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Home » Environment & Nature

The King of the Tree  

by on Friday, 9 February 2007No Comment | 16,623 views

Finding the center of a village in Bali is an easy task, you only need to spot the distinctive huge dark ragged canopy of the banyan tree that rises head and shoulders above any other kind of vegetation on that area. Invariably, this tree usually grow right in the heart of the village, usually at a cross road or at a village temple. Banyan tree also grow in every cemetery, and every places that considered tenget (spooky or possessing magical power).

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Banyan tree is called bingin by Balinese, in East Bali, a banyan tree is called keroya, unless it has had a special ceremony, awakening its latent power, after which it is called bingin, and its leaves can be used for all sorts of important life-force and life-cycle ceremonies. This tree is king of the tree in Balinese tradition. The Banyan tree is the most sacred and revered tree in Bali. All parts of this sacred tree are used in various religious ceremonies. A sacred Banyan tree is usually wrapped with black and white chessboard patterned cloth. A small shrine dedicated to the spirits that reside in the banyan tree is usually erected inside or outside every banyan tree.

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As the banyan trees become older, they become more important, and they rate the placement of larger shrines, even building a temple. Amazingly enough, the banyan tree under which this temple was built in the 11th century still exists today. Some banyan tree has a ‘kul-kul’, hollowed out logs which resonate when struck with a hammer, hang on its branches. This kul-kul is used to summon spirit from the nether world.

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The cool area under the shade of Banyan tree’s canopy used for various activities. In the morning, village traditional market (peken) takes place in this cool area. In the afternoon, Balinese man usually gather under this giant tree to discuss the daily events, children play among its dangling aerial roots. Sometimes at night the area under the Banyan tree is used as a venue for traditional art performance such as leather puppet show (wayang kulit) or Balinese opera (arja).

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The beginnings of this magnificent tree most unusual. The seeds of the tree are carried by birds and sometimes they drop them on top of tall palm trees. The seeds, nourished by the moisture and warmth within the host tree, quickly sprout and grow small branches. These branches grow long aerial roots that reach downwards eagerly towards the ground. Once these grasping roots reach the ground and get a firm grip in the earth, they enlarge to become strong trunks that wrap themselves firmly around the trunk of the host tree.

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As the tree grows and matures, new roots grow from all its branches, pushing into the ground and forming new trunks. Their branches, which spread out, are thickly covered with broad, flat leaves that create a majestic and refreshing canopy of green above their trunks. The canopy of a mature Banyan may cover an area of more than 1,000 feet in diameter! The stems below the canopy form a kind of columned room. Its original trunk may decay, leaving the younger ones to support the tree. The eight-inch long, leathery leaves are ovate and dark green with light green veins.

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A small reddish brown fruit like a fig also grows on the Banyan, but this fruit is not fit for human consumption. Many birds like mynahs, parrots and bulbuls love to feast on it however, and during the season when the Banyan is full of fruit, it is a very noisy place indeed!

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