by K V Venkataramana on 24/11/09 at 12:16 pm
The Big Banyan Tree is one of Nature’s wonders. It has seen the ups and downs of generations of villagers for about four centuries. Thousands of people from all over the world come and enjoy the sight of this sprawling tree every year.
India’s second biggest banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) attracts a lot of visitors throughout the year. It is situated at a distance of 25 kms from Bangalore, the IT hub of India. The small hoarding at the entrance put up by the Horticulture department of Karnataka government states that this single banyan tree with its aerial prop roots is spread over an area of 4-5 acres and its branches are still expanding beyond the wire mesh fencing, and more and more new aerial roots are still growing from the branches, spread in all directions.
The big banyan tree, called ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ in Kannada is said to be 400 years old, and has 400-500 prop roots. In August 2010, the Biodiversity Board declared it as one of the 10 “heritage trees” in Karnataka state.
This gigantic tree has lent its name ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ to the place where it is located. Even if you wish to travel by a city bus to this place, you will have to specifically mention your destination to the conductor of the bus as “Dodda Alada Mara”, meaning ‘Big Banyan Tree’ where you would like to alight from the bus. The village where the tree is situated is also called by the same name, by the local people, though the tree is said to be located in Kethohalli village, Tavarekere hobli, Bangalore South taluk of Bangalore district. There is one high school nearby, and it is also named as ‘Dodda Alada Mara High School’ (Dodda = big; Alada Mara = Banyan tree). The big banyan tree has thus given an identity not only to the bus stop and the high school but also to the village itself where it is located.
It is also unique that this sprawling banyan tree has transformed itself into “Dodda Alada Mara Udyanavana” (meaning Big Banyan Tree Garden). The tree is located just by the side of a tarred (asphalt) road, and the bus stop is just opposite the entrance to the garden. There are direct buses from Majestic (BMTC central bus station) and K.R. Market plying to this place.
The Big Banyan Tree garden has been developed by a public sector bank, and there are narrow pathways to walk around the garden, and cement benches for those who want to relax under the shade of the tree. It is really exhilarating to spend time in the evenings under the cool shade of the canopy of the tree, watching the many varied designs and shapes of prop roots. Though a few branches (or prop roots) of the tree have now become extinct, it is satisfying to note that new prop roots are still growing from the healthy branches, eager to touch the ground.
It is unfortunate that the main trunk of the banyan tree had collapsed a few years ago, and a small shrine called ‘Muneshwara temple’ was constructed thereafter to mark the place where the main trunk had once existed.
All in all, the big banyan tree is a living monument to the glory of nature and is the cynosure of all lovers of nature. For Indians, this tree has lot of spiritual significance, too, as Lord Shiva as Dakshinamurti (one who sits facing the southern direction) is seen sitting under a banyan tree, as described in the “Dakshinamurti Stotra of Sri Sankara. The first sloka says:
“May that Supreme Spirit that has taken its abode under the banyan treetaking an anthropomorphic form facing south as an act of great condescension and which is the object of meditation for the devotees remain in my mind activising my intellect.”
The Big Banyan tree is accessible by city bus from Bangalore, unless you have your own transport arrangements.
It is situated 25 kms from the heart of Bangalore, off Bangalore-Mysore highway. Take a right diversion at Kumblagodu junction, beyond Kengeri Bus Stop, and travel about 7 kms to reach the Big Banyan tree.
As there are no good hotels at ‘Dodda Alada Mara’, carry eatables when you travel to the place. Don’t stay in the garden when there is heavy rain or fast wind, as it is risky.
The hoarding at the entrance describing the features of the Big Banyan tree.
Growing far into the sky…
A part of the tree.
A branch of the Big Banyan tree resembling an elephant truck.
Prop roots in plenty.