The Banyan Tree

Geographical Centre of the City

Banyan trees are, in general, considered to be sacred in India and worshiped across the country. The Mother selected the Banyan tree as the geographical centre of the city. This Banyan tree is more than 100 years old and during the beginning of the construction of the Matrimandir was the only tree on the barren plateau. An integral part of the Matrimandir complex, the Banyan Tree, with its peculiar aerial roots is spread across a diameter of 50 meters (164 feet). Visitors can view the Banyan Tree, which is located to the west of Matrimandir, from the viewing point.

The Story Behind the Tree

By late 1965, the time had come to define the centre of Auroville. Roger Anger, the French architect to whom the Mother had asked to design the future town, brought to her a map of the area north of Puducherry. She was in her room at the Ashram and had probably never set foot in that area, for at that time there was no motor able road leading to it. She concentrated and pointed to a particular area on the map.

The architect took a jeep and drove to the area she had pointed at and found there a solitary banyan tree in an almost totally barren plateau overlooking the Bay of Bengal. The Mother was very happy about the presence of a banyan tree, a tree regarded as sacred in India, and decided to make it Auroville’s geographical centre.

The Banyan tree soon after the Inauguration Ceremony. Lone tree in a totally barren landscape
During Inauguration

During Auroville’s Inauguration Ceremony, it provided shade to an exhibition on the future town and, at the Mother’s request, a stainless steel ring bearing the words (in Tamil and in French) “Auroville, the City at the Service of Truth” was placed around its trunk. (This ring is now on display outside the Town Hall.)

The Banyan at sunset
Over 100 Years Old

This Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis) belongs to the Ficus (fig tree) family and is now probably a little more than a hundred years old. Banyans have the peculiarity of producing aerial roots which grow down from the branches towards the ground and take root to become new trunks. (The diameter of this banyan is now kept at approximately fifty metres so that it remains in proportion with its surroundings.)