Banyan Tree is a sacred tree and it is native to Pakistan and India. There are many folktales related to Banayan tree in our culture.Today, I decided to share another story related to banayan tree which is a part of our culture.
An awe-inspiring centuries old Banyan Tree, standing a few yards away from the magnificent 17th century Mughal Bridge over Bara River here at Choha Gujar village, is direly awaiting attention for its preservation.
The towering Banyan is unique due to its huge and extensive foliage and can be seen from a distance of hundred meters. The giant Banyan tree is 200 feet high and 103 feet wide and its roots encompass over half a kilometer area. Nearby, there is another bunch of 15 similar (smaller) trees.
The tree is hundred of years old and can be termed as unique sample of biodiversity.
About the exact age of the tree, it is clear that the tree is much old and maintained that such trees need to be preserved as an asset for research on plants ailments.
Furthermore, if such trees are lost it will be a big loss to biodiversity and environment of the area. After the passage of few centuries, the tree is still in good condition and gives a fascinating look to the greenery lovers.
According to a book ‘Gardens of Peshawar’ written by a journalist,Imran Rasheed Imran centuries age such Banyan trees were planted along main roads which served as oasis for travellers, who used to cover long distances either by walking or by riding a horseback.
The old Grand Trunk (GT) road which was also called as ‘Jernally Road’ also passed below this tree, he continued. However, later the British rulers changed the route of GT road to the existing one and the tree lost concentration.
A visit to the area revealed that the ancient banyan tree needs attention for preservation because local people consider it sacred and cut its long dangling roots for treatment of mentally retarded patients besides other ailments in adults.
Similarly, people involved in traditional way of treatment also pluck leaves of the tree for collecting sort of liquid resembling milk from it. Milk like liquid extracted from Banyan tree leaves is also used in herbal medicine.
People in the area considered this tree as religiously revered and earlier an annual mela (gathering of people) was also held beneath this huge tree.
However now, the practice of mela has ended with the passage of time, but still people consider the tree as holy and cut its roots and branches for keeping them as sacred relics at their homes.
Development in the area is also causing threat to the tree as some of its branches were chopped off due to construction of a high school and a mosque within its vicinity.
Lal Shah, resident of the area who also claims ownership of the tree, has admitted cutting parts of the tree with the passage of time.
He said once a boy sitting on the top of a bus was hit by a branch of the tree and died. After that incident, he continued, twigs of the tree passing over the road were cut. He said he also restricts people from cutting roots of the tree and plucking of its leaves.
Lal Shah said his maternal family is protecting the tree from generations and he inherited its ownership. He was not aware about the age of the tree but said he heard from his grand mother that it is not centurion but much older than that.
He was also of the view that tree is sacred and earlier pious people performed worship under its shadow. Lal Shah assured that his family would keep on protecting the tree and he has advised his children to take care of it after his death.
Taking notice of the significance of the old banyan tree, Sarhad Conservation Network (SCN), an NGO, has put a board on it inscribed with the Wording which highlights its importance and urges the people not to cut its roots and pluck its leave. There is a need for preservation of the old banyan tree which is also part of our heritage.
The banyan is a sacred tree, environment-friendly and has provided shelter to many generations through the centuries and it is the responsibility of the people and government to save it from destruction.
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