An ancient, symbolic, stylized flowering tree found in many middle and far-eastern designs, especially known in the west as a feature of most chintz and kalamkari designs, and the centrepiece of many 18thC palampores.

The tree of life is often depicted growing from a rocky mound or from water, surrounded by sacred images of lotuses and marine creatures, flanked by vases, animals or birds. The design might include a series of broad and narrow borders of undulating patterns based on flowers and leaves. It can represent wish-fulfillment, prosperity and good health.

As a design concept it has many global counterparts, often with a spiritual element–namely as prayer trees on which objects are ritualistically hung, or small sculpture versions in churches on which one might light a candle. The tree in any form  is a universally recognised symbol of solidity and reliability, of longevity and of life that was there before us and will be afterwards, and the idea of planting for ‘when we’re gone.

Kalamkari designs were very often used on cloths and rugs in temples and mosques, to reflect and encourage an attitude of prayerful thanksgiving and devotion.

The 15th chapter of the Bhagvad Gita explores the metaphor and gives rise to the design.

From verse 1 part 6 Katha Upanishad

‘There is an ancient tree

The primeval Tree of Life

Like the Banyan Tree

With roots shooting up….

And whose branches fall down

 The branches fall down and take root forming new stem


The Tree of Life design has a long tradition, repeated and re-issued in many versions and on various mediums over the last few hundred years; use as a decorative theme in a room, or as an accent to other textures and patterns.

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