Anxiety levels were rumored to be sky high in New Delhi this week as Indian officials tried assuring the public that the peepal tree President Barack Obama planted there three weeks ago is not dead. They insist that it is simply resting.
According to the Associated Press, the peepal tree was awash in leaves when Obama planted it during a visit to New Delhi’s memorial to late Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi less than a month ago. By this Thursday, however, it had reportedly been left with a single lonely stem.
New Delhi is currently in its Spring season. It is typical of peepal trees to lose their leaves during this time of year. The AP notes that a top regional government horticulturist, B.C. Katiyar, said the peepal was in good health and it will “send out shoots within the next 10 days.”
The peepal (scientific name: ficus religiosa) is very holy in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout much of Asia. The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under the tree in 589 B.C. And it is also closely associated with Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (the religious text in Hindiusm). Krishna says in the Gita “Among trees, I am the ashvattha,” which is sanskrit for peepal.
Cutting down a peepal is considered to be equivalent to killing a Brahman which is the highest ranking of all four varnas of Hindu social classes in India.
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