That huge banyan tree stood elegantly at outskirts of our village. It was a big, really big tree, tall, shady and vibrantly green. Ensconced snugly under the tree was the shrine of Baram devta. Baram devta might have been derived from Brahm devta or may be Bhairav dev. Whatever might be the origin but when I got acquainted with this devta, he was referred to as Baram dev and he was the guardian angel, protector, benefactor of our village. As he was the savior, the defender, he had to be valiant and gallant that’s why perhaps he was considered to be a fierce and fiery God. Over such blazingly powerful God spread the blissful canopy of the banyan tree.

At the advent of any auspicious occasion in any family of the village people came to Baramdev’s shrine. Bowing their heads, they used to pray for peaceful completion of the ceremony devoid of any hassles, disturbances and obstacles. The ritual was never complete without a fervent request to Banyan tree to keep Baram devta happy and appeased in case he gets angry due to any fault of any person. That tree was like the wise old man of the family. Such tranquil was the impact of the benign shelter of the tree that the mind automatically became quiescent with quiet assurance that nothing can go wrong.

In case of any problem, illness or difficulty people rushed to the tree. Sitting near the small raised platform, the problem was narrated in detail. The God with his grim expression appeared to be unmoved/unconcerned but banyan’s hanging roots and bent leaves with slow nodding movements as if shared their grief. The rustling of leaves voiced it’s concern.

And it listened…wishes were fulfilled, obstacles removed, illness cured. Any cart or traveler entering the village never ever thought of crossing the path without paying obeisance to God and tree. We all used to spend some time under the blissful shelter of the tree. Just one look of the solid, shady Banyan standing firmly on it’s place with it’s arms stretching wide and we knew ‘all is well’. Palanquin of every daughter of village stopped under the shade of the tree before proceeding to her in law’s place. Relatives and friends accompanied her to that point. Girls after paying respect to deity would cry their heart out embracing the tree. The tree was their confidant and support like an elderly family member. In childhood the hanging  roots, the strong arms of Banyan tree were the swinging paradise. Even though kids held the roots but the feeling was that tree is supporting them. It’s his arms and he will never let them fall. While arranging their dolls marriage under the blissful shade of Banyan, girls never thought that one day they themselves will be standing under it to be away, with the grief of leaving one’s home, the near-dear ones and a prayer was ushered in the ever attentive ears of Banyan…’take care of my parents, dada. I am leaving them and please call me back to you in sawan at the earliest and the memories of carefree childhood, dreamy adolescence poured down with the streams of tears. Banyan dada was testimony to so many blooming love stories, pangs of separations, shattered dreams and soaring hopes.

Every newly wed bride before entering our village first paid her respects to Baram Dev and Banayan dada. The moment the bride put her feet decorated with aalta and payal on the ground the branches seemed to bend a little more to bless her. With hands full of red bangles, her anklets tingling, she circled the tree to pay her obeisance and with that she entrusted her dreams, her wishes to sagely Bargad or Banyan dada and with firm belief of fulfillment she proceeded to start her new phase of life. That Banyan tree was not just a tree. It was a history in its own, secured in its folds were so many tales of emotional catastrophe, treachery, sacrifices. It saw all- the purest of humane heart to the meanest of them, from epitome of ideal to the vilest of them. Nothing escaped from it’s vigilant eyes and just heart. Dreams were woven, desires were sown on the firm base of faith that Banyan dada is there to make them come true, to fulfill them.

And then life’s compulsions brought us away from village. Earlier we used to visit the native place frequently but then the generation of grand parents gradually left us, most of the homes were locked as jobs, education and other such commitments made the family members disperse in different directions. Recently I happened to meet our Bargad dada after a very long time, nearly three decades. If I were not told I could not have thought that it is the same Bargad dada. All those embracing arms, spreading wide and far were hacked to accommodate the multistory buildings with flourishing business establishments, tea shops, restaurants. The platform under it was raised higher and is quite big now. An ornamental, big temple of white marble stood in place as a small shrine of Baram dev. The evident commercialization has robbed off the soul of the place. A busy bus stop has come up nearby. Touching the platform ran a pucca road. Screeching, racing vehicles zoomed in and out. Midst all this hustle-bustle, chaos and din of empty voices was crouched our Bargad dada, with it’s few branches raised towards sky…….as if praying to the God to take him away as its shady shelter, the vast hearted canopy was being considered usurpation of land, the savior was seeking to be saved ……….

pic by sunder iyer