The Detailed Analysis Of Ancient Banyan Trees Of Old Clifton Road, Karachi

TREE PROFILE:
Common Names:
Banyan tree, Indian Fig tree
Scientific Names: Ficus benghalensis
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus
Local Names: Barghad ka darakht, bohr, barh
Origin: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh


These ancient banyan trees have been granted to us in all bountiful ways by nature. This is nearly a perfect test of our being in the right temper of mind and way of life so that anyone who loves trees enough, would know about them in their full glory.

I am talking about these banyan trees of old Clifton in fondness which transforms the continuance of physical spacetime into moments.

I recently came to know about this unique wonder of nature while scrolling down some posts from a Facebook group. The name of the group is In Defence Of Trees. It is Almas Mehmood who first shared these photos entitling old faithful banyan trees of Clifton and then I decided that it’s an ideal time for me to document these marvelous living miracle of nature.

Where these Banyan trees are located?

1. For this, you have to visit Karachi. You can easily locate these Banyan trees at Shahrah-e-Iran road in old Clifton Karachi, Pakistan.

2. It is an area of the city that was developed in the 19th century. It was those days when Henry Bartle Frere was appointed chief commissioner of Sindh. In 1850, he took advantage of the opportunities granted to him of further developing the city.

“It was said that he even pensioned off the dispossessed amirs, improved the harbour at Karachi, where he also established municipal buildings, a museum and barracks, instituted fairs, multiplied roads, canals and schools.”

The banyan trees were planted in abundance along the roadsides initially to please the Hindu community at that time because of their religious affiliation with these trees. It was the time of great mutiny.

What is special about these Banyan Trees?

3. It all happened when Karachi’s Natural Heritage Association decided to take a visionary step due to some concerned reasons.

They intentionally, marked and preserved about 68 banyan trees in the old Clifton area only. Here’s the proof.

Thankfully, I found these additional photos via Twitter while browsing about them.

4. City authorities have declared all banyan trees as protected heritage in order to prevent them from being mercilessly chopped off. Source

There I found out that they even rehabilitated an old banyan tree.

Furthermore, the provincial environment department has started preserving 68 old Banyan trees to protect them from vandalism. Source.

This is a great initiative by the government of Sindh of saving heritage trees from immediate extinction. And in this way giving more power to old trees so that they can thrive in full bloom.

5. Don’t you think it’s an amazing fact that some of these trees are believed to be 100 years old or more?

But unfortunately, now these trees are facing the threat of becoming extinct. The reasons are so many to consider: Some think that this is due to the skyrocketing developmental projects in the area. And some cleverly put all the blame on the negligence of the local community.

The detailed analysis of these ancient banyan trees of Karachi

Now here comes the fun part and my favorite activity of documenting trees.

Picture 1.

At first, if you glance closely at this tree it seems as they have branches almost everywhere. The branches are unusually long and they have a power to grow and spread at great distances.

It’s unfortunate to see this tree in such drastic conditions. Banyans are native to and thrive best in India and Pakistan. These days, variations of the majestic trees can be found almost everywhere in the world.

The best way to care for them is to give them plenty of space and warm, wet, humid weather. It seems that this tree is already enjoying the view but the debris around this tree is worrisome.

This tree has shed an ample amount of green leaves. Why so? They usually shed their leaves in a dormant/ off season when the temperature of the area dramatically drops.

The banyan is a decidous evergreen tree and it doesn’t shed all it’s leaves at the same time.

The term deciduous means it will shed its leaves annually. Evergreen in the sense that the leaves will remain vibrant green even in winter season unlike other autumn trees.

I think when the picture was taken, it might be the autumn season or the end of the winter season as it is partly covered with leaves.

They will regrow their green leaves when the weather warms up. Banyan trees usually shed their leaves in the dry season to retain the moisture.

It is planted near a building, driveway or a street. It can be easily identified by its aerial roots.


Picture 2:

Wow, simply wow! This picture is best to determine at which time of the day it is photographed.

The shadow casts by these trees depend on many factors such as the time of day, location, a particular season, and shape of the trees.

If the sun is to the north of the tree then the shadow will cast on the opposite side of the tree that is to the south.

One of the most attractive aspects of any tree is the shadow it casts. Seeing the shadow its casting say eternity. The hot summer day. Birds are loving the shade. It is 12 o clock when the sun is accurately above the trees. I can be wrong.

It should be noted that the longest shadows occur at the sun rise and sunset. It is hard to determine the time of the day at that angle. But my guess is that it must be noon or afternoon time when the picture has been taken.

I can see a crow nearby. Can you? Here it should be mentioned that some native birds like crow and common myna dispersed the seeds of banyan trees. They are abundantly found near those trees which have a dense canopy.

This trees along the road indicates that they are really in bad postures. The concrete pavement has limited the spread of these trees and they have leaned themselves towards one side because of lack of support.


