By Yusra Husain: Imagine entering a gigantic evergreen banyan tree with roads, and benches, a village and a temple beneath. Facing a difficulty? The reality though presents a vivid picture instead.
Hugely endearing and captivating is the sight of a colossal banyan tree over 400 years old sprawling in 11 acres of land and growing still. Visit the Kadiri village in Rayalaseema region, 80 kms southward of Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh and your vision is mesmerised by the presence of an entire village under the canopy of thick banyan foliage.
The mammoth natural wonder, named Thimmamma marimanu, is situated 40 kms ahead of Kadiri sheltering a meagre village with 5 huts, a school, a theatre for local drama performances and a temple. Owning a special place in the Guinness Book of Records since 1989, the tree has a canopy cover of 19, 107 square meters with a huge carpet of dried leaves underneath.
The tree is named so owing to a legend whereby Thimamma was a pious lady and a devoted wife who performed the ritual of sati for her husband and from whom the tree originated, while marimanu means banyan tree in Telugu.
The tree has been divided into 6 sectors, management of which is undertaken by a group of Indian army officers. Very many stories revolve around the origin of the tree, locals and the temple priest quite contradictory to each other. While the tree is symbolic of an occurrence of a deity for the priest, the locals consider it as life, upon which they and their economy thrive. They haven’t known life outside of Thimmamma Marimanu, thus Kadiri, Anantpur, Hyderabad and all the other places being unknown unexplored cities for them.
Go ahead on your quest of discovery, and you will come across a mosque just between Kadiri and Thimmamma Marimanu. A structure with no minarets, the mosque is said to be built before Shah Jahans reign some 400-500 years back. On enquiry you will be told that it was Shah Jahan who had introduced minarets to the mosques he built, and the earlier structures had no minarets present.
Strikingly evident this piece of information takes you back to the image of the Babri Masjid that had no minarets whatsoever and was thus reduced to dust as one of the premise. On close inspection of other monuments though you decipher that even the Old fort at Delhi has none such features and so the argument falls flat.
India is a vast country with its flaws and flashes, highs and lows, but what makes it distinct is the occurrence of bizarreness that is ubiquitous to its existence.