Fwd: Photo of a Bharhut Tree : 6 posts by 5 authors.
I am writing to you after viewing your botanical photographs in Wikipedia.
Can you identify this flowering tree from Bharhut in central India, please? I will be much obliged.

This is very interesting, probably the first post in eFI history (as far as I remember) seeking ID of a plant depicted in historical sculptures!

The side-views of the flowers somewhat resemble the flowers of Couroupita guianensis (or a member of Annonaceae??), but the top view looks different.
I am eager to know the id, too.

Basically the tree related with Buddhism history /religion is Pipal Ficus religiosa and Ficus bengalensis. So this tree should be one of the two. To me it looks more like Ficus religiosa.

I must confess at once that I am not a member of any Google group earlier, and I am not very comfortable with the internet. I received two messages, from Dr. Vijayasankar and Mr. Satyendra Tiwari. I posted my comments to them as follows:
To … I wrote that the two pictures of Couroupita Guianensis or Cottonball tree on the Indian Trees website do not show any leaves, though they are described as elliptic leaves.
To … I wrote that Buddhism knows of more trees than the two mentioned by him and that I can give their names later.
I added the above as “Comments”, but I do not know if this will be reflected on your site as I may have pressed the wrong button. Hence this second e-mail.
Since you and the other correspondents have shown an interest in ancient trees, I will after some time send you pictures of the Rigvedic Soma or the Ephedra plant as it was understood in various parts of India about one thousand years ago, when the original Vedic plant’s identity or appearance was forgotten.

The side-views of the flowers somewhat resemble the flowers of Couroupita guianensis (or a member of Annonaceae??), but the top view looks different.
I am eager to know the id, too.

Thank you very much for suggesting the identification of the Bharhut tree. Prof. M. A. Dhaky, originally a botanist by training but who became an eminent archaeologist and who is my teacher, agrees with you. He has told me that he saw the tree in Sri Lanka many years ago. According to his information the tree is known in Gujarat as Kailaspati. It is considered to be a rare tree in India now, but must have been more common two thousand years ago.
My only doubt is that while the photos of Cannon Ball tree on www.flowersofindia.net show no leaves on the tree in bloom, the sculpture in question has a profusion of foliage.
Your help, as well as that of … and efloraofindia, will be duly acknowledged in my paper on the sculpture.

this is very interesting.
I can see why Couroupita has been suggested but I have some doubts because the leaves in the sculpture do not resemble leaves of that tree at all.
They actually look more like Peepal leaves, (Ficus religiosa).
At a stretch you could say they were kadamba leaves (Neolamarckia cadamba) and the circular thing being kadamba flowers with many petals.
Perhaps the sculptor has taken an artistic licence and combined features of more than one species which he has seen.

Thank you for your mail. I have just forwarded to you my earlier mail sent to … I had my doubt about the leaves, of which there is a profusion, while Couroupita  photographs I saw do not have any leaves. But Kadamba should be eliminated, because the Kadamba flower does not look like this sculpture. Two thousand years ago flowering trees were present before the eyes of the sculptors and they would not have taken the liberty of combining two species, I think. Among the Bharhut sculptures five or six species of trees are represented under which female figures stand, and all are faithful renderings, both foliage and flowers.
So, please keep thinking; I will be eager for your feedback.

I think … has hit the nail on the head.
According to S.C. Banerjee’s Flora and Fauna in Sanskrit Literature the idea of grafting was not alien in ancient times. Texts with details of grafting procedures are Kanda-ropa and Brhat-samhita.
Moreover in another text, Upavana-vinoda,” we find a process of producing fragrant flowers in a tree that bear odourless flowers”.
Knowledge of these botanical marvels might have inspired the artists in the case of the Bharhut tree.

