Sunday, April 26, 2009

#17. Significance of Trees in Vedas and Puranas

One forester (Rishikesh Sharma) gave this write-up to me in Hindi . I have tried to translate it so that everybody can understand and enjoy it.
Happy reading.

Significance of Trees as Mentioned in Vedas and Puranas

1. Ten wells equal a step well

Ten step wells equal a tank

Ten tanks equal a son

Ten sons equal a tree.

(Matsya Purana 512)

2. Those who plant trees in deserted and difficult to reach places

Give salvation to their previous and future generations.

(Shiva Purana Uma Samhita 11/7)

3. Those who have planted tulsi vana (Indian basil, ocimum sanctum forest) in the course of worshipping Vishnu have done yagya with all the rituals, and they have got the fruits of 100 yagyas.

(Padma Purana Srishti Khand chapter 26, Shloka 43)

4. Those who want better future should plant good trees around tanks, and raise them like sons, as the trees are considered like sons in our religion.

( Mahahbharat, Anu Parva 58/31)

5. Noble is the birth of trees who give life to all beings. They are like gentlemen who never turn anybody away disappointed.

(Bhagvat 10-22-33)

6. Trees are like gentlemen who help others. They stand in the sun but give shade to others. Their fruit is also for the use of others.

(Vikram Charitam 65)

7. The five biggest favours bestowed by trees are like five mahayagyas. They give fuel to the the families, shade and resting place to the travellers, nests to the birds, and medicines from their leaves, roots and bark.

(Varaha Purana 162-41-42)

8. Eunuchs, snakes, rakshas, gods, dancing communities, human beings and sages all seek shelter under the tree.

(Mahabharat Anu Parva-58/29)

9. Trees fulfill the desires of human beings by their leaves, flowers, shade, , root, bark, wood, fragrance, gum, ash, charcoal, buds and new leaves.

(Srimadbhagvat, Skandh, a-22 Shloka 34)

10. By planting one peepul (ficus religiosa), One neem (Azadiracht indica), one bargad (ficus bengalensis), ten Imli (Tamarindus indica), Three Kaith ( (Limonia acidissima), Three vilva (aegle marmalos), Three aonla (Indian gooseberry- Phyllanthus embilica), and five mango (mangifera indica), one can never go to hell.

(Bhahvishya Purana, Rajdharma Kaustubh Khand)

11. See my dear Friend, how lucky these trees are. Their whole life is dedicated to doing good to others. They bear storm, rain, wind, and hails, but they save us from them.

( Srimadbhagvat, Skandh dasham,A22 Shloka 37)

12. Just one tree with flowers and fruits makes the forest and environment fragrant and heavenly, like a good son to a family.

(Chanakyaniti Darpan, 3-14)

13. Those who plant one peepul (ficus religiosa), one neem (azadericht indica), one bargad ( Ficus bengalensis), ten flowering trees, two pomegranates, two oranges, and and five mango trees can never go to hell.

(Varaha Purana 12-2-39)

14. Those who plant trees in this world beget sons in the netherworld.

(Vishnudharma sutra 91-4)

15.. Trees with flowers and fruits satisfy this world. Those who donate a tree are given salvation by the same trees in the other world.

( Mahabharat Anu Parva 58/30)

16. O Tree! You bear the burden of flowers, leaves and fruits, give relief to the people from sun, and give them succour during winter. Thus you dedicate your entire life in helping others. That is why you are greater than a gentlemen. Therefore O Tree! Please accept my regards.

(Bhamini Vilasa-86)

17. Where there is tulsi vana (forest of Indian basil), god Vishnu is nearby. Brahma, Lakshmi, and all other gods are also with god Vishnu there.

(Padma purana, Srishti Khand, Ch. 26, Shloka 38)

18. God Vishnu says that aonla (Indian gooseberry) is holiest of all fruits in all the worlds. Therefore it is important to plant aonla trees . By planting it, men and women get rid of the cycle of life, death and rebirth in this world.

(Padma purana,. Srishti Khand, ch. 26, Shloka 2)

19. By worshipping peepul and Khejadi (Prosopis cineraria, shami) trees , even a barren woman begets a child.

(Atharva veda Pt. 612-11 first stanza)

20. God said: 'O King! It is I who dwell in peepul tree and look after the three worlds. Where there is no peepul tree, I don’t reside.

