The Sacred Mystery of Plants in Eastern Religion Cultures

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Sacred plants are specific plants those are usually devoted to gods and goddess. The human relation with sacred plant stands basically on religion which is considered with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain culture. During the ancient period, the worship of sacred plants is most of the oldest form of all religion. This type of worship originally depends on sacred faith and human faith and both faiths are commonly correlated. Every sacred plants have own identification for their medicinal, natural and mythological value.

West Bengal is treasure-house region for studying terracotta and stone objects as it has a long, rich and a continuous presence of sculptural art from ancient times to present day. The present work proposes to find out the sacred plant in West Bengal sculptural art from early historic to Pala-Sena period. The profuse terracotta and stone objects finding of West Bengal overshadow all other material remains of this region. The sacred plants of terracotta and stone objects depict various aspects of human life and culture - sometimes as medicine, sometimes as food, sometimes as ritualistic purpose.

In West Bengal, few sacred plants are symbolized with particular deities or rituals. With religious concept these plants may be divided into three categories.

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The first is plants are symbolized as particular deities. These are Asvattha tree which is associated for God Vishnu, Banyan tree is symbolized as God Brahma, Amlaki tree is a symbol as God Shiva and God Vishnu, Banana tree is symbolized Goddess for Parvati or Durga, Paddy plant is associated as goddess Lakshmi, Durva grass is a symbol of God Vishnu, Tulsi plant is symbolized as Vishnu consorts Radhika, Bilva tree is associated for God Shiva.

The second is the sacred plants which are identified as village divinities under these sacred trees. These are Manasa tree (Euphobia lingularia) is s ymbolized as Goddess Manasa, Jujube tree (Zizyphus jujuba) is associated for Kul-kulati vrata and Itu-kumara vrata, Karam tree (Adina cordifolia) is a symbol of God Karam, Saora tree (Streblus asper) is symbolized for Goddess Vana-Durga, Sala tree (Sorea robusta) is associated as God Indra, Bamboo tree (Bambusa arudinaea) is symbolized as Vastu Debata, Neem tree is a symbol of God Shiva.

Third is considered as sacred plantation. These are - Dhutura flower (Datura Stramoniur) and Akanda flower (Asclepias gigantia) are used for Shiva worship, Mango leaves and Bilva leaves, Lotus flower and green coconut are used for any worship in West Bengal.

For example Asvattha tree is very auspicious tree in Hindu religion. This tree is played a significant role in the religious history of West Bengal. Most of the Bengali people believed that this tree is associated with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The roots of Asvattha represent as Brahma, its bark symbolizes as Vishnu and its branches associate as Shiva. This sacred plant is worshipped by Bengali people. The most popular Bengali vrata is ‘Asvatthapata vrata’ which is celebrated by village women on the last day of the month of Baisakh. The main ritual items are five different types of asvattha leaves and people believed that each leaf has a connection with human life, such as – new green leaf for new born child; young green leaf for beauty; old leaf for longevity of husband; dry leaf for raise in happiness and withered leaf for valuable wealth unlimited expectation. In West Bengal, very few number of asvattha plants are depicted on terracotta and stone sculpture. One of them is four handed Ganesh sculpture which is found at Saragarh in Bishnupur, Bankura. This sculpture belongs from the Sena period and is now placed in Acharya Jogesh Chandra Purakirti Bhawan, BishnuPur, Bankura. Here the deity is seated posture on the lotus pedestal and his ear is sculpted almost leaf pattern like asvattha leaf.

The second example is Banyan Tree. It is a remarkable plant that holds significant religious and spiritual meaning in many cultures. Known for its sprawling branches and aerial roots, this tree is revered in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions as a symbol of immortality and longevity. In Hindu mythology, the Banyan Tree is believed to be the abode of Lord Krishna and is considered a sacred tree that grants wishes to those who pray to it. Its roots are said to represent the connection between heaven and earth, while its branches symbolize the spread of knowledge and wisdom. In Buddhism, the Banyan Tree is known as the Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment. For this reason, it is considered a symbol of spiritual awakening and enlightenment. Many Buddhist temples and monasteries are built around Banyan Trees, which are believed to possess healing powers and are often used in traditional medicine. Beyond its spiritual significance, the Banyan Tree also holds ecological importance. Its aerial roots provide stability to the soil, preventing erosion and maintaining the health of surrounding ecosystems. In some cultures, the tree is also used for various purposes such as food, medicine, and shelter.

Overall, most of the symbolic plants which are considered as sacred are mentioned in ancient epic and religious books. So these sacred plants are worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains who represent these plants as god-incarnate.

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