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You may think it is a forest but if you see it closely you will be surprised.

From the outside, ‘The Great Banyan Tree’ looks like a small forest. This is because the roots of these trees extend up and down into the ground, creating a maze of branches that looks like a collection of trees rather than just one.

If you were to view the Great Banyan Tree at the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden from a distance, it’s easy to mistake it for a forest. At more than 150,000 square feet, the tree is the world’s widest , so big it covers more ground than your average Wal-Mart.

No one is sure of the exact age of the Great Banyan Tree due to a lack of official records, but experts estimate that the tree is at least 250 years old ; The earliest references to the tree have been found in travel writings dating back to the 19th century.

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Over the years, the tree has been through a lot. Not only has it survived 2 major cyclones in 1864 and 1867, but its main stem was also infected with a deadly fungus. This infection meant that the main trunk of the tree needed to be removed in 1925.

Caring for this massive tree is so complicated that it takes a 13-member team. They not only ensure that the tree stays healthy, but also “train” the roots to grow properly:

“We make a bamboo channel and put fertilizers in them. We then direct the tender support roots into the bamboo channel angled to support the top branch. Soon the prop roots grow and stick to the ground, supporting the branch,” explains MU Sharief, joint director of the Botanical Survey of India.

In Indian culture, banyans are among the most revered trees. It is considered a sacred tree in various religions ; For example, in Hinduism, it symbolizes longevity and represents the divine creator, Brahma. Banyan trees are also important in Buddhism because the Buddha is believed to have sat under one for 7 days after achieving enlightenment.

Want to see ‘The Great Banyan Tree’ for yourself? The Botanical Gardens are easily accessible by car or bus from Kolkata city center. The best time to visit is between September and March; by then the searing heat of summer should have subsided. As well as ‘The Great Banyan Tree’ , you can also see a wide variety of exotic plants from all over the world, so it’s an amazing trip if you can take it, obviously when travel is allowed again.

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