The Great Banyan Tree

Rachele Righini
Sarah Reithmeier
Eliki Diamantouli
Kristina Mitrik
Green Technologies in Landscape Architecture

This is “The Great Banyan Tree „of Kolkata in India. It draws the most attention in the botanical garden. It was struck by two cyclones in 1925, the main trunk was amputated to save the tree from the rot. It grew further taking the support of the aerial roots.
This species is native to India and are the keystone species of tropical climate. They grow as an epiphyte on a host tree where they find enough moisture to grow upon.It gives all the year around fruits, attracting lot of other animals. The present crown has a circumference of 486m, 3772 aerial roots and height of 24m.
A 330 meter long pathway was built to restrict the human entry into the inner parts, but the tree continued to grow and is still spreading. In 2020, the cyclone Amphan hit it again damaging some parts of it, even though it was shaken, it is still standing.

Approaching a Banyan is a entering a forest forest of flying roots, stories, of knowledge of tales, myths, legends and values. The Banyan dynasty is quite relevant in India until today and descends from the ancient Ficus Bengalensis native to India. It is a tale of “ the Great Banyan Tree”

The legend tells about a little peculiar Banyan tree, that while growing up, was full of energy. It began to strangle other trees to climb up and find its place in the world. One day something important happened under its refreshing canopy and the humans started to call it „the wish-fulfilling tree “.
Somehow the grown up Banyan found in those words a revelation and a new unknown strength. It began to act in a helpful and caring way towards humans and all the other creatures. It grew wider branches to offer more shadow and protection under its canopy, it produced red fruits to feed many animals and insect visiting, it even welcomed monkey families to live up in its calm and dense foliage.

Over the time, a new ecosystem got established around it. While getting older, it enjoyed more and more the company of the life surrounding. It started to let some old but still vigorous branches to drop on the ground. Like sticks, the new aerial roots allowed him to be self-supported.Due to his old age, the tree became weaker and at some point, it felt it was almost time to leave. With a lot of effort, it produced many seeds and when ready, he waited for the cyclone to come to take him.

When that time arrived, all the creatures met in silence and gratitude around its trunk and in that moment something magical happened. Each flying root started to vibrate with new life and all together, they prayed for their old dying father thanking him. That very same day, all the birds decided to celebrate the big event by spreading every little seed as far as they could, from the Himalayas to the seas. The winds also took part in this dance.

Over the following year, the knowledge, wisdom, and passion of the old Ficus Bengalensis started to blossom again all over India in the hearts of the many descendants.Now, after many generations, in India everyone is still celebrating the day of remembrance of the ancient Ficus Bengalensis.