Picture 3:

The main trunk of this tree is not visible as the aerial roots have grown around the trunk.

Older banyan trees are characterized by aerial prop roots that mature into thick, woody trunks, which can become indistinguishable from the primary trunk with age.

This tree is not laterally spreading over a wide area. The roots have been damaged due to debris and stones.

Ficus benghalensis produces propagating roots which grow downwards as aerial roots. Once these roots reach the ground they grow into woody trunks.

If this tree is given ideal conditions it can easily develop lateral branches and can spread to large distances. This is my favourite banyan tree so far. The tree has already uprooted the pavement. The debris of the fallen leaves has increased the fertility of the soil. It is damp and moist.

The fruits and seeds produced by these tree are eaten by birds such as common myna and crows as they can been seen around.

Rumour has it that the fig seeds which pass through the digestive system of these birds are more likely to germinate and sprout earlier.

Picture 4:

This is a classic example of the strangler fig. The main trunk is somewhere lost in that twirling pattern.

Can you see the prop up roots? Can you locate the common myna nearby?

The hanging branches has decided to curl up around the tree. Sadly some branches have been cut down so that they can’t reach the ground.

Picture 5:

Picture 6:

My heart is bleeding for that tree. The concrete pavement is restricting the growth.

Pictures 5 and 6 are of the same tree. My blind guess.


Picture 7:

Now this tree is like a mini forest of its kind. The banyan tree is right among the largest living trees in the world by canopy coverage. My observation says this tree is the same as in picture 1 but here the picture is taken from the front angle instead of being photographed from the sides.

I am ending this article here because initially my attention is not to write a lengthy post. These are entirely my views, so can be wrong and inaccurate. Thank you for reading, though. Do comment please!

Sources:

Facebook post

Arabnews

About Sir Henry Bartle

The Banyan trees of old Clifton past and possible future/samaa

Banyan trees declared protected heritage in Karachi

Oyeyeah/ Karachi Banyan trees


Old Banyan tree located in Karachi Zoological and Botanical Garden

I am a huge admirer of native trees. This is a story of an Indian fig tree that has been on this planet for as long as one can imagine. For some indigenous people, this tree is 100 years old and according to some old folk, this banian tree is more than 200 years ago.

(The banyan in old days was usually spelt as banian or banius because of its reference to the trader’s community who used to sit and sold their precious products under the mighty shade of these trees.)

Image Courtesy: Suleman Sajjad

From a historical perspective, it has been rumoured that Mahatama Gandhi used to sit beneath the green shade of this tree. The Zoo was known as a Mahatama Gandhi Garden in those unforgettable times.

This is a little known fact that the Karachi zoo came into existence in the year 1878. Because of his immense fondness for that botanical garden, it was initially called a Mahatama Gandhi Garden. It was turned into the zoo after the partition in 1947 and hence the name was mercilessly changed for the generations to come.

Image Courtesy: Suleman Sajjad

The banyan tree is a popular Pakistani village tree and in the native language, it is commonly known as the Barghad ka darakht. According to the local community, a banyan is a tree that makes wishes comes true.

It is a fig tree that has happily begun its life as an epiphyte. If you are not familiar with the term epiphyte then I would like to describe it as a kind of plant that usually grows on another plant but not as a parasite.

It grows on a host plant but unlike a parasitic plant, it takes no nutrients from the host tree but mostly relies on nutrients from other resources such as from the air, rainwater etc.

I am an ardent lover of three kinds of trees and their names are as per excellence. These are Naeem, peepal and banyan tree because my childhood was mostly spent under the shade of these beautiful trees. Native trees are usually aggressive and invasive in their behaviour and they have that innate ability to grow almost everywhere in a very short period.

Image Courtesy: Suleman Sajjad

The leaves of the tree as can be seen in these pictures are large, green, and elliptical. Some leaves are glossy, bright in appearance where there is sufficient sunlight and some leaves are dusty and thick, leathery in texture.

The trunks are painted white to signify that it is government property and hence, it is protected by law. In my opinion, old trees should not be painted white or in any colour possible so that people should respect and protect all old trees equally in their vicinity.

The fallen leaves are yellow and noticeably, there is no trace of grass under the shade of this tree. It is quite proverbial that nothing ever grows under the Banyan tree. The banyan tree does not let any grass or weed grow under it and believe me the reason for this is quite alluring and satisfying. As you can see that banyan leaves are quite thick and leathery and the entire tree looks like a huge mushroom type. Therefore the foliage of thick leaves doesn’t allow anything to flourish or sprout on its own. Only the plants that lacks chlorophyll can survive under a huge banyan tree.

Sources:

To walk under a huge banyan tree

Love for trees is a biological process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in various forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they represent age and beauty along with the countless blessings of life and growth.