(Mahabaharat Vaishnavdharma parva Chapter -19)

21. What is the use of having so many sons, If they are irreligious and poor? Compared to them the roadside tree is better in whose shade travellers take rest.

(Upavan Vinod)

22. The leaves, flowers, seeds, root, branches, bark, stem and even the soil of the place where tulsi shrub grows are all holy.

(Padma purana Uttarkhand 24/2)

23. Wherever there are aonla trees, poverty disappears. All gods become satisfied by aonla trees, reside in it, and do not forsake it for a moment.

(Padma purana Srishti Khand, Ch. 26, Shloka 15.)

24.. The man who worships Vishnu with tulsi leaves can never be involved in sins like a lotus leaf in water.

(Brahma vaivarta Purana)

25. Those who plant trees, for them they are like sons. There is no doubt that because of those trees, man attains heaven after his death.

(Mahabharata Anu parva 58/27)

26. If you water a mango tree, the ancestors feel happy.

(Mahabhashya, Part I)

27. If you destroy a tree, you also destroy leaves, flowers and fruits, and the country has lesser or excess rainfall resulting in famine.


Friday, April 24, 2009

#16. My Dear Uncle


My youngest uncle is a strange character. My father had three
brothers. Chhote Kaka was the youngest, and a posthumous child. My
grandfather had died of cholera which was a yearly feature those days
in eastern part of U.P. If you mark, all the English settlements were
some distance away from the town so as to keep away from filth, and
crowd. They were thus saved from the epidemics because of this
distance from the native colonies.
Anyway, to come back to Kakaji who is the only survivor of the four
brothers. He is above 80, but he is mobile, and his mind is alert.
Healthwise he is ok. I don’t think that he has even hypertension.
The stories I am narrating are not of recent times, and they had all
happened when his mind and body were fitter and more alert.
Kakaji is known for his miserly habits. Once somebody closely related
to me by marriage was sitting with him in his drawing room. It was
mild summer,which requires a fan, and not a cooler or AC. I don’t
know whether he had a single phase electric connection or a three
phase one. Anyway, after 5 minutes or so, my Kaka asks this
gentleman whether he would mind if he switches off the fan in that
room, as another fan was on in another room in the flat. To say the
least, the gentleman was stunned, and he could only shake his head in
assent.. Nedless to say this gentleman after a few minutes said
goodbye to him and walked away.
Those days I was posted at Delhi. I had serious road accident in which
I injured my backbone, and was in bed for three months. For about a
fortnight I was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital. On such occasions
people close to you, friends and relatives come to see you, and as I
was fully conscious with all the limbs intact (touch wood!) they could
easily come to my bedside and chat. One afternoon Kakaji came to
see me. He was living in far-off Janankpuri, and before the coming of
metro rail, going from one place to another by public transport was
quite time-consuming. Kakaji chatted with me for sometime, and also
saw a few magazines lying on the bedside table. When he got up to
leave he suddenly picked up a magazine (it was Navneet I think). I
mildly suggested to him that he took another magazine (Kadambini I
think), but he said that he had already read that. In truth, the magazine
he wanted to take was mint-fresh and I hadn’t read a word of it. But
then chivalry is the best part of valour and I said ok.
Much later a cousin of mine (I will call him Munna) who stayed in
Nagpur told me that Kakaji was talking to him on phone on the same
day in the morning, and had told him in disgust and frustration as to
what custom we Indians have that people had to go and see if
anybody was not well and admitted to a hospital.
Munna had a few more stories about him. Once he was visiting Kakaji
for a few days, and one evening Kaki had cooked mutton. Munna told
me that even while the mutton was being cooked, the children (three)
and Kakaji entered the kitchen and started eating the delicious pieces.
Later even Kaki feasted on a few pieces. What was left now was the
curry for the poor guest, to be eaten with chapatti and rice. Now don’t
think that Kakaji was poor. He had a Reader-equivalent post in a
Delhi university, and had his own flat, with all the installments paid.
Earlier he had spent about 15 years in a south-east asian country, and
had earned good money. Although he claims that he lost a lot of
money in some foolish investment in some dubious company.
Munna also told me that Kakaji had a phobia about guests coming and
staying with him, some for a few days and some for longer periods.
Once Munna had some work in Delhi, and he rang up Kakaji to
inquire whether he would be available during that period. Promptly he
replied that he and the entire family would be out of station for some
time in connection with a marriage in his in-laws’ family. His reply
was so quick that Munna got suspicious, and at Delhi when he got
down from the train, very confidently he drove straight to his place,
and lo and behold! Kakaji was very much there. Later when Munna
asked him as to why he had not given correct information to him, he
coolly replied that his programme got cancelled at the eleventh hour.
To think that this was when Kakaji had stayed with Munna’s family in
Calcutta for almost a year when he had a job there.
Munna incidentally is a heart patient, he took voluntary retirement
from a good bank job, and the last angiography he had was in 1995 I
think. He must have a few blockages, although he never reveals
anything truthfully, and refuses to undergo surgery saying that he has
lived his life, and there is no point in going in for a major surgery. Not
that he cannot afford it.
A similar incident happened to me when I was posted to Mumbai. I
was going on a short trip to Pune, and my wife decided to join me.
Kakaji’s younger daughter is married to some guy in Pune. I rang up
Kakaji at Delhi and tried to find his daughter’s phone number. Well,
he did give a number but when at Pune we tried to contact her on that
phone number, we found that it was not her number. I immediately understood that
Kakaji didn’t want his daughter to be disturbed….. we could have
gone and stayed with her for a few days. Ultimately we found her
correct number from her elder sister who stayed in Chembur. When I
once met him at Delhi after some weeks and told him about it, he very
easily replied that the number he gave must have been her old
number. I then remembered one or two of my colleagues when asked
about their residential or mobile number, they did give it to you, but
with one digit wrong! If asked about it later, they could very well say
that it was a mistake on their part or my part. Such are the ways of
Remebering Munna’s experience, I once played a crude joke on him. I
rang up from Gwalior and told him that I would be coming with my
step mother who was a cripple in her last days and will be staying with
him for about a fortnight for her treatment. I also told him that I would
have to bring two servants with me, one for carrying her up and down
(he was staying on the first floor), and her maid servant for helping
her in her daily chores. He almost had a fit. After a sleepless night he
rang me up and told that it would make things very difficult if Jiji ( as
we called our step mother) was brought to his house. I was laughing in
my heart, and argued about it for some time. We could not reach any
conclusion at that time. I got a call from him a few hours later. I
thought enough was enough, and told him that I had no intention of
bringing my mother to his place, and it was all a prank played on him.
He was not amused, obviously.
To wind up, Kakaji came to my son’s wedding at Delhi some time
back. The venue of marriage was quite some distance from Janakpuri
where he has lived all through. I was really grateful that he could
come with his son and daughter-in-law, after a couple of hours or so
on the road, so probably he is not all that bad.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

