Banyan Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 8 min read

The tale goes that during Alexander the Great’s India expedition, his entire army found refuge beneath a single banyan tree.

This alleged tree is said to be by the Nebudda River east of Mumbai and in 1999, it was recorded to have a diameter crown of 637ft (194m) supported by 320 main trunks and 3,000+ smaller ones – massive in size indeed. The tree’s ability to send aerial roots down from its canopy allows it to support itself over several acres.

But did you also know that banyan trees have a lot of symbolism attached to them?

The banyan tree has been a symbol of faith, luck, and spirit communication for centuries. The national tree of India, the banyan tree is also called the Indian fig, arched fig, and the Vada tree. Ancient cultures have seen the banyan tree as a representation of the World Tree, the Tree of Knowledge, and the Tree of Life.

In this article, we will explore the different meanings and symbols associated with banyan trees. So if you’re curious, keep reading!

About Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree

The banyan tree, scientifically classified as Ficus bengalensis and a member of the vast Ficus genus, is one of nature’s true wonders. In only 200 years, a single individual in the Calcutta Botanical Gardens grew into what is now considered one of the world’s largest-canopied trees.

Its crown has an average diameter of more than 430ft (131m), supported by 1,775 prop-roots—allowing it to shelter 20,000 people or more!

There are several considerably older banyan trees with even greater dimensions; however, none can compare to this natural marvel.

The Banyan tree produces leathery, ovate to elliptic leaves that are up to 8in (20cm) long. The globose, orange-red figs appear in axillary pairs and are downy with a diameter of up to ½in (1.3cm). The Krishnabor variety is unique due to its curiously cup-shaped leaves; it is also known as “Krishna’s buttercup”.

The Chinese banyan (F. infectoria) is a related species that was described by the English botanist Ernest H Wilson in 1913. It measured 70ft (21m) in height, with a girth of 47ft (14m).

Practical Uses

The banyan tree is holy to a lot of cultures in India, Pakistan, China and Southeast Asia. Even though sacred trees don’t usually provide “practical” items (like wood or leaves for livestock), they are still beneficial in other ways.

A sacred tree is part of the Earth’s ecosystem that people agree to protect from any damage. They often act as a home for other unusual plants, animals, birds and insects. They also give safety and shelter to humans while providing a tranquil place for contemplation or religious worship.

Natural Healing

The bark and leaf buds from the banyan tree have long been used to staunch wounds. In the ayurvedic tradition, astringent banyan bark is taken internally as an infusion to treat bowel conditions such as dysentery and diarrhea.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree Roots
Banyan Tree Roots

The banyan tree has long been regarded as sacred in eastern Asia. In fact, according to Indian anthropologist Dr Alka Pande, ancient traditions indicate that the banyan was once believed to be the embodiment of eternal power.

In Hinduism specifically, the tree is still seen as a holy site where one might find divine presence.

The Vedas and the Upanishads are some of the earliest scriptures available, and within them, trees – particularly the banyan tree – are linked with Brahma. For those unfamiliar, Brahma is considered to be the immortal spirit that courses through the universe.

The Katha Upanishad backs this claim up by saying, “This universe is a tree existing eternally, its root aloft, its branches below. The pure root of the tree is Brahman, the immortal…”.

The banyan tree is also mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita. It, states “There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down, and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas”.

The sacred scriptures themselves are thought to be representative of these specific tree leaves: making it both the Tree of Knowledge as well as life itself.

The upside-down tree motif is also found in Jewish mysticism, specifically in the Kabbalah. This symbol suggests that the roots of our world are located in the spirit realm and that all other worlds (including ours) exist at a lower vibration.

After Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha) became enlightened under the pipal tree, others reached the same state. Seven are shown in relief on the Stupa of Barhut, which dates back to 184-72 BCE. One of the depictions is of Kasyapa, a bodhisattva, meditating under a banyan tree.

Mount Omei, more commonly known as Omei Shan, is a mountain located in China that holds religious significance. In an article written by E H Wilson in 1913, he detailed the many temples and monasteries that are scattered along the mountainside leading up to its peak.

Furthermore, he noted several enormous banyan trees which sheltered some of these ancient structures. The largest one recorded was 80ft tall with a girth of 48ft at 5ft off from the ground.

The Symbolism of the Banyan Tree

The banyan tree has long been a symbol of strength and resilience in many cultures. Its expansive branches and roots create a sense of protection, offering shade and shelter to those seeking refuge.

In Hinduism, the banyan tree is said to be the god Vishnu’s residence on earth, representing his omnipresence. In the Buddhist tradition, it is believed that the banyan tree was the location where Buddha attained enlightenment.

This connection to spiritual growth and enlightenment reinforces its symbolism as a symbol of strength and solidity.

Beyond cultural significance, the banyan tree’s tenacious roots and ability to thrive in harsh conditions also make it a symbol of determination and perseverance.

Banyan Tree Sacred Country

The banyan tree is a symbol of life, growth, and strength in many cultures, but it holds a special significance in India. In Hinduism, banyan trees are believed to be the dwelling place of spirits, and offering prayers at banyan trees bring good luck.

These majestic trees can also be found at temples and pilgrimage sites, acting as sacred meeting places for worshippers. Some banyan trees have even become pilgrimage sites themselves with thousands flocking to pray under their branches.

Though they may not always receive the same reverence in Western culture, banyan trees deserve to be appreciated for their incredible size, longevity, and role in religious practice.

Banyan Tree – National Symbol of India

Banyan Tree Roots
Banyan Tree Roots

Did you know that the banyan tree is one of India’s national symbols? From its impressive size and long lifespan to its cultural significance, it’s easy to see why this hearty tree has earned its place as a symbol of the country.

The banyan tree can grow to be immense, with some reaching over 100 feet in height. It is also known for its distinctive aerial roots that give it an otherworldly appearance. In Hinduism, the banyan tree is considered sacred and is often used as a site for religious ceremonies and rituals.

As India continues to develop and modernize, the banyan tree remains a nod to the country’s history and traditions.

So next time you see one of these majestic trees, take a moment to appreciate its symbolism and all it represents for Indian culture.

Banyan Tree Meaning in Chinese

In Chinese culture, the Banyan tree symbolizes longevity and immortality due to its sturdy and expansive roots. Many Banyan trees are believed to have been present during the time of Confucius and continue to grow and prosper today.

Banyan trees are often called “Sea-Crossing Banyans” because they can survive salty ocean air, just likewise individuals can weather all types of challenges in life.

Banyan Tree Dream Meaning

Seen a banyan tree in your dreams? Don’t worry, it’s not an omen of impending doom. Dreaming about banyan trees can symbolize longevity and stability.

Banyan trees are known for their strong roots and long lifespan, so seeing one in your dream may suggest that your current situation or relationship has enduring potential.

However, banyan trees also grow in a very specific way – their roots often wrap around and envelop other structures.

This could indicate a need to reassess certain relationships or situations that may be taking up too much space in your life.

So while banyan tree dreams might suggest stability and endurance, they also remind us to reflect on what is truly nourishing our growth.


The banyan tree is a symbol of life, growth, and strength in many cultures. In India, it is considered sacred and is often used as a site for religious ceremonies and rituals.

As India continues to develop and modernize, the banyan tree remains a nod to the country’s history and traditions.