Saturday, April 17, 2010

Our very own Kalpavriksha the Paarijaat


The Bangkok Airport has this very fine and artistic depiction of Samudra Manthan ie The churning of the Ocean.The Kumbha Mela going on past couple of months which culminated i presume on the 16th of this month is actually a celebration to commemorate the most famous and important episode in the Puranas.
As a result of this churning of the ocean 14 gems or Ratnas emerged from the Kshirsaagar and among these 14 gems or Ratnas were also 2 trees. The Paarijaat the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt being one and the second being the Kalpavriksha or the wish granting tree.
Thanks to an impressive blogger whom i stumbled upon accidently i need not narrate the mythological story of Samudra Manthan here. Not when i want to talk about Paarijaat. i would want to believe that the tree was brought down to the earth by Lord Krishna from the garden of Indra the lord of Heaven.

Harashringara it is called in Hindi meaning the ornament of the Gods. Paarijaat is the Sanskrit word meaning descended from the sea.The Bengalis call it Shephalika/Shephali  and even Shiuli and in English it is commonly known as Queen of the night and better still as Coral Jasmine.
 As a child i remember when my father was posted in Arrah one of the districts of Bihar we had this tree in our garden and Ma would go every morning just before sunrise to pick all these flowers that formed a carpet on the ground. She would use these not only to make garlands for her Gods but on the eve of Holi (the Hindu festival of colours) would prepare coloured water for us kids to play with,  using the stalks of these flowers.

It never occurred to me then why when she would pick these flowers from the ground she plucked others from the trees for her daily pooja. It was much later that i learnt that these flowers have a special status and are the only flowers that can be offered to the Gods even when they lie on the ground.

Ma told us many stories about Harshringaar when we were infants and one of the stories was how this tree which was in heaven was brought to the earth. As kids we delighted in the stories and found it so real because even Gods behaved like us and they quarreled like us be it for supremacy or even trees.
The second story was about the jealousy between wives and the third spoke volumes in favour of Lord Krishna as to how with his cleverness he could maintain peace between his two wives when both wanted the one and only Paarijaat exclusively for themselves. Of course these stories were preceded by the great Churning of Khirsaagar ( The Ocean of Milk ) from which as one of the bounties emerged this tree.
 i would like to believe that this indeed is the tree that also grants boons as of late i have come to know the immense medicinal values of Paarijaat/Harshingaar that caters to a host of ailments like piles, constipation, jaundice, malaria, rheumatism, sciatica, dry cough, ring worm and other intestinal worms, chronic fevers, as a tonic for females to cure gyneacological problems, as a safe purgative for infants in Patan, Gujrat ( India) and some even use it to get rid of dandruff and lice. Finally for those interested in cosmetology a face mask made with these flowers helps to have a glowing and radiant skin.

Sometimes i wonder how names too convey sadness and why in the first place have sad names. The taxonomic name 'arbotristis' means "sad tree". The flower blooms in the night and falls off from the tree at the first light of the sun carpeting the ground, still a delight to the revelers like me. i guess then nature in this form is always teaching us reminding us to be selfless. Also to live life beautifully even when it could be a short life. Definitely it could sadden the heart when you think from the point of view of the tree itself as my friend from school and fellow blogger has put it so beautifully.

My story today is the legend from Vishnu Purana about a beautiful daughter of a king. She fell head over heels for Surya ( the Sun).
The Sun in his passionate moment said, "Leave your kingdom and be mine ."
Such is the the power of love that she readily agreed and discarded her royal robes and followed her beloved.
As it happens with passion which soon dies off,  the Sun grew indifferent to her and cold towards her devotion and love. He got tired of her and deserted her leaving her in the lurch and fled back to the sky.
The young beautiful princess wilted and languished and soon died heartbroken. She was cremated as per the rites of being burnt on the funeral pyre. But lo and behold! from her ashes grew the most beautiful tree.

From the drooping branches of the tree grew the most beautiful flower with a deep orange heart. But since the flowers cannot bear the sight of the sun they only bloom after sunset and drop down as the first ray of sun shoots out at dawn. The flowers thus carpets the area on the ground surrounding the tree with a sweet and refreshing fragrance. One can get this refreshing fragrance at it's best before dawn between 5-6 am.

That Siuli/Sephalika/Sephali is the official flower of West Bengal is a newly learnt fact thanks to the great search engine Google. Since i thought i saw lots of Tuber roses ie Rajnigandha in Kolkata i was pleasantly surprised. My knowledge about it also being the official flower of Kanchanaburi province Thailand was an additional bonus of this search.One search led to another and i realised that i knew so little about something that is helping me to get rid of my own aches and pains and also of my MIL who suffered for a long time with sciatica. My neighbour on learning from me about her problem told me about the curative powers of the decoction made with the leaves of this tree.Since i was aware that my in laws have this tree in their garden i quickly disseminated the knowledge to them. Whether she tried it or not i didn't know because she never gave me a follow up on that but all i know now is that she no longer complains on my absence from the scene when she had to rely upon the neighbours for help in her time of distress. Not until my enquiry about her pain on the telephone was answered with a dry " Abhi dard nahin hai " ( Now there is no pain). This brought a smile on account of two reasons firstly that i know she tried it and it worked and secondly so typical of her,  finding it so hard to say Thank You to her bahu ( daughter in law).

