Creating Waves of Awareness
Latin name: Ficus religiosa
English names: Bo tree, Peepal Tree
Indian names: Bengali: Asvattha
Sanskrit: Asvattha, Bodh.
Ficus means fig and religiosa shows that it is venerated. The Sanskrit word “Asvattha” means under which horses stand. Bodh means the tree of perfect wisdom.
The Peepal is the oldest depicted tree in India. In Vedic times it was used to make fire by friction. Considered a sacred tree it is seldom cut. It is associated with the triad, the roots being Brahma, the stem Vishnu and each leaf being the seat of a minor god. In another myth, Vishnu was born under a Peepal and is therefore considered the tree itself.
The Peepal is sacred to the Buddhists as Prince Sidharth received enlightenment under it in Bodh Gaya and became the Buddha. Hence it is called the Bodhi tree or the tree of enlightenment. Buddha reached perfect wisdom under it, so it is called the Samyak Sambodhi or Tree of Knowledge.
The Peepal is considered a Brahmin tree and Brahmins offer prayers under it. In Gujarat it is considered a Brahmin itself and invested with the sacred triple cord. It is considered that one who cuts it has murdered a Brahmin and his family will soon become extinct. It is served with food offerings when a male member of the family dies.
Some communities believe that the spirits of dead do not get water in the next world. The Peepal is considered a pathway. So water is poured on its roots on three day of the dark half of Kartik (mid October to mid November) and Shravana (mid July to mid August) and on the bright half of Chaitra (March end).