Above: The 'big banyan tree' in the grounds of the Theosophical Society, Madras.
To study a banyan tree
You not only must know
Its main stem in its own soil
But also trace the growth
Of its greatness in the further soil
For then you can know the true nature of its vitality
- Rabindranath Tagore
There are two banyan trees literally 'outside my window'. In between them stands a small shrine. The Banyan is sacred to Hindus and temples are often built where a Banyan stands. Its leaves are tear-drop shaped. It also has 'aerial' roots which drop down to the ground and become anchored in the soil. As a result, the tree expands and covers a very large area. Many places in India and other countries in Asia boast a 'big banyan tree' as a tourist attraction. The Banyan tree you see above is more than 450 years old and covers an area of over 4,500 square metres! No wonder then that it's believed to represent eternal life.