Importance of Tree Worship in Hinduism•
Posted on September 09 2022
Hinduism is an age-old religion that is associated with multiple gods and goddesses. Each deity has His/Her own significance. Among the innumerable deities, Hindus have developed the ritual of worshipping trees from the ancient past. This practice is followed even today as it is considered to be one of the several Hindu traditions.
The Rig Veda also makes references to trees and says that trees are not to be troubled at any point of time. They should neither be uprooted nor cut as they protect birds, animals and other living beings. According to Hindu puranas, Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva once cursed Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. The curse transformed Brahma into a palasa tree while Vishnu was transformed into a peepal tree.
There are many reasons why Hindus worship trees with utmost devotion. Some main reasons to do so are for moksha, fulfilment of desires, fertility and/or immortality. The banyan, peepal and mango trees are the most commonly worshipped trees. The banyan tree, specifically, is worshipped when different types of vrat are observed.
Read on to know some other reasons why Hindus worship trees.
According to some Hindus, the sacred trees represent the unification of the Trinity, namely, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Hence, they believe that engaging in tree worship will help them to be bestowed with the blessings of the three lords and in turn pave way for spiritual enlightenment.
The Three Worlds
Hindus associate the physical structure of a tree as a connecting link among the three worlds comprising Heaven, Earth and Underworld. Hence, it is said that an offering made to the trees finds its way to all the three worlds.
Associated with Saints
Hindu mythology makes several references to many saints engaging in meditation in the shade of a tree. This is why these trees are said to be more sacred than others. There are also other connecting factors between trees and saints. One such association talks about how the sage Markandeya hid himself in a banyan tree and prayed to Lord Vishnu to escape from the perils of the flames of a huge fire that struck earth and perished all living beings. The banyan tree was the only unaffected living tree and the saint took refuge in its shade.
Long Married Life
In some Hindu communities, young women are first married to a peepal tree before actually getting married to their life partners. It is believed that this action will help them to be blessed with a long married life. A long thread is tied around the trunk of the tree to represent the mangalsutra. The tree is then decorated with garlands and sandal paste. Ladies go around the tree 108 times while offering their worship at the same time.
Offerings to Almighty
Fruits, leaves and flowers of some trees are used to worship the deities associated with those trees. They are also used for various pooja rituals. Hence, these trees are believed to be sacred and worthy of worship.
Blessed with Progeny
Childless couples worship and make offerings to be bestowed with a progeny. Hindu scriptures state multiple references indicating that if a person plants a tree and cares for it, the same tree will be reborn as the person’s child.
There are many trees that Hindus consider to be sacred for several reasons. Each of these trees has its own significance. The following are some trees worshipped by Hindus.
Hindus believe that the roots of this tree symbolise Lord Brahma while the trunk and leaves represent Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva respectively. They are also of the belief that Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu breathed His last under this tree. Hence, it is considered to be highly inauspicious to cut down this tree.
The banyan tree symbolises fertility and life. Hence, this tree is offered prayers by couples who long for a child. Like the peepal tree, this tree symbolises the Trinity and is therefore said to be unfavourable by Hindus.
This tree is specifically associated with Lord Shiva. The leaves of this tree have a trifoliate structure that are said to represent the lord’s Trishul or His three eyes. Hence, a worship or pooja in honour of the god is considered to be incomplete without offering Him these leaves to please Him.
Hindus relate the Ashoka tree with removal of grief. Hence, they pay their obeisance to this tree to get rid of their sorrows and be blessed with happiness. This tree is also associated with Kama Deva who is portrayed in Hindu mythology as the God of Love.
The neem tree is highly respected by Hindus because of is multitude of medicinal benefits. In Hindu culture, this tree is believed to represent Goddess Durga. There is also an association with Sitala Devi as the neem tree is supposed to be Her abode. She is believed to be the Pox mother who can cure several ailments. Neem flowers as well as burning neem leaves is also believed to help in keeping evil spirits at bay. The famous incomplete idols in the well-known Jagannatha shrine were created using the wood from this tree.
Some other trees that are revered by Hindus and treated by them with high regard are the banana tree, the mango tree, the kadamb tree and the sandalwood tree. These trees are believed to be just as sacred as the trees mentioned above and their significance and can in no way be undermined.
The origin of tree worship dates back to the Vedic period when there were no temples or shrines dedicated to the Hindu deities as there were today. Hindu puranas give them high importance and equal status as that of the gods. Trees are worshipped in various forms by Hindus such as Brahman, living spirits and manifestation of the divine power. Some Hindu festivals like Amala Ekadashi, Vat Savitri Vrat, Sheetala Pooja, Bakula Amavaya and Ashoka Pratipada are exclusively dedicated to and centred around the worship of several trees.
Written by - Deepthi K