By some happy coincidence, World Environment Day 2020 coincided with Vatt Poornima on June 5, 2020. This year, the two events are on either side of Sunday, the fourth of June 2023.
The onset of the South-West monsoons is also not on the predictable day of Mrig Nakshatra that my friend, Pandurang G Kakodkar (ex-Chairman of the State Bank of India and Vice-Chairman of Western Ghats Kokum Foundation, Panjim), would wait to begin tree planting in Panjim under an SBI-funded community project that he mentored like his own grandchild.
BITS OF MYTHOLOGY
According to mythology, King Satyavan’s expiry date had been fixed, but his wife Satyavati’s fasting and prayers won over even Yamraj. Satyavan’s life was revalidated for a further period.
The tradition of fasting, praying and tying a thread to the banyan tree continues and, hence, it is ensured that every village and town has a banyan tree where this can be done.
Unlike the tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) at Tulshichem laginn, one cannot have an impromptu banyan tree. It takes years to nurture a seedling into a tree. Pole planting is quicker but it still takes a couple of years to grow it into a tree.
REASONS TO LOVE IT
Long before it was discovered that the banyan tree was a net oxygen producer even at night, the people of India had discovered that they woke up fresh if they slept under a banyan tree at night.
Convention prohibited the burning of wood from a banyan tree while creating a tradition of worshipping the tree at the start of the monsoons.
The banyan tree has a long life span. It perpetuates itself through very tiny seeds in its figs that are eaten by all kinds of birds. Often, the banyan tree seedling will grow like a tenant on a branch of a tree on which a little bird sat and pooped with the seeds included. It will then send down slender, thread-like roots that will begin to swell immediately on accessing nutrition from the soil below. It will then begin to strangle the host tree!
The Mahatma Gandhi road and the Dayanand Bandodkar road have enough examples of the ‘Strangler Figs’ to write a PhD thesis. My young friend, Akshatra Fernandes, chose to do her research on Ficus species in faraway Cotigao, instead.
The Ficus species are survivors even when subjected to severe pruning and deprivation of water and nutrients. There are standing examples by the roadsides in Goa. It is also a good species for making bonsai. What better example could one find for resilience to an ever-changing environment!
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan