aśvattha

(‘that which does not last till the next day’)

Aśvattha (Ficus religiosa) is one of the highly revered trees in popular Hinduism. It is said to have issued forth from Indra, the king of gods. According to another version of mythology, it is a manifestation of Viṣṇu. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavadgītā (10.26) that he is the aśvattha among the trees. Since the gods sit under a celestial tree (vide Atharvaveda 5.3), holy men of the earth too sit under it here. Its shade is said to confer miraculous powers like understanding the language of animals or remembering former births. Childless women worship it and circumambulate it with the hope and faith of being granted children.

aśvattha

In the scriptures, the eternal tree of life is compared to an aśvattha, with the roots in heaven and branches spread below (vide Kaṭha Upaniṣad 6.1; Maitrī Upaniṣad 6.4; Bhagavadgītā 15.1-3).

The wood of this tree was being used to prepare sacrificial vessels as also the upper araṇi (one of the two pieces of wood used for generating fire during Vedic sacrifices). Works of Āyurveda like the Suśruta Saṁhitā describe its bark, roots and fruits as being endowed with medicinal properties.