The word ‘vaatsalya’ in Sanskrit means love, affection, tenderness, fondness; this word is used to describe a mother’s love for her child. The banyan tree embraces, like a mother with hundred arms, her brood of children. It wrapped me into this embrace of life.
The banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) at The Theosophical Society in Chennai, spreads across 60,000 square area and is some 450 years old. Growing on the banks of the Adyar river, not too far from where the river drains into the Bay of Bengal, this banyan tree has had its tryst with history. In the Blavatsky bungalow that is nearly strangled by the colony of roots of this tree, stayed Rabindranath Tagore; the tree has extended its hospitality to several other luminaries too, like J Krishnamurti, Annie Besant and Maria Montessori.
The tree with its immense settlement of aerial roots and its extensive green canopy has a presence that has to be experienced. The main tree was uprooted by gale in 1989 and efforts made to root it back failed. There is a hollow now where there was once this immense trunk. The aerial roots that have come from the mother tree, have put out branches and spread the canopy around. This is a clonal colony carrying memories of the mother tree in their fibers of existence.
This is the old tree I have written about. I used tinted papers and soft pastels for these two sketches.
I have used the negative space to suggest the undergrowth of ferns in this painting.