Tree / Plant worship has its roots in ancient times and continues to be an element of modern Indian tradition. Tree cults, in which a single or group of trees have flourished in India throughout history. In the scriptures, the kalpavriksha and chaityavriksha are mentioned, indicating that the worship of the plants is indeed an ancient Indian practice.
Plants have been traditionally considered sacred for the following reasons:
- Its close association with a deity. For example Bilva tree (Aegle marmelos) with Lord Shiva, Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) with Mariamman and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) with Lord Krishna
- Trees sheltering any object of worship like a deity, a fetish or an attribute have traditionally been considered sacred. Sthalavrikshas are actually the tree that first sheltered the deity beneath the open air and which was later replaced by a temple or shelter for the deity. The sacred tree became secondary and was worshipped along with other nature gods as the sthalavriksha of the temple, becoming a part of the faith.
- Some plants are believed to have originated from bodies or limbs of Gods and hence, the sanctity. For example, the Flame of the forest (Butea monosperma) is believed to have originated from the body of Lord Brahma and the Rudraksha tree (Elaeocarpus ganitrus) arose from the tears of Lord Shiva.
- Some plants became sacred through what might have occurred in their proximity. For example, the Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa), under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, is considered sacred by the Buddhists
- Plants that have an important social or economic significance or a major role in the local ecology are also considered sacred. For example, the veneration of the Khejri tree (Prosopis spicigera) by the Bishnois of Rajasthan is related to the crucial role the tree plays in desert ecology. It provides the community with food, fodder and building material.
LIST OF SACRED PLANTS