|Leaves and trunk of a Sacred Fig.
Note the distinctive leaf shape.
Ficus religiosa or Sacred Fig is species of fig native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, southwest China and Indochina. It belongs to the Moraceae, the fig or mulberry family. It is also known as Bo-Tree (from the Sanskrit Bodhi: "wisdom", "enlightened", and as a Sinhalization of this the Sinhala Bo) or  Peepal (in India),.
Ficus religiosa is a large dry season-deciduous or semi-evergreen tree up to 30 metres (98 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 3 metres (9.8 ft). The leaves are cordate in shape with a distinctive extended tip; they are 10–17 cm long and 8–12 cm broad, with a 6–10 cm petiole. The fruit is a small fig 1-1.5 cm diameter, green ripening to purple.
Religious sacredness 
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Buddhist legend tells of Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath the Bodhi tree, a Ficus religiosa. The site is in present day Bodh Gaya in Bihar [India]. The Bodhi tree and the Sri Maha Bodhi propagated from it are notable specimens of Sacred Fig. The known planting date of the latter, 288 BCE, gives it the oldest verified age for any flowering plant (angiosperm).
Not all Ficus religiosa can be called a 'Bodhi tree'. A 'Bodhi tree' must be able to trace its parent to another Bodhi tree and the line goes on until the first Bodhi tree under which the Lord Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment.
Sadhus (Hindu ascetics) still meditate beneath sacred fig trees, and Hindus do pradakshina (circumambulation) around the sacred fig tree as a mark of worship. Usually seven pradakshinas are done around the tree in the morning time chanting "Vriksha Rajaya Namah", meaning "salutation to the king of trees."
Vernacular names 
The Ficus religiosa tree is known by a wide range of vernacular names in different locales and languages, including:
- in Indic languages:
- Sanskrit — अश्वत्थः aśvatthaḥ vṛksha, pippala vṛksha (vṛksha means tree)
- Tamil — அரச மரம் arasa maram (literally King or King's Tree. Arasu or Arasan is Tamil for King)
- Telugu — రావి Raavi
- Kannada — araLi mara ಅರಳಿ ಮರ
- Konkani — Pimpalla Rook/jhadd
- Malayalam — അരയാല് Arayal
- Gujarati — પિપળો (Pipdo)
- Punjabi — Pippal
- Madhyadeshi — Peepar
- Marathi — पिंपळ pimpaL (where L stands for the German ld sound, used in for example Nagold)
- Mahal — އަޝްވަތި ގަސް (Aśvati gas)
- Oriya — ଅଶ୍ୱତ୍ଥ (Ashwatth)
- Pali — assattha; rukkha
- Nepali language (नेपाली) — पिपल
- Sinhala — බෝ bo, ඇසතු esathu
- ဗောဓိညောင်ပင် — bawdi nyaung pin
- Thai — โพธิ์ (Pho)
- Vietnamese — bồ-đề
- Urdu — peepal پیپل
- Bangla pipul; পিপুল
Plaksa is a possible Sanskrit term for Ficus religiosa. However, according to Macdonell and Keith (1912), it denotes the Wavy-leaved Fig tree (Ficus infectoria) instead.
In Hindu texts, the Plaksa tree is associated with the source of the Sarasvati River. The Skanda Purana states that the Sarasvati originates from the water pot of Brahma and flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. According to Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati was rising from the Plaksa tree (Pipal tree).
Traditional medicinal uses 
Ficus religiosa is used in traditional medicine for about 50 types of disorders including asthma, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, gastric problems, inflammatory disorders, infectious and sexual disorders.
Ficus religiosa young trunk in Hong Kong
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus feeding on its figs in Kolkata, WB.
Fruits of Sacred Fig at Flamingo Gardens,Davie, Florida
Leaves of Sacred Fig at Flamingo Gardens,Davie, Florida
See also 
- Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971, p.1014
- "Ficus religiosa — Peepal". Flowers of India. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- "Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research, OLDLIST". Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Sarasvati, 1999, p.35-44
- Pancavimsa Brahmana, Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Latyayana Srauta; Macdonell and Keith 1912
- Asvalayana Srauta Sutra, Sankhayana Srauta Sutra; Macdonell and Keith 1912, II:55
- Singh D, Singh B, Goel RK "Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Ficus religiosa: a review." J Ethnopharmacol. February 2, 2011
- "Journal of Ethnopharmacology : Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Ficus religiosa: A review". ScienceDirect. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
- Keith and Macdonell. 1912. Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
- Plaksa description
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ficus religiosa|
- Sacred fig description
- Benefits of Peepal
- Entry on Bodhi Tree in the Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names
- "Bo-Tree". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
- "Peepul". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.