Banyan usually means the Indian banyan and is the National tree of the Republic of India. The leaves of the banyan tree are large, leathery, glossy green and elliptical in shape. Like most of the fig-trees, the leaf bud is covered by two large scales. As the leaf develops the scales fall. Young leaves have an attractive reddish tinge.
A banyan is a kind of fig. It usually starts life by growing on another plant as an epiphyte. Its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree, or on other structures like buildings and bridges. The seeds of banyans are dispersed by fruit-eating birds. The seeds germinate and send down roots towards the ground. Once the roots get to the ground, they suck up nutrients and grow faster and thicker. Older banyan trees are characterized by aerial prop roots that mature into thick, woody trunks, which can become indistinguishable from the primary trunk with age. Old trees can spread laterally by using these prop roots to grow over a wide area.
This tree is considered sacred in India and can be seen near a temple or religious center. It is a big tree and gives shade to travelers in very hot summer months. An old custom offers worship to this tree as they have faith and believe in god. According to religious studies in Hinduism, the leaf of the banyan tree is said to be the resting place for the Lord Krishna. In the Bhagavat Gita, Lord Krishna said, "There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down, and the Vedic hymns are its leaves. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas." If one stands on the bank of a river or any reservoir of water, he can see that the trees reflected in the water are upside down. The branches go downward and the roots upward. Similarly, this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. The material world is but a shadow of reality. In the shadow there is no reality or substantiality, but from the shadow we can understand that there is substance and reality.
The banyan tree is also considered sacred and is called vat vriksha in Sanskrit. The god Shiva as Dakshinamurthy is nearly always depicted sitting in silence under the banyan with rishis at his feet. It is thought of as perfectly symbolizing eternal life due to its seemingly unending expansion.