banyan (n.)

also banian, "Indian fig tree," 1630s, so called in reference to a specific tree at Gombroon (modern Bandar Abbas) on the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf, near which the Hindu merchants known as banians had built a pagoda. The word is from Gujarati vaniyo "a man of the trading caste," from Sanskrit vanija "merchant."

The banians, based in Bombay and elsewhere, were great traders who trafficked from interior Asia to Africa. The tree develops roots from branches; these and the broad shade of its crown made them natural market places. The banians also were noted as rigorous abstainers from flesh-eating and for their reverence for all animal life, hence banian-hospital (1809) where worn-out domestic animals were cared for.

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