Banyan

(Ficus benghalensis) A tree that is sacred to Kali, that is, to time (O'Neill), and it was under this tree that Vishnu was born (Gordon. 1985). According to Hindu mythology, the banyan is the male to the Peapul, the female (Pandey). A silver coin should be put under the roots of a young banyan. In some places, Celebes, for instance, banyan is still a sacred tree. People will not cut one down, and will not plant crops in a field where one is growing (Mabuchi). In India, too, they say it should never be felled, otherwise the woodman who cut it would have no son (Gupta). In some of the Pacific islands, the banyan is a sort of world-tree, for on its branches live the soul-birds of people. As often as a man is born, a leaf sprouts on the tree. There is a branch for each village, and of course the leaf appears on the appropriate branch. As long as the leaf is there the man to whom it belongs continues to live, and if he is sick, the leaf withers. If it falls to the ground, it is a human being who is dead, but the leaf will only be pulled by the soul-bird (Roheim). The Santals and other Indian peoples wind the young aerial roots of this tree around the neck, to ensure conception (Pandey).

The fruit is very small, not much larger than a hazel nut, and of no use. So there used to be a saying among sailors of a "banyan dinner", when they were put on short commons (Ablett).

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