Remember my earlier post on Pallikaranai Marsh posts here and here? Remember on what occasion I went there? It was for Madras Day. Madras Day is celebrated every year on August 22st. Basically its the b'day of Chennai, the day British Raj named this piece of land as Madraspatnam. Its not just a day, its almost a month long celebration of late, and several events occur.
Well, this year, I attended 2 tree walks conducted by Nizhal - Friends of Trees. The first was in Kalakshetra. Kalakshetra is one of my favourite places to visit ever since college days. Well, my college was very close to the place. Kalakshetra is essentially a dance school. Its one of the green lungs of Chennai. Its a huge sprawling campus filled with tons of trees. Walking about seeing the tree is a great thing. But you know what's more awesome? Its walking about seeing the trees and hearing carnatic music singer Dr.S.Sowmya sing about the trees!!!! That's exactly what happened. Dr.Sowmya has extensively researched to find carnatic songs and Tamil hymns & literature where the names of various trees are specified. Here are some of the trees I saw, mostly Indigenous Trees and some songs by Sowmya and her students about them...
First is the Peepul tree. Its called Arasa Maram in Tamil. Its also called Bodhi Tree coz Gauthama Buddha attained revelation under this. Its also called Ashwatha Tree, coz Ashwatha means horse and ages ago peepul trees were the resting places of the horses during long journeys. Its also called Nikrotha Tree. There's a symbolization of infant Lord Krishna on Peepul leaf. In Bhagavath Geetha Lord Krishna calls himself the Peepul Tree. It belongs to the fig family.
Next we stopped at Magizha Maram. Infact Kalakshetra has an entire road of Magizha Maram called Magizham Avenue. It belongs to the Zapota family. Its the sthala vruksham of Thiruvotriyur Thyagesar Temple. Its also called Simha Kesavam, which literally means lion's mane, coz the flowers look so. The flowers are being used in perfume industry these days. The paste of the leaves is a cure for headache. The unripe fruit is edible and helps strengthening gums. Its called Vakulam / Bakulam in Old Tamil & Sanskrit and that's the word found in carnatic songs. Its also called Indian Bullet Wood.
Our next stop was Jamun Tree and I loved its bark texture. While saying the lineage of anyone in Tamil, its starts with saying 'Jambudweepa Bharathakanda...' means the 'In the land of Jamun, in India....'. It transpires 10-20lt of water everyday and so, its considered the airconditioning tree. It controls diabetes. The Lord Shiva in Thiruvanaikka is called Jambukeshwara after this tree. May be that's coz the temple represents water of the 5 elements and the tree is the king in transpiration!!!
Next was located centrally at Kalakshetra, the huge Banyan Tree which is 70 yrs old. It was almost as huge as the Sivaranthagam Banyan. Its the National Tree of India. Long back, the Baniya community people held their flea market under this tree and that's why its called the Banyan tree. Its called Vatapatra Sayi and that's the word mostly found in carnatic songs.
We moved over to Vaagai Tree. Remember the winning of Durga over Mahishasur as Mahishasura Mardhini depicted in a panel at Mahabalipuram? Well, before the war she performed penance under Vaagai tree. That's why when kings win they were crowned with Vaagai leaves. Its also called Suga Pushpa Maram.
Next we stopped at Mango Tree. In Tamil its called Maamaram. Traditional daily door decoration involved a garland of mango tree leaves coz its a great disinfectant. Its considered sacred for the Buddhist coz the Lumbini Garden where Buddha was born has several Mango trees.
Remember my post on Indian Laburnum aka Golden Shower tree? Yup, that was our next stop. Its called Sarakkondrai in Tamil. The pulp of the fruit is a mild laxative. Its fruit is eaten a lot by monkeys. Since the individual flowers look like the symbol of OM, its also called Omkara flower. In fact, the area Byculla in Mumbai got its name from this tree - Bawa Kala where Bawa means this tree!!!
Our next stop was Kalyana Murungai. The young leaves of this improves fertility and the flowers are a source of natural dyes! Its called Kinchuka in Sanskrit. It's one of the trees which is found very less in literature. A line is Thiruvasagam says 'Erukkodu Murukkum Magizha Vanniyum ilai nalam pagara...'.
Finally after about an hour, our final stop was the Punnai tree, which is a speciality for Lord Krishna as he played under this tree in his childhood. This is the sthala vruksham to Mylapore Kapalishwara Temple and that's why he's called Punnai Vana Nathar. The oil of the fruit has been proved to cure leprosy!!! And with that we wrapped up! Coming up soon with the next tree walk... Stay tuned....