The search engine failed me on one account though and exhausted me to sleep as i looked for this classical song by Hemant Kumar and his daughter Ranu Mukherjee from this film ' Phir Bhi ' which i thought would had been very apt for this blog as it goes on about this beauty like this " Saanjh Khile bhor jhar phool Harshingaar ke ..." ( Blossoming in the evening shedding at dawn this flower Harshingaar ...) Maybe some good soul who stumbles upon my blog could help me out on this. High hopes but nevertheless...
What i did find i thought was very informative so i quit for the time being with this article by Pankaj Oudhia and so many lovely photos of so many avid enthusiasts. God bless them for their love and hard work which dazzles and enlightens people like me who suddenly seem to know more about that creation which not only supports and protects but sparkles our dull lives with so much of beauty. Beauty that soothes and relaxes and...BRINGS BACK ROMANCE INTO OUR LIVES.

Oh and i must mention this that as Vasanti Amma peered into my screen to find out what made my food go cold she looked at the pictures and wanted to say so much. i asked her first as to why we don't get to see this beautiful tree in Chennai? She had a weird explanation to that. She said that Chennaites are very afraid of snakes and because fragrant trees attract snakes they avoid fragrant shrubs of any kind in the garden.
Animatedly she talked about Bangalore as she is originally from there and sort of goaded me that if my husband takes a transfer posting there then i'd be happier as Bangalore roads are fragrant and there are this and  many other fragrant trees all around and it also has a wonderful climate not at all hot and sultry like Chennai.
She sits down to narrate how she eloped home at the age of 12 with her Hindu lover and came to Chennai in the early 70's. She talks with fondness of the Bangalore she left and i let her carry on.Interrupting her to tell her the latest would've been cruel on my part. The latest being that unscruplously the trees in Bangalore are being cut down making space for more human settlements. It would be cruel on my part to tell her that the city of gardens has seized to be one and instead is turning into the very familiar concrete jungle and the climate that she knew of has undergone a sea change from what she had experienced pre elopment. Some of us like my fellow blogger Karthik  are finding it heartbreaking  to see this happening quite regularly and speak with sadness about the goings on " who cares for trees these days...". What are we doing to this beautiful land of ours? i guess then let's enjoy what we can cause we don't know how long this enjoyment is going to last. So let me dwell on all around me and all those that are perfuming my thoughts. At the moment this one the HARSHRINGAAR.


    The flower of the Gods for      
            the Gods helps mankind against all odds

Stumbled upon this simple but nice poem by Ritty Patnaik on Coral Jasmine: and now it's time for me to go about my mundane chores which apart from picking up flowers like today i have Kaner (Nerium oleander), Gerbera and Harsingaar ( Nyctanthes arbor tristis) that have fallen off the tree/plant and arranging them into bowls filled with water are endless...the Gerbera however was incorporated here from another vase which had just Gerberas from the florists and were not just picked up...

 photo courtesy:                                                                                                                                              


  1. Thanks for sharing useful information about ancient herbs, these herbs widely used in Ayurveda to treat variuos health problems.

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  3. @Nikita thank you for ur vist.Glad that you found the information useful. :)

  4. Hi Shivani,

    This post brought back old memories. Growing up in Patna with my grandparents, I reacall using these flowers for Pooja. My neighbor had this tree and I had a free pass to get the flowers whenever I wanted. I used to bring a whole bunch and make garlands for the Gods. My grandma used to be so happy when I did that. Beautiful pictures of the flowers. I feel like I am back in my neighbor's house..... sitting under the tree..... picking the flowers.......

  5. @Preeti haan re...memories is all there is about this fact many trees of my childhood i don't see anymore like what they used to call Agasta ka paed the flowers of which we used to make delicious pakoras with...ask aunty or uncle perhaps they would know if you are unable to trace Agasta.Feel glad that once again we could connect...thanks a ton :)

  6. the story of parijaat i know is slightly different, but very romantic. the princess fell in love with surya and he agreed to marry her on one condition: she should never turn away from me. now it was autumn and they got married. during winter the sun's power isn't too much so winter and spring passed too. they were much in love. but when summer came, the sun's power was so strong that she began to burn just coming near him. one afternoon the sun suddenly appeared in her chambers and she was so struck by the power she blinked away from him for a second. the sun was so angry he turned on the power so her body became twisted and gnarled. but the gods knew she loved her husband very much, so the granted her life as a tree. they say the sun visits her at night and they make love. that's why the flowers are so fragrant and they have been kissed by the sun.


  7. @Manisha thanks to you and Amar Chitra Katha that one comes flooding back to me now...that one was Ma's...but hey loved to hear the romantic part...why the flowers are so fragrant at night..."kissed by the sun".U have made my day :)

  8. shivani, ilearnt a lot about the fragrant flower- haeshringaar. I did not have the experience of witnessing it but i sure would like see these flowers and their amazing glorious fragrance. Thanks for educating me...

  9. @Mini thank you for giving me credits on that...intentions well recieved...happy very happy :)

  10. great story...BTW why does true love gets easily besotted with insensitive, egotistic lovers like the 'Sun'.

    Hey Shivani do you know what the 14 gems from Kshirsaagar were? Share it if anyone knows xx

  11. @Sabina thanks dear for reading...ur questioning on love...err it happens sometimes...and did u know love is never equal on both side always does it more and thats why i guess it flows.However with the sun it was not love but passion which i believe has to dwindle to nothing.
    Ok for the 14 ratnas please see
    In any case if u had opened the link im my blog by Prem Piyush u would be knowing the 14 gems/Ratnas already.
    Thank you for stopping by on a Sunday and we could relate. :)

  12. Great information thanks for sharing.

  13. Hi,
    Stumbled upon your blog while searching for poems on harashringara which incidentdly is a flower i wait for the whole year...beautifully written and explained great info. Loved reading your post, looking forward to many moreto come

  14. Thank you so much Wricha...when it comes to trees and plants i am always wanting to know... starting with names ending to the tales associated with it. Haven’t blogged for a long time now but ur comment makes me do it once again. :)

    1. Uff typing on my tiny phone... pls read Wricha...ur comment encourages me to do it once again.