Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trees and Sunday.

I planted four trees last week.   A banyan, a pipal, a red frangipani and a lime.  The Banyan’s history is impressive.   It is India’s national tree and the largest tree you can find in India or indeed anywhere in the world. The Indian name for it is “Vat” (pronounced “vut”) . Once a year, during Vat Poornima, (meaning Full Moon Night of the Vat) Indian, married women after fasting the whole day,  find a Vat tree, anoint it, then circumambulate the tree tying white string to its trunk.  By evening the trunk is completely covered over and white with strings. This ritual is meant to ensure the long life of the husband. (And no, there is no similar ritual observed by men.)

 I didn’t plant the banyan for any ritualistic reason.  I found it growing along with a pipal, in a small pot, which its owner had discarded by the roadside.  The banyan’s strong roots had tried to thrust out of the plastic pot in an effort to survive but hadn’t succeeded and both plants were dying. I brought the pot home, took the plants out and planted them, in the garden of my building, with some water and a prayer.

The pipal too has an interesting background.   As if being the tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment, wasn't history enough, it was also believed that planting a pipal in your courtyard would guarantee you a male heir and even today a walk in the villages shows a pipal outside almost every house.  I do believe though that THAT was a tale planted just to get people to grow more trees.

Interestingly, villagers used to conduct the marriage of the pipal and the neem tree complete with priest, rites and bridal finery with the neem being the bride.   It is a strange fact, that more often than not, the pipal and neem, even in places where they haven’t been planted by human hand, can be found growing close to each other - trunk, branches and leaves clinging together very romantically.  Perhaps it was this sight which made our imaginative villagers, want to legalize their relationship!

The lime I found growing in a pot on my terrace and trying its best to edge out the buttercup growing there.  My lime tree has no history. How it came to be in the pot I know not.  I've planted it with the others in the hope of a fruitful future for it.

As for the frangipani it was only after buying frangipani to plant last year that I learnt that one can grow them simply by snapping off a small branch and tucking it into soil. The one I’ve planted now is a branch of a rare red frangipani growing near my office. It is still a stub but I’m giving it lots of love, so I think it’ll thrive.  The other three though as you can see, are looking very pleased with themselves.
When will you come by and see them?

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