#15. Nakshatra Vana Trees

3. Krittika..............ficus fig.....Gullar

14. Chitra..........Cretiva religiosa ..Sacred garlic pear

19. moola: anjan.....Hardwickia binata

20. Poorvashadha: tinosporia cordifolia_guduchi

27 Revati - Mahua leaves

27. Revati - Madhuca indica (mahua)

26. Uttabhadrapada..Neem

25. Poorvabhadrapada...Mango

24. Shatabhisha..Kadamba

23. Dhanishtha..Vilayati Keekar

22. Shravan..Madar/aak....calotropis gigantea

21. Uttarashadha..Kathal


18.Jyeshtha..Pinus Banksiana

17. Anuradha..Maulshree

16. Vishakha..Wood apple..Kaith

15. Swati...Jarul..Lagerstroemia speciosa

13. Hasta..hog plum...amda

12. Uttarphalguni...kanail...Nerium Oleander

11. Poorvaphalguni.. Palalsh..Butea monosperma

10. Magha Banyan....Bargad

9. Ashlesha..Sultana Champa..Callophyllum inophyllum

8. Pushya..Peepul..Ficus religiosa

7. Punarvasu..Bamboo..Bans

6. Ardra...Long Pepper.. Piper longum

5. Mrigshirsha..Khair...Acacia catechu

4. Rohini - Jaamun - Syzigium Cumini

3. Krittika...Gular...Ficus racemosa...Country fig

2. Bharani... Aonla

1. Ashwini.. Strychnos nux vomica

Zodiac is the band in the sky within which the planets wander. This is divided into 360 dgrees. There are12 zodiac signs and therefore, each zodiac sign (rashi) occupies 30 degrees. Concurrently there are 27 nakshatras and therefore each zodiac sign carries 2 1/4 nakshatras.

