Ficus religiosa

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Sacred fig
Ficus religiosa Bo.jpg
Leaves and trunk of a sacred fig.
Note the distinctive leaf shape like a heart.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus
Species: F. religiosa
Binomial name
Ficus religiosa
L. 1753 not Forssk. 1775
  • Ficus caudata Stokes
  • Ficus peepul Griff.
  • Ficus religiosa var. cordata Miq.
  • Ficus religiosa var. rhynchophylla Miq.
  • Ficus rhynchophylla Steud.
  • Ficus superstitiosa Link
  • Urostigma affine Miq.
  • Urostigma religiosum (L.) Gasp.

Ficus religiosa or sacred fig is a species of fig native to the Indian subcontinent,[2] and Indochina.[3] It belongs to the Moraceae, the fig or mulberry family. It is also known as the bodhi tree,[4] pippala tree, peepul tree,[2] peepal tree or ashwattha tree (in India and Nepal).[5] The sacred fig is considered to have a religious significance in three major religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. It is the type of tree that Gautama Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment under, and Hindu and Jain ascetics also consider the tree to be sacred and often meditate under them.


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 drip tip; they are 10–17 centimetres (3.9–6.7 in) long and 8–12 centimetres (3.1–4.7 in) broad, with a 6–10 centimetres (2.4–3.9 in) petiole. The fruits are small figs 1–1.5 centimetres (0.39–0.59 in) in diameter, green ripening to purple. Ficus religiosa (Peepal) is a tree having a long lifespan, with an average life of 350-400 years. Some trees have been reported to be even more than 2,000 years old, like the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a Peepal tree in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka which is estimated to be more than 2,250 years old and is regarded as the "Oldest historical tree in the world with religious importance".[6]

In religion[edit]

The Ficus religiosa tree is considered sacred by the followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, "I am the Peepal tree among the trees, Narada among the sages, Chitraaratha among the Gandharvas, And sage Kapila among the Siddhas."[7]


The Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple. Propagated from the Sri Maha Bodhi, which in turn is propagated from the original Bodhi Tree at this location.

Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath a Ficus religiosa. The site is in present-day Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India. The original tree was destroyed, and has been replaced several times. A branch of the original tree was rooted in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in 288 BCE and is known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi; it is the oldest flowering plant (angiosperm) in the world.[8]

In Theravada Buddhist Southeast Asia, the tree's massive trunk is often the site of Buddhist or animist shrines. 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 Gautama is said to have gained enlightenment.[9]


Typical example of aerial roots
Ficus religiosa (Peepal tree) grow on a bare wall.

Sadhus (Hindu ascetics) still meditate beneath sacred fig trees, and Hindus do pradakshina (circumambulation, or meditative pacing) 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." It claimed that the 27 stars (constellations) constituting 12 houses (rasis) and 9 planets are specifically represented precisely by 27 trees—one for each star. The Bodhi Tree is said to represent Pushya (Western star name γ, δ and θ Cancri in the Cancer constellation).

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 flows from Plaksa on the Himalayas. According to Vamana Purana 32.1-4, the Sarasvati was rising from the Plaksa tree (Pipal tree).[10] Plaksa Pra-sravana denotes the place where the Sarasvati appears.[11] In the Rigveda Sutras, Plaksa Pra-sravana refers to the source of the Sarasvati.[12]

Vernacular names[edit]

Example of fruits
Typical shape of the leaf of the Ficus religiosa

The Ficus religiosa tree is known by a wide range of vernacular names, including:


Ficus religiosa is grown by specialty tree plant nurseries for use as an ornamental tree, in gardens and parks in tropical and subtropical climates. Peepal trees are native to India and thrive in hot, humid weather. They prefer full sunlight and can grow in most soil types, though loam is the best. When planting, use soil with a pH of 7 or below. While it is possible for the plant to grow indoors in a pot, it grows best outside. Young peepal needs proper nourishment. It requires full sunlight and proper watering.


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.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Plant List, Ficus religiosa L.
  2. ^ a b Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Peepul". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 45. 
  3. ^ "Ficus religiosa". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 1014
  5. ^ "Ficus religiosa — Peepal". Flowers of India. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ Stephen Forbes (25 December 2016). "The oldest historical tree in the world". Medium. Retrieved 25 December 2016. 
  7. ^ "The Bhagavad Gita - Chapter 10 - The Yoga of Manifestation". 
  8. ^ "Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research, OLDLIST". Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  9. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bo-Tree". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 305. 
  10. ^ D.S. Chauhan in Radhakrishna, B.P. and Merh, S.S. (editors): Vedic Sarasvati, 1999, p. 35–44
  11. ^ Pancavimsa Brahmana, Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Latyayana Srauta; Macdonell and Keith 1912
  12. ^ Asvalayana Srauta Sutra, Sankhayana Srauta Sutra; Macdonell and Keith 1912, II:55
  13. ^ Damanpreet Singh; Bikram Singh; Rajesh Kumar Goela (April 12, 2011). "Journal of Ethnopharmacology : Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Ficus religiosa: A review". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. ScienceDirect. 134 (3): 565–583. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.01.046. PMID 21296646. 


External links[edit]