A botanical garden close to Kolkata is home to what is considered among the widest banyan trees in the world.
Imagine walking around a tree that, from a distance, looks like a small forest, and its roots have a semblance to trees themselves. This tree, which is over two hundred and fifty years old, is nicknamed the Great Banyan Tree, and is considered to be among the widest trees in the world. Located close to Kolkata, the capital city of the eastern state of West Bengal in India, this tree has survived cyclones and seen the city transform. Though it has not largely featured in travellers’ (and locals’) things to see in the City of Joy, a visit to the place where it is located, makes for an interesting and relaxing experience.
The Great Banyan Tree, which can be accessed by taking a short bus ride from Kolkata, has been recorded to occupy over 14,500 square metres of land. A bus ride there means going to the other side of the river Hooghly that flows through Kolkata, and one can take a bus from the nearby Esplanade station. Located in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden, the tree has over 3,500 aerial roots. It was once diseased due to cyclones after which its main trunk was removed, but the rest of the parts survived, with road and boundary constructed around it even as it grows further. The tree also holds the record of having the second largest canopy in the world.
Brian, a tourist from Ireland, who was visiting the garden based on suggestions from other travellers shared, “I had heard about the Great Banyan Tree from a friend who likes nature photography and I was intrigued by the idea that one single tree can be so large that it resembles a forest. That is why I just had to come and visit.” He added, while walking around the tree, “I am not disappointed.”
— Incredible!ndia (@incredibleindia) July 21, 2017
Strolling through the botanical garden
Even though the Great Banyan Tree is the star, the garden itself is also an interesting green space to visit despite the maintenance of the garden having been neglected in recent times. Founded by the British when India was its colony, this garden has a collection of botanical specimens from five continents. It is a relaxing place to see and walk through different worlds as plants of each continent make up sections.
Besides the large trees and greenery, the flowers here can also be nice to explore, with the rare Amazon Water Lily also available. For those planning a picnic, avoid packing in plastics as it is not allowed inside the compound.