Trees of Delhi

One of the things I enjoy about being in Delhi in January – apart from comparing the daily temperature with Toronto or St John’s, haha – is walking in the parks and seeing my favorite trees. Some trees have been around five or six hundred years. Like old friends they stay the same, though everything around us changes.

Delhi is dotted with parks, some of them quite interesting. Deer Park, for instance, sprawls across lakes and medieval ruins, and includes a large enclosure for deer. The best bit for me, however, is a section where some venerable old trees have actually been identified, by both their common and scientific names. An opportunity to brush up on my botany! So here are some of my old favorites…

Ficus religiosa or the Peepal tree
A large fig tree with beautiful heart-shaped leaves, the Peepal is considered sacred by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. You will be hard put to find one in Delhi without a collection of flowers, idols and offerings adorning its base and trunk. The famous Bodhi tree under which Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment was a Peepal tree, and its descendent in Bodh Gaya is today an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The Peepal tree is also used in traditional medicine.

The leaves of the Peepal tree

The leaves of the Peepal tree

Ficus benghalensis or the Banyan tree
Oh, the gorgeous and mysterious Banyan. Large and spreading, dropping aerial roots downward from its branches. An entire forest could be just one tree! If I had to write a fantasy story about a tree, it would definitely be about a Banyan. It is considered  sacred tree in India, and you will often find a little temple sheltered underneath it.

The Banyan Tree

The Banyan Tree

Azadiracta indica or the Neem tree
The Indian lilac is a hardy, drought-resistant evergreen tree that has acted like a local pharmacy for millennia. It has been widely used in traditional medicine and natural insecticides.


The Neem Tree

Mangifera indica or the Mango tree
The mom of the succulent Indian mango is the biggest fruit tree in the world. And also, if I might add, one of the most beautiful. Large, lush, dark-green canopy – just perfect!

The Indian mango tree

The Indian mango tree

Cassia fistula or the Amaltas tree
The Indian laburnum is a beautiful deciduous tree also called the Golden Shower tree because of its appearance during the flowering season. Its also the national tree of Thailand.


The bright yellow flowers of Amaltas

And if I’m talking about trees, I have to end with the Kalpavriksha, a divine mythological wish-fulfilling tree that is said to satisfy all desires. Apparently it resides in God Indra’s Paradise. On earth the species varies – an ancient mulberry in the Himalayas, coconut trees in coastal areas, the Parijaaat – a sacred baobab – in a town in North India, or even the mighty Banyan. Whatever the species, the intent and the desires remain the same – trees provide both physical and spiritual nourishment. May 2014 bring you what you desire! And may you meet a beautiful tree.

About Rati Mehrotra

Science fiction and fantasy writer. I blog at: Thanks for dropping by!
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5 Responses to Trees of Delhi

  1. Looks like things are a little bit warmer than they are back in Canada 🙂 Our trees are sort of white at the moment 🙂


  2. Joseph D. Stirling says:

    Wonderful post, and some really nice pictures. Best wishes for this new year, Rati! 🙂


  3. Jodee says:

    The photos are great and create a certain mood. I’m waiting for spring too. I’m a digital artist creating landscapes and backgrounds for a new comic that is about kindness and respect.


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