It got its English name from the word, banian, for Hindu merchants or traders, as English people on the subcontinent noted that traders would sit under a shady banyan tree to do business, or to relax in its shade. Indeed, whole villages could stay under one tree that was reputedly so big that 20,000 people could be accommodated under its branches. It reportedly had a perimeter of 600 metres. The aerial roots grow into accessory trunks, and help support the massive trees.
The tree is epithetic, so when birds drop the seeds from the fruits of the banyan or bohar on the branches of other trees, they germinate and grow roots which, when they become thicker and stronger, eventually strangle the host tree.