While Bali is full of hidden gems, one of the most divine is the sacred Banyan tree. For the Balinese, the tree is a symbol of unity and power for, with its sturdy trunk and far-reaching roots and is even depicted on the national coat of arms of Indonesia. The sacredness of the tree comes from the belief that the Lord Krishna rests on its leaves.
The sacred banyan tree is integral to the temple for the dead or Pura Dalem in Balinese villages. It represents the eternal cycle of death and rebirth and it protects spirits after death. Hindus believe the trees are inhabited by Gods and spirits of deceased ancestors, which is why the trees emit vast spiritual energy. They can often be found wearing checkered cloth surrounded by shrines built to appease the Gods and spirits. Some locals believe the sacred banyan tree’s spiritual energy attracts demons, so cleansing ceremonies are performed routinely, especially near cemeteries and special shrines are built to ward off demons.
The belief that banyan trees are sacred is not exclusive to Balinese Hindus. In fact, the banyan tree is featured in cultures and religions across Pacific Asia. In Buddhism, the sacred banyan tree is often used as a metaphor for lust overcoming humans. This is related to the epiphytic nature of the tree, as the banyan often harmlessly overtakes other surrounding plants as it grows.
If you’re visiting Bali and want to enjoy more ‘off the beaten path’ local secrets, you can go make a wish in the woods by the Giant Banyan Tree. This huge, majestic tree is located in Northern Bali in a village called Gesing. It is believed to be 700 years old and stands at 85 meters tall. You can walk through the roots of the tree and better yet, they say all your wishes will come true!
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