Around few kilometres south of Pakistan Petroleum Ltd’s Adhi Field, stands an enticing, small forest, where a centuries-old huge Barh or Banyan tree serves as a landmark.
From a distance, this tree appears like a beautiful, huge mushroom, dominating all the other trees around it. People living in the nearby villages of Adhi, Thaakra, Kayaal and Phariyal associate a number of stories and myths with this old banyan tree, which has a 40-foot circumfrence trunk.
One of the folklores says that once bandits used to hide their loot and weapons on its branches. The tree, according to locals, also served as the hideout of bandits,
who tied their charpoys on its branches. Some locals also believe that the tree remains a place for ghosts and spirits.
But tales aside, in our times, this tree serves as a thing of beauty, giving joy to all the lovers of nature. During the sweltering summers of Punjab, villagers rest and
even sleep under its vast cool shade.
In the evenings, swarms of birds fly in to its branches, which serve as their home. The mystifying crescendo of chirping and twittering of these birds against
the backdrop of the setting sun gives a unique experience.
The banyan is one of the most remarkable trees of South Asia, belonging to the Moraceae family that grows in a peculiar way. Birds carry banyan seed into the top
branches of other trees where it begins life as an epiphyte, developing its own branches. Eventually, the lateral branches send roots down to the ground, which enlarge into trunks and develop new branches.
In time, the banyan kills its host tree and lives for an incredible length of time.
A mature banyan canopy is usually more than 1,000 feet in circumfrence. Its original trunk may decay, but the younger ones continue to support the tree, which is considered holy in Hindu religion.
(The writer,BABER AKRAM KHOKHER is an Engineer at Design & Construction