Thursday, 23 June 2011

Peepal or pipal: The Holy Tree

करारविन्देन पदारविन्दं मुखारविन्दे विनिवेशयन्तम् ।
वटस्य पत्रस्य पुटे शयानं बालं मुकुन्दं मनसा स्मरामि ॥१॥

Kararavindena padaravindham,
Mukharavinde vinivesayantham,
Vatasya pathrasya pute sayanam,
Balam mukundam mansa smarami. 1



Bhagvan Balamukanda sleeps on a vatpatra during the Pralayakaal.

Peepal or pipal (Ficus religious) Tree also known as ”Ashvattha” in Sanskrit

The word ‘Ashvattha’ is derived from the Sanskrit roots…
A = not + Shwa = tomorrow + tha = stands/remains (The Hindu philosopher Shankaracharya interprets the name to indicate “One which does not remain the same tomorrow”, such as the universe itself.)

Once, all the gods decided to visit shiva. However, narad informed them that it was an inappropriate time for a visit as shiva and parvati were in solitude. But Indra did not heed the advice and assured the gods that there was nothing to fear when he was there to protect them. Narad reported Indra’s arrogance to goddess parvati. She cursed the gods that they, along with their wives, would turn into trees. When the gods asked for forgiveness, she promised that as trees, they would attain fame. Thus indra turned into a mango tree, brahma became a palash tree and vishnu turned into a peepal tree.
Once, Agni (the fire god) left the land of the gods, took the form of ashwattha and resided on the peepal tree for a year. Since then, peepal is also known as ashwattha.

Bhagavad Gita : Chapter 15.1,

sri-bhagavan uvaca
urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham
ashvattham prahur avyayam
chandamsi yasya
parnani
yas tam veda sa veda-vit

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is said that there is an imperishable Peepal tree that has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.”

Bhagavad Gita : Chapter 15.2,
adhas cordhvam prasrtas tasya
guna-pravrddha visaya-pravalah
adhas ca mulany anusantatani
karmanubandhini manushya-loke
“The branches of this tree extend downward and upward, nourished by the three modes of material nature. The twigs are the objects of the senses. This tree also has roots going down, and these are bound to the fruitive actions of human society.”
Bhagavad Gita : Chapter 15.3 & .4,
na rupam asyeha tathopalabhyate
nanto na cadir na ca sampratishtha
ashvattham enam su-virudha-mulam
asanga-sastrena drdhena chittva

tatah padam tat parimargitavyam
yasmin gata na nivartanti bhuyah
eva cadyam purusham prapadye
yatah pravrttih prasrta purani
“The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one must cut down this strongly rooted tree with the weapon of detachment. Thereafter, one must seek that place from which, having gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything began and from whom everything has extended since time immemorial.”

Some believe that the tree houses the Trimurti, the roots being Brahma, the trunk Vishnu and the leaves Shiva. The gods are said to hold their councils under this tree and so it is associated with spiritual understanding.

According to Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana,worship to Vishnu can be offered to a peepal without needing his image or temple.

The Skanda Purana also considers the peepal a symbol of Vishnu. He is believed to have been born under this tree.
In the Upanishads, the fruit of the peepal is used as an example to explain the difference between the body and the soul: the body is like the fruit which, being outside, feels and enjoys things, while the soul is like the seed, which is inside and therefore witnesses things.

Ritual

Women circumambulate the peepal tree to be blessed with children or to gain a desired thing or person. Peepal tree is planted in the temples of shani and hanuman. The tree is worshipped on saturday, especially in the month of Shravana, because goddess Lakshmi sits under the tree on this day. Any person who waters the tree is believed to earn merit for his progeny, his sorrows are redeemed and diseases cured. The peepal tree is also worshipped to escape from contagious diseases and enemies.

To cut down a peepal is considered a sin equivalent to killing a Brahmin, one of the five deadly sins or Panchapataka. According to the Skanda Purana, a person goes to hell for doing so.

In the Upanishads, the fruit of the peepal is used as an example to explain the difference between the body and the soul: the body is like the fruit which, being outside, feels and enjoys things, while the soul is like the seed, which is inside and therefore witnesses things.

According to the Skanda Purana, if one does not have a son, the peepal should be regarded as one. As long as the tree lives, the family name will continue.

The peepal is also closely linked to Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, he says: “Among trees, I am the ashvattha.” Krishna is believed to have taken Samadhi under this tree, after which the present Kali Yuga is said to have begun.

it is believed that it is auspicious to touch the peepal tree on Saturdays

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