Banyan - crafts

The sacred banyan is also useful in a variety of crafts, from lacquer work to to leather dressing. This is a useful product from the lac insect, which feeds on the banyan. Banyan fibres and wood have also been put to use.

Lac and shellac

One important product of banyan is not really from the tree at all. The resin called lac is secreted by several small insect species which parasitise various host trees. One of these host trees is banyan. The dark brown resin that the insects make becomes completely encrusted around the banyan twigs. Both shellac and lac dye can be produced from this raw material.
A photograph of rope made using banyan bark fibres housed in Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
Banyan bark fibre can be used to make rope.
Shellac is made into a varnish for paper or for the round garjifa playing cards made of fabric. It is used in French polishing of furniture. It is also used in leather dressing and to stiffen hats. It is even used to make waterproof ink for printing and has a large number of other industrial uses.

Lac dye was traditionally used to colour wool and silk. The colour varies between purple, red, brown and orange, often depending on the mordant used. However, today lac dye has been largely overtaken by synthetic dyes. Now it is the shellac which is valued most in India and the dye is washed away during shellac production.

Wood and fibre

The wood of the banyan is moderately hard and is not considered to be of much value as timber. It is durable under water and may be used for well curbs, boxes and door panels. When carefully cut and seasoned, it can be used for furniture.

The wood of the aerial roots is stronger and more elastic; it is used for tent poles, cart yokes, banghy poles and carrying shafts. This makes the roots useful as carrying poles, cart yokes and tent poles. The aerial roots also make good toothbrushes. In the Economic Botany Collection at Kew there are some partly processed fibres from banyan bark which is ready to make into paper. Fibres from both the aerial roots and the bark are also used to make rope. A modern craft is greeting cards, using banyan leaves as part of the design.