Here, I would like to excerpt a fascinating story about a man lasting love for trees from the city of Lahore that I have read about a decade ago. I read it from an online newspaper source by the name Daily Times. The purpose of sharing this story is to realize the importance of trees in our folklore and traditions.

Trees are an integral and valuable part of our natural and cultural heritage.  When we even look at our history, our literature and poetry, our music and art, we discover trees as a fundamental element of our identity and expression.  

This story as narrated by Abdul Hameed who was a renowned novelist and short story writer of his time. He was also particularly remembered for writing a prominent children’s TV play Ainak Wala Jin for Pakistan Television Corporation which used to broadcast on PTV during the mid-1990s.

Abdul Hameed used to write a column every week based on his memories of old Lahore in a very pleasant and storytelling style. He started writing a column for Daily Times newspaper on a weekly basis in his native Urdu language. His recollections of old Lahore in the mid-1950s or early years of independence (as we called this a golden era) should be appreciated greatly because of the fact that such proactive writing is rare in our literature. Moreover, we should also not forget the exceptional work of Khalid Hasan who is the person behind the translation of these masterpieces into English without losing any of the original composition and rhythm.

This story is about an undying love for Banayan Trees. It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven.

There are two ways to read this story either by browsing here or by purchasing this book of 266 pages from any reliable sources that you usually prefer such as

LAHORE LAHORE AYE: Lahore radio’s lovesick trees
By A Hamid

(As narrated by Abdul Hamid in his weekly column for Daily Times and willingly translated into English by Khalid Hassan.)

I was associated with the Lahore radio station for close to forty-five years as a staff artist. My friendships were mostly with singers, composers and instrumentalists.

Those radio years gave me the opportunity to get to know artists who had few, if any, equals.

They were such nice people also, seldom asking anyone to share their burdens, which were considerable.

They were people of such childlike simplicity that even minor things would make them happy.

They were also very tender-hearted and sometimes a single note of music would bring tears to their eyes.

The famous sarangi player, I remember was Ustad Ghulam Muhammad of Kasur, who had accompanied some of the most famous classical singers of those times.

He would always accompany Lahore’s great classical vocalist Ustad Kalay Khan. In his later years, he had come to be associated with the Lahore radio station, which afforded me an opportunity to observe him closely.

He was thickset and his hair had disappeared except over his temples. He had a peculiar walk, weighted somewhat to one side.

The station had moved into its new building by now. Behind the canteen, they had set up the central production unit and the recording studios where classical, semi-classical and Punjabi folk music was recorded.

The musicians associated with the central production unit were a separate group, and they included Ustad Ghulam Muhammad.

He would also, when needed, provide accompaniment to performances being broadcast or recorded for the main station.

To go from the central production unit to the main station, you had to walk under a huge banyan tree.

Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would always look up at the tree’s thick branches when passing under it.

There was another banyan tree facing the engineering rooms, which was not so thick-leafed as the big one.

The two trees were a hundred, maybe, a hundred and fifty yards apart.

“Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” Herman Hesse

Ustad Ghulam Muhammad once said, as we sat in the canteen sipping tea, that the tree next to the central production unit was female and the one facing the engineering rooms was male.

“When the wind blows, that is when the two of them make contact. They are very much in love with each other,” he told us. We loved his childlike talk – a hallmark of the Ustad’s personality.

It so happened that the engineering people decided to build a few more rooms but this could only be done if the smaller banyan tree was chopped down.

Little did they know or care about male and female trees and so they sent for men who began to hack the tree down.

When Ustad Ghulam Muhammad learnt what was going on, he rushed to the chief engineer’s office, begging him not to bring down the tree.

He argued that if this tree, which was a male was cut down, someone would lose his life. But he failed to convince him.

The tree was brought down and construction got underway. I witnessed all that with much sadness.

Now whenever Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would pass under the remaining tree, he would look up and say, “Its mate is dead; this one is not going to survive long.”

While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.

It happened one day when he was walking under the lone tree. He shuddered, fell to the ground in a heap and died.

Love is like a tree, it grows of its own accord, it puts down deep roots into our whole being.” ― Victor Hugo

The symbolization of Banayan tree in relation to this story

“A tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its Tormentor.”
– George William Curtis

Love for trees is a natural process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in many forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they will teach us what we cannot learn from all the educators of the world.

While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.

It’s indeed a heartbreaking story of a man profound commitment for trees and how he cared for them and worried about their protection when he used to walk under the shade of these trees.

That banayan tree did not die because of the fact that it represents longevity and immortality in South Asian culture. It has a notorious attitude of surviving for centuries regardless of its surroundings.

It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven. This is because of the fact that banyan tree in our culture represents eternal life and everlastingness.

To walk under a huge banyan tree

Love for trees is a biological process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in various forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they represent age and beauty along with the countless blessings of life and growth.

