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Sacred Fig
Leaves and trunk of a Sacred Fig.
Note the distinctive leaf shape.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus
Species: F. religiosa
Binomial name
Ficus religiosa
The Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple. Propagated from the Sri Maha Bodhi, which in turn is propagated from the original Bodhi Tree at this location.

The Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) or Bo-Tree (from the Sinhala bo)[1] is a species of banyan fig native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, southwest China and Indochina. It is a large dry season-deciduous or semi-evergreen tree up to 30 m tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 3 m.

Typical shape of the leaf of the Ficus Religiosa

The leaves are cordate in shape with a distinctive extended tip; they are 10–17 cm long and 8–12 cm broad, with a 6–10 cm petiole. The fruit is a small fig 1-1.5 cm diameter, green ripening purple.

The Bodhi tree and the Sri Maha Bodhi propagated from it are famous specimens of Sacred Fig. The known planting date of the latter, 288 BC, gives it the oldest verified age for any angiosperm plant.

This plant is considered sacred by the followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and hence the name 'Sacred Fig' was given to it. Siddhartha Gautama is said to have been sitting underneath a Bo-Tree when he was enlightened (Bodhi), or "awakened" (Buddha). Thus, the Bo-Tree is well-known symbol for happiness, prosperity, longevity and good luck. Today in India, Hindu sadhus still meditate below this tree, and in Theravada Buddhist Southeast Asia, the tree's massive trunk is often the site of Buddhist and animist shrines.


Local names

It is known by a wide range of local names:

  • in Indic languages:
    • Hindi: पीपल pipal (sometimes transliterated as: peepal, peepul, pippala, etc.)
    • Marathi pimpaL (where L stands for the German ld sound, used in for example Nagold)
    • Sanskrit: अश्वत्थः aśvatthḥ ; vṛiksha
    • Pali: assattha; rukkha
    • Tamil கணவம் kaṇavam, also அரச மரம் (arasa maram)
    • Malayalamഅരയാല്‍ Arayal
    • Bengali অশ্বত্থ asbattha, পিপল, Peepal
    • Telugu రావి raavi, also రాగి raagi
    • Kannada arali


Plaksa is a possible Sanskrit term for the sacred fig. According to Macdonell and Keith (1912), it rather denotes the wavy-leaved Fig tree (Ficus infectoria).

In Hindu texts, the Plaksa tree is associated with the source of the Sarasvati River. The Skanda Purana states that the Sarasvati originates from the water pot of Brahma and flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. According to Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati was rising from the Plaksa tree (Pipal tree).[2]

Plaksa Pra-sravana denotes the place where the Sarasvati appears.[3] In the Rigveda Sutras, Plaksa Pra-sravana refers to the source of the Sarasvati.[4]

Different views, aspects

See also

Pipal tree at Nandan Kanan Park Bhopal


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971, p.1014
  2. ^ D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Sarasvati, 1999, p.35-44
  3. ^ Pancavimsa Brahmana, Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Latyayana Srauta; Macdonell and Keith 1912
  4. ^ Asvalayana Srauta Sutra, Sankhayana Srauta Sutra; Macdonell and Keith 1912, II:55


External links



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