A painting showing a large banyan tree. Dating to the early 19th century, the painting was commissioned by Lieutenant-Colonel W.R. Gilbert (1785–1853), a Commandant of the Ramgarh Battalion based in Hazaribag, India.
The painting shows a large banyan tree on the banks of a river. In the foreground are two boats moored in the river and a crowd of people bathing and standing on a ghat. The tree, with its dense canopy of leaves and numerous aerial roots growing down towards the ground, is the focal point of the painting.
With intertwined shoots that eventually take root and grow until they take on the appearance of individual tree trunks, the banyan comes to resemble a cluster of trees that are linked by branches and a single canopy of leaves. The people bathing provide a sense of perspective showing the vast size of the tree.
The banyan tree
Banyan trees are part of the ficus or fig genus of plants and are the world’s largest tree in terms of canopy coverage. Ficus benghalensis, commonly known as the Indian Banyan, is considered sacred and is the national tree of India. Notable examples found in India include a specimen found in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden at Howrah, near Kolkata, India, said to be around 250 years old and the Thimmamma Marrimanu tree at Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh that covers an area of roughly 8 acres.