Can you imagine an entire forest, made up of 19,000 m2 formed by a single tree?

This particular forest covering more than 19,000 square meters is located in a region east of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. But the peculiar thing about this forest is that this forest mass is composed only and exclusively by one single tree.

The tree is known as Thimmamma Marrimanu and belongs to the so-called Bengal banana or fig trees (ficus benghalensis), a species endemic to Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

Bananas are trees that develop in an unconventional way: from top to bottom. The seeds germinate in cracks in the bark of another tree, growing until the aerial roots form a pseudo-stem that eventually devours the host tree and gradually expands to create an incredible amalgamation of branches and trunks. The branches, which extend horizontally, create new aerial roots that end up touching the ground and forming new supplementary trunks.

This tree has great relevance in the religious aspect. Not for nothing is it considered the national tree of India and the different parts of the tree are associated with different gods of Hinduism. Thus, the roots are associated with Brahma (creator god, represented with four white-bearded heads, four arms and red skin), the trunk with Vishnu (preserving god, represented with blue skin and four arms) and the leaves with Shiva (destroying god, represented as a yogi in deep meditation), forming the Trimurti or the 'Three Forms' of Hindu mythology: creation, conservation and destruction of the universe.

Since the inhabitants of the area have attributed magical properties related to fertility when it comes to this tree, it is not surprising that it has become a place of pilgrimage. The largest gathering of people usually takes place during the festival of Maha Shivaratri (the great night of Shiva) which is held on the night of the 13th of the month Phalguna (between the months of February and March) according to the Hindu calendar.

That night, the numerous pilgrims who come to count in the thousands, celebrate under the Thimmamma Marrimanu a great jatara (night vigil accompanied by music and dance).

A tree of record

Religious details aside, the Thimmamma Marrimanu located in the Kadiri reserve is a record tree. It has a crown that covers 19,107 square meters of surface, so it seems to be a real forest and has been registered in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the largest tree specimens in the world.

Another impressive tree is the Grand Banyan Tree of Calcutta Botanical Garden (founded in 1787) with a crown covering a circumference of 330 meters.

This tree is still growing and, considering that it is located in an area full of agricultural fields and surrounded by little tree competition, it is not surprising that its 4,000 extraordinary roots continue to spread all around and in all directions.

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