The Sacred Tree of the Hindoos at Gyah, Bahar
Artist and engraver: Daniell, Thomas (1749-1840)
Medium: Aquatint, coloured
Plate 15 from the first set of Thomas Daniell's 'Oriental Scenery.' The Akshaya Vata or Undying Banyan tree, an evergreen tree with aerial roots that hang from its branches, is a sacred place where pilgrims make offerings to the spirit of their ancestors. India has many such tree shrines including Bodhgaya (sacred to Buddhism) and Allahabad. Next to the tree is a small shrine with sculpted slabs and figures of Ganesha and Shiva. Although one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India, Gaya has no ancient temples. The most important temple was built in the 18th century around a rock with the imprint of Vishnu, who is believed to have stepped on earth here during one of his avatars.