Kolkata's Botanical Garden is home to the world's largest banyan tree, the Great Banyan. This "forest" (below) is all one tree, approximately 250 years old.
Banyan are tropical fig trees having the unusual characteristic of "aerial roots" which descend from the branches and go into the soil, forming additional trunks. The 1500 aerial roots of this tree originated from one main trunk and now spread out over 1300 feet (450 meters).
The banyan tree is the national tree of India, and these beautiful spreading trees can be found in every village. In Hindu mythology, the banyan is referred to as the "wish-fulfilling tree" because its ever-expanding branches symbolize eternal life. India's second largest banyan is at the Theosophical Society in Chennai, not far from my house. That one is older (450 years) than the one in Kolkata but does not have as wide a canopy.
Visitors stroll through the Botanical Gardens in Kolkata.
The Botanical Garden's 272 acres are also home to these giant lily pads, some of which looked like they were more than 6 feet in diameter.
I was strolling around the garden taking pictures when I realized I had an entourage behind me. This gaggle of schoolboys (spotlessly clean, for mischievous young boys!) started out as 2 or 3 curious boys, and soon grew to about 40, following me around from one part of the garden to another, quizzically watching me photograph trees and lily pads.