The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo was one place I had been looking forward to visiting in Nigeria. As prevalent as indigenous religions still are in West Africa, it is often hard to find public expressions of them in towns and cities; the Christianity brought by European slavers and colonialists has taken root and pushed most of these religions out of mainstream life. But in the Sacred Grove shrines honor all the local deities, including Obatala, the god of creation, Ogun, the god of iron, and Oshun, the goddess of water, whose aqueous essence is made manifest by the river running through the trees. The place is unique in the Yoruba religion, and that intrigued me.
The banyan tree enjoys huge cultural importance in India. It is considered sacred among the Hindu population with temples and shrines being built under its shade quite often. Banyan tree is commonly symbolic of an eternal life as it has a very lengthy lifespan. Married Hindu women often practice religious rituals around the banyan tree to pray for long life and well-being of their husbands. The Hindu Supreme deity Shiva is often depicted as sitting and meditating under a banyan tree surrounded by sages. The tree is also considered a symbol of the Trimurti, a confluence of the three supreme deities of the Hindu mythology - Lord Brahma is represented in the roots, Lord Vishnu is believed to be the trunk and Lord Shiva is believed to be the branches. According to Buddhist beliefs, Gautam Buddha attained Bodhi by meditating under a banyan tree and the tree thus holds tremendous religious significance in Buddhism as well. The banyan tree is often the focus of a rural establishment. The shade of the banyan tree provides a soothing backdrop for peaceful human interactions. The banyan tree prevents anything from growing under its shade, not even grass. For that reason the banyan tree or its parts are considered inauspicious in cultural ceremonies like marriages.