Thousands of years ago, India’s greatest sages established Ayurveda, or knowledge of life, the main goal of which was the alleviation of human suffering. The sages of Ayurveda saw all illness and all health as part of an interlocking whole-mind body and spirit that must be treated as one. For medicines and treatments, they looked to the natural world around them, to the plants used by forest tribes since the beginning of history.
In the words of Lord Buddha- the forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity. It affords production to all beings, offering shade to the axe man who destroys it. Plants occupy an important place in mythology. Man secured his life from diseases by using various parts of medicinal plants. So, probably this became the basis of conserving plants and might have started worshipping plants. Medicinal practices are deeply linked and influenced by plants.
Every nation has its own set of sacred plants. The plant worshipping was quite common in a highly evolved Harappan culture, dating the third or fourth millennium B.C. It was also present among the seals of Mohenjodaro, one seal depicted a stylised Peepal (Ficus religiosa L.) tree with two heads of unicorns emerging from its stem. Tree worshipping was also present during the Vedic period.India has deeprooted traditional worshiping of plants, which provide base for the grass root conservation practices.Sacred groves are the tracts of virgin forest that were left untouched by the local inhabitants, harbour rich biodiversity, and are protected by the local people due to their cultural and religious beliefs and taboo that the deities reside in them. They use it in many ways including worshipping gods and goddess for the protection and betterment of human life.
God has bestowed some specific powers to certain plants, which play an important role in prosperous human life. Hindu scriptures tell us that a wide variety of plants like Ficus religiosa L., Azadirachta indica A. Juss., Ocimum sanctum L. etc. have divine qualities, therefore used in number of religious activities, marriages and ceremonies.
PLANTS ASSOCIATED WITH NINE PLANETS
Just as most gods and goddesses in India are associated with some tree, shrub or creeper, similarly all the nine planets which are believed to control the destiny of man are associated with plants. Planet Ravi (the Sun) after whom Ravivara or Sunday is named is offered the burnt offerings of Arka plant (Calotropis gigantea (Linn.) R. Burm.). Butea monosperma (Lam.) Kuntz. or Palasa is sacred to planet Soma (the moon) after whom Somavara or Monday is named. Planet Mangla (Mars) hence Manglavara or Tuesday is identified with Karttikeya and the plant Khadira (Acacia catechu Willd.) is sacred to him. Planet Buddha (Mercury), hence Budhavara or Wednesday has Aparmarga (Achryanthes aspera Linn.) as its sacred plant. Aswattha (Ficus religiosa Linn.) is sacred to Planet Brihaspati (Jupiter) after whom Brihaspativara or Thursday is named. The plant Urumbasa (cannot be identified botanically) is sacred to the planet Sukra (Venus) and Sukravara or Friday is named after him. Saturday or Shanivara is named after the Planet Shani (Saturn) and the plant sacred to it is Shami (Prosopis cineraria (Linn.) Druce). Darbha ghas (Impereta cylinderica (L.) P. Beauv.) is sacred to the Planet Rahu and blades of Kusha ghas (Desmostachya bipinnata stap.f.) to the Planet Ketu.
So much importance was given to plants, particularly to trees that a whole ritual was laid for the felling of the trees and for image making for purposes of worship. Not every wood was used for image making, nor could anyone worship an image unless it was sanctioned by the scriptures. For instance, the images for worship by the Brahmanas are made from Deodar (Cedrus deodara (Roxb.) Loud.), Chandana (Santalum album Linn.), Shami (Prosopis cineraria Druce.) and Madhuka (Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.); for kshatriyas images are made out of Arishtaka (Sapindus trifoliatus Linn.), Aswattha (Ficus religiosa Linn.), Khadira (Acacia catechu Willd.), Bilva (Aegle marmelos Linn. Corr.); for Vaishas from Putrajivaka (Putranjiva roxburghii Wall.), Japa (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.), Seesham (Dalbergia sissoo Roxb.); for the Sudras out of Tinduka (Diospyros embryopteris Pers.), Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna Roxb. W & A), Amra (Mangifera indica Linn.), and Shaal (Shorea robusta Gaertn.f.).