Here, I would like to excerpt a fascinating story about a man lasting love for trees from the city of Lahore that I have read about a decade ago. I read it from an online newspaper source by the name Daily Times. The purpose of sharing this story is to realize the importance of trees in our folklore and traditions.

Trees are an integral and valuable part of our natural and cultural heritage.  When we even look at our history, our literature and poetry, our music and art, we discover trees as a fundamental element of our identity and expression.  

This story as narrated by Abdul Hameed who was a renowned novelist and short story writer of his time. He was also particularly remembered for writing a prominent children’s TV play Ainak Wala Jin for Pakistan Television Corporation which used to broadcast on PTV during the mid-1990s.

Abdul Hameed used to write a column every week based on his memories of old Lahore in a very pleasant and storytelling style. He started writing a column for Daily Times newspaper on a weekly basis in his native Urdu language. His recollections of old Lahore in the mid-1950s or early years of independence (as we called this a golden era) should be appreciated greatly because of the fact that such proactive writing is rare in our literature. Moreover, we should also not forget the exceptional work of Khalid Hasan who is the person behind the translation of these masterpieces into English without losing any of the original composition and rhythm.

This story is about an undying love for Banayan Trees. It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven.

There are two ways to read this story either by browsing here or by purchasing this book of 266 pages from any reliable sources that you usually prefer such as

LAHORE LAHORE AYE: Lahore radio’s lovesick trees
By A Hamid

(As narrated by Abdul Hamid in his weekly column for Daily Times and willingly translated into English by Khalid Hassan.)

I was associated with the Lahore radio station for close to forty-five years as a staff artist. My friendships were mostly with singers, composers and instrumentalists.

Those radio years gave me the opportunity to get to know artists who had few, if any, equals.

They were such nice people also, seldom asking anyone to share their burdens, which were considerable.

They were people of such childlike simplicity that even minor things would make them happy.

They were also very tender-hearted and sometimes a single note of music would bring tears to their eyes.

The famous sarangi player, I remember was Ustad Ghulam Muhammad of Kasur, who had accompanied some of the most famous classical singers of those times.

He would always accompany Lahore’s great classical vocalist Ustad Kalay Khan. In his later years, he had come to be associated with the Lahore radio station, which afforded me an opportunity to observe him closely.

He was thickset and his hair had disappeared except over his temples. He had a peculiar walk, weighted somewhat to one side.

The station had moved into its new building by now. Behind the canteen, they had set up the central production unit and the recording studios where classical, semi-classical and Punjabi folk music was recorded.

The musicians associated with the central production unit were a separate group, and they included Ustad Ghulam Muhammad.

He would also, when needed, provide accompaniment to performances being broadcast or recorded for the main station.

To go from the central production unit to the main station, you had to walk under a huge banyan tree.

Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would always look up at the tree’s thick branches when passing under it.

There was another banyan tree facing the engineering rooms, which was not so thick-leafed as the big one.

The two trees were a hundred, maybe, a hundred and fifty yards apart.

“Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” Herman Hesse

Ustad Ghulam Muhammad once said, as we sat in the canteen sipping tea, that the tree next to the central production unit was female and the one facing the engineering rooms was male.

“When the wind blows, that is when the two of them make contact. They are very much in love with each other,” he told us. We loved his childlike talk – a hallmark of the Ustad’s personality.

It so happened that the engineering people decided to build a few more rooms but this could only be done if the smaller banyan tree was chopped down.

Little did they know or care about male and female trees and so they sent for men who began to hack the tree down.

When Ustad Ghulam Muhammad learnt what was going on, he rushed to the chief engineer’s office, begging him not to bring down the tree.

He argued that if this tree, which was a male was cut down, someone would lose his life. But he failed to convince him.

The tree was brought down and construction got underway. I witnessed all that with much sadness.

Now whenever Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would pass under the remaining tree, he would look up and say, “Its mate is dead; this one is not going to survive long.”

While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.

It happened one day when he was walking under the lone tree. He shuddered, fell to the ground in a heap and died.

Love is like a tree, it grows of its own accord, it puts down deep roots into our whole being.” ― Victor Hugo

The symbolization of Banayan tree in relation to this story

“A tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its Tormentor.”
– George William Curtis

Love for trees is a natural process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in many forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they will teach us what we cannot learn from all the educators of the world.

While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.

It’s indeed a heartbreaking story of a man profound commitment for trees and how he cared for them and worried about their protection when he used to walk under the shade of these trees.

That banayan tree did not die because of the fact that it represents longevity and immortality in South Asian culture. It has a notorious attitude of surviving for centuries regardless of its surroundings.

It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven. This is because of the fact that banyan tree in our culture represents eternal life and everlastingness.


Thank you for reading and highlighting my work. I frequently write for trees and think about them in my happy time. Please visit my blog and do comment on my posts for giving me a little dose of encouragement that I rarely receive.