Hindu astrology is based on 12 zodiac signs, 9 planets (grahas) and 27 nakshtras. There is ascendant or lagna which in simplest words is the constelllation in which the sun is sitting at the time of birth of the person. Mapping of sky at the time of the birth is the first step of Hindu astrology. A jataka can be born with any of the 12 constellations in the ascendant, and the same way for nakshatras.

Nakshatras occupy only a marginal place in in the astrogical interpretation. Probably nakshatras should be employed more often in jyotish than they are today. In short, when nakshatras are well placed they display their positive indications and when afflicted, their negative indications can be displayed.

But all this introduction I have made to lead you on to NAKSHATRAVAN. Each nakshatra is suppposed to have a tree of its own, and it is believed the tree of nakshatra in which the person is born gives strength to him. I don't say that it should be believed, or for that matter astrology as such, but nakshatra van is an attractive idea and a way to encourage growing trees.

Several temples in the South India have developed gaardens with nakshatra trees. M. Sundararaman writes that Meenakshi temple at Madurai, Parthasarathi temple at Thiruvallikkeni, Chennai, Shankarnarainan Koil have edveloped gardens with nakshatra vanas. In addition, Bangalore Vidhan Soudha garden and Jharkhand Secretariat garden have also developed nakshatra vanas.

Which are the 27 trees? I took some time to search for the trees. There was some readymade material in indiantreepix website, and I matched the botanical and common names in Hindi and Tamil (which I got forom the beginning). I hope the list is correct. Comments are welcome.

I have also collected some photographs of the trees which I am sure people would find useful if they decide to develop such nakshatra van during the coming rainy season.

1 ASHWINI Strychnine Etti….. ?..... Nux vomica
2 BHARANI Indian Gooseberry PeruNelli…..Aonla….. Phyllanthus emblica
3 KRITTIKA Country Fig Aththi….Gullar…..ficus racemosa
4 ROHINI Jamun Naaval…..Jamun…..Syzigium cumini
5 MRIGASHIRSA Milmesha (or, Acacia catechu) Karungal (or, Khair/ Kattha**)
6.ARDRA Long pepper...Thippilli.....Piplamul....Piper longum
7 PUNARVASU Bamboosa Moongil.....Baans....Bamboo
8 PUSHYA Peepul Arasamaram…..Peepal…..Ficus religiosa
9 ASHLESHA Alexandrian Laurel Punnai....Sultana Champa....Calophyllum inopyllum
10 MAGHA Banyan Aalamaram….bargad…..Ficus bengalensis
11 POORVAPHALGUNI Flame of the Forest Palasu…Palalsh, Kinshuk…Butea monosperma
12 UTTARAPHALGUNI Rose Laurel Arali……Kanail....Nerium Oleander
13 HASTA Hog Plum Kaattuma………Amda…..Spondias pinnate
14 CHITRA Bengal Quince Vilvam…..Barna….Crataeva adansonii subsp. Odora (garlic pear)
15 SWATI Queen's Flower Marutham…..Jarul…..Lagerstroemia speciosa
16 VISHAKHA Wood Apple Vila….Kaith…..Limonia acidissima
17 ANURADHA Mimusops Maghizham….Maulshree…..Mimusops elengi
18 JYESHTHA Stunted Jack Kuttipala…..?.....Pinus Banksiana
19 MOOLA Hardwickia Acha…..Anjan…..Hardwickia binate
20 POORVASHADHA Tinospora Vanchikkodi…..giloya, guduchi, amrita.....Tinospora Cordifolia
21 UTTARASHADHA Jack Fruit Pala…..Kathal…..Artocarpus heterophyllus
22 SRAVANA Swallow Wort Erukku…..Madar, Ark...
23 DHANISHTHA Indian Mesquit Vanni…..vilayti kikar…..Prosopis juliflora
24 SHATABHISHA Indian Oak Kadambu…..Kadamba…..Neolamarckia cadamba
25 POORVABHADRAAPADAI Mango Maamaram…..Aam…..Mangifera indica
26 UTTARBHADRAPADA Neem Vembu…..neem…..Azadirachta indica
27 REVATI Maduca luppai…..Mahua…..Madhuca indica
**Suggested by Satish Phadke.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

