(Last Updated on : 06/07/2013)
The worship of trees in India can be traced to the Indus Valley Civilization and the hymns of the Vedas also contain references to such sacred trees and plants on account of their being associated with certain deities and also because of their potent medicinal properties. This tradition continues till the present day in most parts of India, including South India, in villages and urban centres. Plants like the Tulsi and trees like the Pipal are worshipped on a daily basis.
In South India, temples were constructed at places where certain trees were considered as the home of a particular deity. Later perhaps these trees were considered as sthalavrikshas or the sacred tree connected with that particular temple where it was grown and worshipped.
The famous Ekamreshvara temple in the temple-town of Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) has the mango tree as the sthalavriksha. Goddess Parvati is said to have worshipped a Siva lingo, beneath this tree and was reunited with Siva. A very ancient sculpture inside this temple depicts this scene with the mango tree sculpted very prominently.
The bamboo is associated with many temples in Tamil Nadu, the most famous being the Nelliappar temple in Tirunelveli. Lord Siva enshrined here, is called in many ancient inscriptions as Venuvaneshvara, (the Lord of the bamboo forest). The ubiquitous coconut tree, found in almost every part of South India, is also a sthalavriksha in many temples. The pipal tree (arasa maram) is seen in many temples, both big and small.
The sweet-smelling jasmine (mullai) which is used in worship in temples and in homes is the sacred tree of very many Siva temples in South India. There are places known as Tirumullaivayil, and in the temples located at these sites the sacred tree is the mullai.