Thank you very much for your mail, and for the interest botanists have taken in this tree from Bharhut. Grafting would be done for economic reasons mainly, I think; in this context, of a goddess clinging to a tree would a grafted tree be represented? I don’t know.
By the way, I reproduce below a passage from the KATHASARITSAGARA about an ancient belief about certain actions resulting in trees bearing flowers:
“(Came spring) when the kuruvaka trees bloom, as they are embraced by young maids; when the asoka trees burst into bloom, as they are struck by the feet of young women; when the bakula trees bloom, if sprayed with wine from the mouths of gazelle-eyed maidens; when the campaka trees burst, as they are sprinkled with perfumed water.”

Re: [efloraofindia:192308] Photo of a Bharhut Tree : 2 posts by 1 author.

I am sending you the link to an image of Couroupita leaves for your reference.
look forward to your feedback.

Earlier I had posted photos where boughs, leaves and blossoms were visible. Now I attach a photo of the same sculpture with a small bunch of flowers in her hand. I think you may be right after all, for the flowers do resemble Neolamarckia cadamba!
You and the other members, … and all are requested to continue taking an interest in the sculpture.

thank you for the additional image.
At this point I think we can safely discount Couroupita because that tree has the unique feature of bearing flowers on leafless stems which grow directly from the trunk of the tree. In this picture one can clearly see a stem with both flowers and leaves. Also the flowers in her hand have numerous petals and Couroupita flowers have only 6 rounded petals.

I was discussing this matter to some monk in Sanchi on my last visit few yrs back. I asked him about the trees carved on sanchi gate and he said all the trees carved on Buddhist pillars or monument are same as under which Buddha got his enlightenment. So they all should be some sort of Ficus. Artistic licence may have varied the leaf / flower pattern.

According to PLANT MYTHS & TRADITIONS IN INDIA by Shakti M. Gupta, “…There are a large number of trees, popularly called the Bodhi trees, associated with the name of sages who received enlightenment under them, thus making the trees sacred. For instance Aswattha (Ficus religiosa) is the bodhi tree of Sakya Muni or Buddha; Nyagrodha (Ficus bengalensis) of Kasyapa; Udumbara (Ficus glomerata) of Kanaka muni; Sirisa (Albizzia labbek) of Krakuchhanda; Asoka (Saraca indica) of Vipaswi; Pundarika (Nelumbium speciosum) of Sikhi.”And, several other popular plants such as mango, asoka, have also been depicted in these sculptures.

The leaves are more or less comparable to that of Anthocephalus cadamba and Ficus sp., but the flowers look very different.

We need to consider the possibility of combination of more than one species in one design. If you see the picture at http://www.photodharma.net/Guests/Kawasaki-Bharhut/Bharhut.htm it has the flowers and floral buds exactly matching to the ones depicted in the picture originally posted by Mankodi ji. Thus, the same type of flowers were included in designing two or more different kinds of plants, in this case one is a tree and the other is a herb/climber (see the picture below).

In this view, the flowers look like Lotus flowers (Nelumbo nucifera). The circular, peltate leaf (of lotus) is also present in the design in the above link (also see the picture below).

Here is a combined view with matching images: This is again an opinion only.

So, the tree with leaf could be of a species of Ficus (mainly due to the branching pattern)?

Thank you. Sir John Marshalls GUIDE TO SANCHI, an older and authoritative book, has the following about the architraves of the northern gateway of Stupa I:
MIDDLE ARCHITRAVE:– Seven trees with thrones in front, worshippers on either side, and celestial beings above. Like the series of stupas and trees on the top architrave, they stand for the seven Buddhas, viz.: from l. to r., the patali (bignonia) of Vipasyin, the fig (?ficus elastica) of Sikhin, the sala (shorea robusta) of Visvabhu, the sirisha (acacia sirissa) of Krakucchanda, the udumbara (ficus glomerata) of Kanakamuni, the nyagrodha=banyan (ficus indica) of Kasyapa, and the asvattha=pipal (ficus religiosa) of Sakyamuni.
These are the Manushi or human Buddhas.
(This reply may be continued later for the other interesting points in Dr. Vijayasankar’s mail.)