The frontline officials of the East India Company noticed that the traders, or Baniyas from Oudh or the later day Upper Province and Uttar Pradesh, tended to sleep under a particular species of trees. They called it the Baniya tree. The peculiar vest they wore came to be called the Banian and slowly the name of the tree mutated to Banyan tree. It was of the Indian Fig group that was classified under the generic name of Ficus. Since it was first reported in the Province of Bengal (now West Bengal and Bangladesh) it came to be known specifically as Ficus benghalensis.
Long before it was discovered that the Banyan tree was a net oxygen producer even at night, the people of India had discovered that they woke up fresh if they slept under a banyan tree at night. Convention prohibited the burning of wood from a banyan tree while creating a tradition of worshipping the tree at the start of the monsoons. So it will be on the Vatt Poornima on June 8, happily coinciding with the onset of monsoon at Mrig this year.
Life expectancy has touched an average of 75 years in only 75 countries of the world according to World Health Organisation of the United Nations. In India, life expectancy was just 42 years in 1960s. It rose steadily to about 48 years in 1980 and to 58 years in 1990. It has gone up from 62.3 years for males and 63.9 years for females in 2001-2005 to 67.3 years for males and 69.6 years for females in 2011-2015. Prayers at Vatta Poornima, Kadwa Chowth and other festivals as well as fasts by wives for a long life to one’s husband notwithstanding, statistics show that men in India still die younger than the women. People who are passionate about plants tend to live longer. The reason has been put into words on a poster in UK Ravindranath’s terrace garden, “Gardening adds life to your years; and years to your life.” Well past his 75th birthday, he is happily gardening at Devashree Enclave, Porvorim.
In 1994, PG Kakodkar, the only Goan to become the chairman of the State Bank of India, made a telling point: one does not need to own land or built-up space to grow plants. He got the then Panaji Municipal Council [PMC became CCP since 2003], to organise tree planting along the then new Miramar to Dona Paula bypass road. He extended the Rain Trees [Albizia saman] from the Dayanand Bandodkar Marg to what is now the Dr Jack Sequeira road. He would personally check the status of the trees, especially to see that they were watered during summer and to ensure that the creepers were pulled off the tree canopy at the end of the monsoons. He did that for twelve years. Now, the trees are huge and it seems as if they were always a part of the landscape. We need more men like them in Goa and the world.