The eternal relationship beween tree worship and human beings - Man and tree 02

Shri Narendra Modi looking at  Banyan Tree, Mahakali Vad at Kantharpura.
 Above image:  Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India visits 500 year old auspicious Banyan Tree, Mahakali Vad at Kantharpura.  28th August 2013

Hindus  believe  that  the  God  is  omnipresent, all pervading. He is  in  all living  as well  as  non-living beings. The divine  God  exits  in  the  pillar as well  as  in  the  smallest atom (in Tamil  "Thoonelum erruppar, Thoorumbilum erruppar"). In the Hindu  Pantheon and  mythology,  one  may  find a close association  of  God  and  Goddess  with  animals - Goddess  Durga Devi  with Lion or Tiger, God  Karthikaya (Muruga) with  peacock, etc. In  the  rural areas  of  Tamil  Nadu,  especially in the interior places  one  may see  a small  Hindu  temple (dedicated to a God or Goddess) or simply a  make-shift  temple  in  the  shadow  of  a  huge  banyan  tree. It may  be a  village  deity, supposed to  be  the protector (sentinel)  of  that  particular village. In order to  have  their  wish  fulfilled, after prayer  people  will  tie  a  strip  of  yellow  cloth  dipped  in  turmeric  water or hang  objects  from  tree  branches  in  the belief  that  their  existing  or  ensuing  problems  will  be  resolved  soon. The association   of   god  with tree or plants  is part of  the  Hindu  society  and culture.  Every Hindu  temple  in Tamil Nadu  and  also in  other states  has a  particular  tree (Viruksham)  which is  symbolic  of that temple.  At  some  Hindu temple  Hindus worship  a  big  stump  of  tree  as  God. For example at the huge and old  Nellaiappar  temple  of Thirunelveli,in South Tamil Nadu,  Lord  Shiva, the  cosmic  dancer appears  as  suyambu (grew  independently from  an  old  Viruksha - Bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea).
few Tamil Nadu temples and their specific trees:

Vaitheeswaran Kovil (temple): - Vriksham: Veppa Maram(Neem tree).  

Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram: - Vriksham: 
Thiruvanaikaval - Jambukeswarar:Vriksham: Naaval 

Tirukkarukaavoor near Papanasam - Kumbhakonam Vriksham: Mullai.

Temple of Six Banyan Trees of Guangzhou,
Tirukkandiyur near Thanjavur, Tiruvaiyaru - Vriksham: Vilvam. 

Tree deities:

The Yakshis or Yakshinis (Sanskrit) are mythical maiden deities of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology. They have close link  with  trees, especially the Ashoka tree and the Sal tree. Although these tree deities do good for the humans.There are also  Yakshinis  that are harmful to humans and cause all kinds of problems.

Panaiveri Aamman, named  after Panaai,(in Tamil  for the Palmyra palm), is  an ancient fertility deity linked to  this  palm tree  that is so important in Tamil culture. Also  known as Taalavaasini, a name that relates her to all types of palm trees. Some other Tamil tree deities  are  related  to  ancient agricultural  deities, such  as  Puliyidaivalai Aamman, the deity  of  the tamarind tree, and Kadambari  Aamman, associated  with  the  Kadamba tree. These  were  seen  as  manifestations of  a goddess  who  offers  her  blessings  by  giving fruits  in  abundance.

Tree worship  is  mentioned  in  many  societies  throughout  world. In South America, the Gauchos regarded the tree, not as the embodiment or abode of Walleechu, but as the very god himself. Darwin  recorded  tree  worship  as  part  of  South  American native cultures.  In the state of Nebraska, USA  the custom of tree worship  was  to  propitiate  the  supernatural  beings   and  to  procure  good weather and hunting. 

Married Hindu  women worshiping the Banyan tree
The  life  history  of a tree  is   very  much  similar to that of  humans. Right from  beginning  on the earth and  till  last  decaying  in to  the  earth. The various stages  of  growth - sowing of seed or planting  of  sapling  deep  in  the  soil, gradual growth of small branches with tender leaves,  sensitivity  to  night  and day, seasonal  changes  of  growth  and productivity, annual  decay, revival  of  growth and  ultimately  decay  into  the earth.

In many  societies  cultural  and  fictional  stories,  folklores, etc., it  is  mentioned that trees are symbols  of  immortality  and  fertility. This  is  quite  true  of  India, in particular, in rural India  where trees  have  cultural  and  religious  significance. In Hinduism, the Banyan  and  the Peepal (Ficus religiosa) trees  are  frequently  mentioned. The Christmas Tree, the Tree  of Knowledge of  Judaism  and Christianity, the  Bodhi tree in Buddhism have religious as well as cultural connotations.As you may be aware that Prince Siddhārtha Gautama got his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and became the Buddha.  The study of tree worship  is  too  large  a  subject  and  it  covers  a wide  spectrum  of subjects. in ancient Egypt according  to  the  book  of  the  dead ''the soul of the deceased finds blissful repose '' apparently in trees.

As for the custom of hanging objects  from  trees in order to establish some sort of  relationship between  themselves  and  the tree for the specific purpose  of fulfillment of  a wish which could be a child, a good bride or a bridegroom, winning of a court case, etc , not only  is  it  common  in  many  parts  of  India  but  also  in  Europe  and the Americas. The  trees  are  known  as  the  sites  of  pilgrimages, ritual ambulation, and  the  recital of (Christian) prayers. Wreaths, ribbons  or rags  or objects  like  a  small  cradle (symbolic of a baby)  are  suspended  to  win  favor and good luck including for sick men. Popular  belief  associates  the sites  with  healing, bewitching,  or  mere  wishing  and here the trees are  mere  objects  of  reverence. Hence, in rural Tamil Nadu  as  in  many parts one may find a  small  temple  right  below  a  huge  Banyan trees - supposedly a venerable place of worship and protection.

Tit -bits:

In Rural India in small villages or hamlets, the space below a huge tree - mostly Banyan is the meeting place of the villagers with the village head.

Hindu women worshiping a peepal
A village Panchayat - consisting of five members - meeting will be held at a particular interval to discuss matters concerning the village.  

Once in a while  a special  meeting will be held to settle  civil  disputes  as  well  as  small  criminal offenses  before  the Panchayat  members. Decision will be based  on people's opinion and  quorum.The Indian  union government  has recognized  Panchayat system  with  limited  freedom. Mahatma Gandhi favored  this kind  of system for quick disposal of petty, trivial litigations.

In some Hindu temples the presiding deities are not made of granite, but of wood, preferably Neem wood, out of which Godly images are reverentially carved out. A good example is Puri Jagannath temple in Odhisa where the presiding deities are made of neem wood and the priests change the wooden deties reverentially every 12 years.

The Saint Thomas Christians in India from 52 to 1687
In the state of Kerala, St.Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians worship wooden ''Holy Cross ''at the pretty old churches first established by St. Thomas in the 2nd century. 

Taylor, John W. (1979). Tree Worship, in Mankind Quarterly, Sept., pp. 79-142. ISSN 0025-2344.

Gollwitzer 1984:13."The Voyage of the Beagle", Chapter IV Mountfort 2003:41, 279.

Mythical Trees  and Deities.A green act of faith - Times Of India articles.times of india.india › Collections. 

Trees A green act of faith. Payal Gwalani, TNN Sep 4, 2011, 01.06pm IST.