Banian, Or Banyan (Ficus Religiosa Or Indica), a fig tree of the East Indies, remarkable for its manner of growth and longevity. The fruit is red and not much larger than a pea, and the seeds are minute, but covered with a hard testa which protects them from the digestive organs of the birds who seek the fig as food. The birds plant the seeds in crevices of stones or buildings, or on trees, and with the necessary moisture they germinate in these places, sending their roots into and widening the chinks, or down the moist bark of the tree on which the,seed has been dropped, and the plant grows rapidly into a broad, spreading, although not very lofty tree, whose horizontal branches send down roots as slender fibres until they reach the earth, when the growth is reversed and the depending rootlet becomes an ascending trunk equalling or even surpassing the parent stem. A famous banian stood on the banks of the Nerbudda which could shelter 7,000 men, and others cover more than 13 acres. They are frequently found near temples and on the mounds where the Hindoo widows have performed suttee, as the birds are attracted to these places. The figs, although small, are abundant, insipid in taste, and of mild medicinal properties.
The leaves are of a bright green and form a dense shade, effectually preventing the growth of underbrush. They are about five inches in length and four in width, and are downy on both sides when young, becoming smooth and brilliant as they grow. The Brahmins use the leaves as plates and dishes. The bark is supposed by the Hindoos to be a powerful tonic; and they use the white gum of the tree as a cure for the toothache, or apply it as a healing plaster to the feet when chafed or bruised. Bird-lime is also made from this gum. The wood of the tree is porous and almost useless.