Question re nyagrodha

vidya at vidya at
Sat Mar 18 03:17:43 UTC 1995

The traditional meaning of nyagrodha is fig, if I am not mistaken? The
association with the banyan tree is based on a distortion of the
upanishad's metaphor, I think. It clearly states the *root* to be above
and the *branches* to be growing downwards. If there are no fig trees
growing downwards, neither are there any banyan trees really growing
downwards. The main root of the banyan is clearly under the ground, while 
the things that grow downwards are not branches but secondary aerial roots.
Unless one wants to claim that the upanishad mistakes what are really roots 
to be branches growing downwards, the banyan tree does not fit the metaphor
any more than the fig tree does.

The upanishad clearly puts a *single* root at the top and has branches 
growing downwards. This seems to be a deliberate spatial inversion, employed
to convey the idea of Brahman (the root) as the source of creation (the 
branches). The spatial inversion only enforces the notion of this source
as a higher reality and therefore *above* the branches. 

To recapitulate, I don't think the banyan tree is necessarily more 
appropriate in the context of the upanishad, as compared to the fig tree. 
I would appreciate comment by Sanskritists on the list. 

S. Vidyasankar


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list