Ficus racemosa (syn. Ficus glomerata Roxb.) is a species of plant in the family Moraceae. Popularly known as the cluster fig tree, Indian fig tree or goolar (gular) fig, this is native to Australia, Malaysia, Indo-China and the Indian subcontinent. It is unusual in that its figs grow on or close to the tree trunk, termed cauliflory. In India, the tree and its fruit are called gular in the north and atti in the south. The fruits are a favourite staple of the common Indian macaque. It serves as a food plant for the caterpillars of the two-brand crow butterfly (Euploea sylvester) of northern Australia.
In the Atharva Veda, this fig tree (Sanskrit: uḍumbara or udumbara) is given prominence as a means for acquiring prosperity and vanquishing foes. For instance, regarding an amulet of the udumbara tree, a hymn (AV xix,31) extols:
It has been described in the story of Raja Harischandra of the Ikshvaku dynasty, that the crown was a branch of this udumbura tree, set in a circlet of gold. Additionally, the throne (simhasana) was constructed out of this wood and the royal personage would ascend it on his knee, chanting to the gods to ascend it with him, which they did so, albeit unseen. Its leaves are an indispensable part of many Hindu havans.
Both the tree and the flower are referred to as the udumbara (Sanskrit, Pali; Devanagari: उडुम्बर) in Buddhism. Udumbara can also refer to the blue lotus (nila-udumbara, "blue udumbara") flower. The udumbara flower appears in chapters 2 and 27 of the Lotus Sutra, an important Mahayana Buddhist text. The Japanese word udon-ge (優曇華, literally "udon/udumbara flower") was used by Dōgen Zenji to refer to the flower of the udumbara tree in chapter 68 of the Shōbōgenzō ("Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma"). Dōgen places the udonge in the context of the Flower Sermon given by Gautama Buddha on Vulture Peak. Udonge is also used to refer to the eggs of the lacewing insect. The eggs are laid in a pattern similar to a flower, and its shape is used for divination in Asian fortune telling.
In ancient times, both Hindu and Buddhist ascetics on their way to Taxila (Takshasila) travelling through vast areas of Indian forests used to consume the fruit during their travels. One challenge to vegetarians were the many fig wasps that one finds when opening a gular fig. One way to get rid of them was to break the figs into halves or quarters, discard most of the seeds and then place the figs into the midday sun for an hour. Gular fruit are almost never sold commercially because of this problem.
The bark of audumbar (oudumbar) tree is said to have healing power. In countries like India, the bark is rubbed on a stone with water to make a paste, which can be applied over afflicted by boils or mosquito bites. Allow the paste to dry on the skin and reapply after a few hours. For people whose skin is especially sensitive to insect bites, this is a very simple home remedy.