#14. Gori ke Angana Phule Phulwari

About half a century ago, when I was in teens and living in eastern part of U.P. which is the heart of Bhojpuri language and Bhojpuri speaking people, there was a poet of Bhojpuri.
Those were not the days when the poets charged for appearance and participation, although we heard that Bachchan (Harivansh Rai) had started taking participation money which was unheard of these days. Maximum one could expect was to and fro fare, board and lodging and probably a small out-of-pocket allowance. I remembered that when posted at Durg (now in Chhattisgarh) I had gone to the railway station in the night, probably to see off or receive some dignitary or friend, I don’t remember now, and after I had done the duty, while returning I saw Sri Gopaldas Neeraj all alone on the platform,with a small suitcase beside him I had heard him the night before). Neeraj used to be our favourite during our student days. His ‘Carvaan guzar gaya, gubar dekhte rahe’ was quite famous, and later it was included in a film also. But what I most fondly remember of his his poetry is the four lines: ‘Haan woh apna chhota sa birwa/ Ghar ki har chudi jis par arghya chadhati hai/ Syed ka woh aala ki jis jegah har mushkil/ do chaar batashon mein hi hal ho jati hai’ (The small shrub all the ladies in the house offer water and prayer (Tulsi), Syed’s corner where every problem is solved with two or four sweets). The poem was about the devastation an atomic war would bring. Anyway I chatted with Neeraj for some time before going my way.

To come back to our Bhojpuri poet. I don’t think he would be alive now. At that time he looked to be in his forties.

The poem I remember is ‘Gori ke angana phule phulwari’ (The garden is bloomig on the body of the fair maiden). Now I remember only one more line of it: ‘Koin bani bichhuari’ (Lily with its long stalk becomes the toe-ring’).

The other day I tried to remember which other flowers he had mentioned adorning the fair maiden’s body, but I could not recall. If anybody remembers that poem or knows the source from where I could get the wordings of the poem, I will be grateful, and assure him a drink next time we meet.

But let me guess what flowers he would have described. Ears with amaltas (Indian laburnum) as jhumka (pendant), or maybe shirish (albizzia). Lotus for armband. A garland of mogra (jasminum sambac), palash flowers (butea monosperma) for waist band, juhi or chameli (jasmine again) for a wrist band, champa (michelia champak) for paijeb (ankle band)and a garland of maulshree (mimusops elengi) for offering (make it the lover or god!)

I also have a vague memory of calendar artists of those days who were very fond of painting Shakuntala-the forest maiden- decked only in flowers for ornaments. Raja Ravi Verma also did paint the immortal forest girl. But from those pictures I remember only lotus and jasmine. Lotus of course is closely associated with our mythology. Vishnu holds a lotus in one of its hands. Lakshmi -the goddess of wealth- is shown on a stand made like lotus, and the pollinating bumblebee caged inside a lotus flower overnight (at least in makhana flower, it happens!).

My my! I have completely forgotten hair decoration. What could this be?

Anybody game for finding the most appropriate flowers for adorning the fair maiden from head to toe (aa nakh-shikh)?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

#13. Of Bats and Bastar

Of Bats and Bastar
Crows caw at night. This I realized in Mumbai. The other of course is bats. That reminds of my days at Bastar in the early nineties of the last(!) century. I sometimes spent nights at Kondagaon rest house which I think is about 70 km from Jagdalpur, the district and divisional headquarters.. The first night I stayed there I heard a lot of bird noise. I wondered which bird could be. In the morning I realised that it was bats and not birds who were making the screeching sound throughout the night. The tiles of the rest house had become almost white with the droppings, and it stank also. There was a fig tree also I forget which one. Probably bengalensis. Incidentally, the bungalows of Collector and the Superintendent of Police were adjacent to each other. SP’s compound had a huge peepul tree (ficus religiosa) which was the abode of lots of bats. Sitting in his lawn, he used to shoot them with a .22 rifle, and very often the dead bats used to fall in Collector’s compound. Needless to say he was least amused.

Incidentally it is said that Bastar is place where the tribals eat everything that moves on the ground or flies in the sky. There are very few birds and even lesser wild animals, in spite of having a number of national parks and sanctuaries. The tribals make a decorative head gear made of the long streamers of racquet-tailed drongo (something like the olive branch round the head of Greek gods). Each such crown uses about one hundred tails. I once asked a tribal what they do with the drongo after cutting their trailing tails. His reply was that they were released. I don’t believe it. But for tree lovers Bastar is a paradise. Shorea robusta groves which are considered sacred and therefore they are intact are a delight to be under their shade, some of the trees would be touching a century.
It is unfortunate that Bastar has fallen into bad days, with the Maoists from the Andhra having made life difficult for everybody.