Question re nyagrodha

P.Magnone at P.Magnone at
Sun Mar 19 20:54:09 UTC 1995

I agree. Aerial roots are of no significance in the metaphor, which
conforms to the well-known archetype of the inverted tree, rooted in
heaven with branches growing downwards. This is all that is required for
the metaphor, as in Rgveda I,24,7:

 abudhne raajaa varuNo vanasyordhvaM stuupaM dadate puutadakSaH //
 niiciinaaH sthur upari budhna eSaam asme antar nihitaaH ketavaH syuH //

Different kinds of trees do the work in different traditions; e.g. in
Dante's Purgatory XXII,131-134:

 un alber che trovammo in mezza strada
 con pomi a odorar soavi e boni
 e come abete in alto si digrada
 di ramo in ramo, cos¡ quello in giuso

where it is an apple tree tapering downwards like an inverted fir tree.

Paolo Magnone
Catholic University of Milan
p.magnone at


> 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


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