‘the resting place for horses’. In Sanskrit, ‘ashwa’ means horse and ‘tha’ means a place. Hence, the name, ashwattha.
Several Names and Locations
In ancient times, horses were the main primary means of any type of transportation. The peepal tree provided shelter to the animal under its sprawling, big branches and cooling shade. The tree has several other names such as bo-tree, bodhi, pimpalla, pimpal, jari, arani, ragi, bodhidruma, shuchidruma, rukkha arayal and kaavam. Its heart shape leaves have long and tapering tips. Even the slightest breeze makes them rustle, giving it the name of chanchala or vibrant.
A large, fast-growing deciduous tree, the peepal is of medium size. It has a large crown with wonderful, wide-spreading branches. And it sheds its leaves in March and April. The fruits of the peepal hide within the figs itself. Although the peepal is found all over the country, it is mainly seen in Haryana, Bihar, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh. It is the state tree of Haryana, Bihar and Orissa. The peepal is also found in the Ranthambore, the National Park in Rajasthan.
Peculiar Aspects of Peepal Tree
This ashwattha tree is quite remarkable because it grows both upwards as well as top to bottom. Yes, you heard that right! The branches themselves morph into roots. So even if the original tree decays and perishes, its underlying branches are young and continue to enclose the parent.
This eternal life of the peepal tree inspires both Indian philosophers as well as Hindu thought and mythology. It is not uncommon to run into an ashwattha tree that is a few hundred or even one thousand years old. The one at Bodhgaya, as well as the one in Sri Lanka, are two notable examples of such old trees. In fact, it is one of the longest-living trees in the world to date.
Writings Of Skanda Purana
According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, you could consider the peepal tree as one. People believe that as long as the tree lives, the family name will continue. To cut down a peepal is equivalent to killing a Brahmin. And killing a brahmin is one of the five deadly sins such as panchapataka.
The Skanda Purana further states that for committing such a deed, the person will go to hell. Not only this, but all his good deeds will come to naught. However, cutting the branches of this tree for yagna or sacrificial fire is not a problem. Even offering its dried wood into the yagna fire are acts of great merit.
Since the tree is sacred, people place their damaged idols, old calendars, and pictures bearing figures of gods and goddesses at its base. Parikrama or circumambulation of the holy peepal tree and pouring water on it daily destroys all kinds of inauspiciousness. Pouring water on the roots of this tree in the month of vaishakha (May–June) begets immense virtue. And worshipping it with devotion grants long life and prosperity.
Writings Of Brahma Purana
Some people avoid going near or touching the peepal on all days other than Saturdays. The Brahma Purana explains the reason behind Peepal tree significance too. Once upon a time, two demons, Ashwattha and Peepala, were harassing the people. Ashwattha would take the form of a peepal tree and Peepala the form of a Brahmin. The fake Brahmin would advise people to touch the tree. And as soon as they did, Ashwattha would kill them mercilessly.
Eventually, Shanidev killed both of these demons. From that time, people consider it safe to touch the tree on Saturdays. Moreover, there is a belief that Goddess Lakshmi inhabits the tree on Saturdays. Hence, people consider it auspicious to worship the tree on that day. Women who seek the birth of a son, they tie a red thread or red cloth around its trunk or on its branches.
Extensive Medicinal Application – Benefits of Peepal Tree
The peepal tree benefits start with its immense medicinal qualities which scientists still discover even today. These qualities are used extensively in the field of Ayurveda.
One can extract the juice of its leaves when you hold these near the fire. One can also use it as an eardrop. Also, the leaves of the peepal are useful to treat constipation. Its leaves are also fed to camels and elephants or useful for decoration purposes.
A powder made from its bark heals wounds of yesteryears. Meanwhile, the bark itself is useful in treating inflammation and glandular swelling of the neck. Peepal bark helps in yielding a reddish dye.
Roots of Peepal Tree
Peepal tree benefits lie in its roots as well. Its root is useful for stomatitis, cures ulcers and promotes granulations. Its roots are also good for gout. People even chew the roots to prevent gum diseases.
Its fruit also offers a host of benefits, such as it works as a laxative. It also aids in digestion. Fruits keep a check on vomiting and are good for foul taste and thirst and heart diseases. It is often taken in powdered form and beneficial for asthma.
The Tree Of Enlightenment – Buddhist Significance of Peepal Tree
For Buddhists, the significance of peepal tree lies in the fact that Gautama Buddha got enlightenment under a peepal tree at Bodhgaya. Hence, it is also called the bodhi tree or the tree of enlightenment. Traditional Buddhist records indicate that a branch of the tree was taken to Sri Lanka in 288 BC. Emperor Ashoka’s son and daughter took it there and it was grown there. One can see this even today.
Buddhists regard the tree as the personification of the Buddha. Emperor Ashoka even plants peepal trees on both sides of the roads in most parts of his empire. It is said that Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, knew about the wonderful properties of the tree. Hence, he got thousands of peepal trees in his kingdom.
Perspective Of Science
But, if we examine the Peepal tree from the perspective of science and not that of religion or spiritualism, we find that even here, it scores high marks! People believe that this is the only tree in the world that exhales oxygen all the twenty-four hours of the day (Source: Vrikshayurveda, Author-Surapala).
The air that passes through the dancing leaves of the peepal destroys bacteria and germs present in the atmosphere. And thus the significance of peepal is established as a perfect natural purifier even today. For this very reason, in olden days, all villages had several peepal trees within their boundaries. When you sit under a peepal tree, believe it or not, your brain cells rejuvenate.
Therefore, the ancient ashrams had several peepal trees, beneath which gurus held lessons. Since the tree has environmental significance, Hindus accord it with social sanctity. They also hold the view that the tree is the abode of certain astral bodies like ghosts and vampires because the environs of the tree are conducive for them. Commensurate with Indian cultural heritage and keep in mind the significance of the tree. India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, has a replica of a peepal tree, in bronze colour.