City Landmark – Peepal Tree, Tiraha Behram Khan
A tree in the square.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi is awash with great stone monuments, all over the place.
But there’s another type of monument that deserves veneration. The fine old trees that you sometimes encounter in Old Delhi define public squares as assuredly as a church steeple in a European village.
A particular attraction is that grand old Peepal at Tiraha Behram Khan soaring high above buildings—its branches bending over to kiss windows fitted with AC.
In fact, an entire human eco-system has sprung up around the Peepal, starting in early morning when daily-wage labourers sit around it, patiently waiting to be hired.
Afterwards, pavement vendors crowd under it the entire day. Vegetable seller Anwar jokingly suggests that generations of vendors enjoying its shade are now resting comfortably underground at Delhi Gate Qabristan.
Once upon a time the Walled City must have hosted any number of trees. But nowadays, there’s no Imli tree in Pahari imli. No Amrood at Amrood Wali Masjid mosque.
Never mind. Our Peepal is multipurpose. Its home to a giant electric transformer, a police post, along with posters promoting self-defence training classes.
Then there’s that white tile pavement serving as a temple. By definition, the tree is thus sacred–perhaps assuring that it will never be felled during its estimated life span of 150 years in a teeming city.
At night, all the establishments under the tree wrap up their businesses and the Peepal is left alone.
The ecology of a tree