There are many legends that follow the magnificent banyan tree (India: Bodhi, Indonesia: beringin, waringin) through eons in religion and culture, from India, China and across south-east Asia to Indonesia. In Hindu mythology it is called Kalpavriksha meaning ‘wish fulfilling tree’ – that represents eternal life. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna uses the banyan tree as an illustration to explain the true significance of life to Arjuna. The Bargad (banyan tree) is the most venerated in Hinduism for it represents the Creator, Brahma, because of its permanence. The God of Death, Yama, is also connected with this tree as nothing can grow under the banyan. That is why it is not associated with fertility ceremonies e.g. childbirth or marriage, as it prevents any form of renewal or rebirth.
The banyan tree symbolizes immortality. Its roots grow down from its branches and form trunks and anchor the tree to the earth. That is why it is called Bahupada, the one with several feet, the soul that never dies nor renews. It represents the vehicle to spirituality, devoid of all materialistic urges. Lord Buddha, after meditation under the banyan achieved enlightenment, and Lord Shiva the divine hermit, always rested in its shade never fearing the spirits that dwelt in its embrace.
Courtersy of Instagram account: @madewedastra
Banyan trees grow in thousands across the isle but there are two outstanding trees that must be seen – Bunut Bolong (about 500 years old) at Desa Manggisari (Jembrana Regency), which is so massive that a road passes through it; the other is in village Gesing (North Bali). It is around 700 years old, 85 metres in height and 70 metres in diameter.