Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Banyans and Bats in the Theosophical Gardens

I spent an afternoon on my own going down to the Headquarters of the fabled Theosophical Society which resettled from New York to Madras in the late 1800s. However, I came more to enjoy their sprawling gardens than to catch up on Theosophical history and philosophy.

This is the garden's main attraction which I came to see: A more than hundred year old Banyan Tree. Those who are not too familiar with this type of being, might ask: "Which is the Banyan tree here?". Well it is all the Banyan Tree. This, which looks like an entire forest, is in fact just one single living tree. And allegedly it is one of the very largest Banyan's in the world. What looks like single trees are branches - or roots if you will - extending downwards from the larger branch to the ground. What you see here is just a small part of this amazing living thing.

Here you see a different part of the tree. Here it's a bit less crowded with roots allowing for pleasant grass vegetation beneath. More than 100 years ago, members of the Theosophical society held meetings here in the shadow of the very same Banyan.

Gaint Bats! Whereas the Banyan tree was an entirely expected delight, I was also lucky enough to experience a much less anticipated but just as delightful event. Meeting a huge swarm of giant fruit bats flying over my head in broad daylight. To give a sense of the size of these things notice the many smaller dots on the picture above. These are crows, apparently engaged in a huge mass fight with the bats.

Here you see a fruit bat seemingly being chased by crows. However, for all the apparent hostility I didn't actually witness any violence or other physical contact between the bats and the crows.

To my delight it turned out that many more bats were to be fond in a nearby banyan tree - also huge although by no means at large as the one described above. If you enlarge this picture you should be able to see about 150 bats hanging in just this part of the tree.

If the above picture is too unclear for you, try this one. Here you can see these amazing creatures and still get a sense of how many were actually hanging there. More than 20 giant fruit bats are there.

Here an absolute close up of two of them. When looking at their faces it is no wonder they are sometimes called flying foxes.

I saw a few other interesting creatures in the gardens. Here a very colourful red and black insect.

And finally a butterfly-like creature disguised almost perfectly as a leaf. Nature produces some pretty ingenious defence mechanisms.

1 comment:

oreneta said...

I. WANT. YOUR. CAMERA.

Ah well, lets hope what I got gets pictures almost as good.

What an amazing tree.