Thursday, October 14, 2010

I learnt Something today

21.08.2014 image by me taken on the terrace of my residence in N. Delhi of her ie the flower from
my own Sacred Tree
Blog post addition...edit...24-08-2014

Chinese lantern, Sickle Bush, Bell Mimosa
Dichrostachys cinerea

Thanks to Flickr photo sharing i found what i had been searching for. Actually for the last few days now.
The sight of that beautiful blossom of the very sacred tree. Maybe it was quite natural for me to go seeking for this evergreen tree as it is during this festival of Navaratri that the tree is worshipped, especially.

The  dainty and pretty blossom resembling a slender and cute bottle brush of lavender with a golden yellow top is that of the Shami tree, also known botanically as Dichrostachys cinerea.

Thanks to Mr Anonymous dated Aug 2014 in my comment box...i guess a couple of years or so when this blog was written i have the correct name and identity of the flower and the tree.

Bell Mimosa
or...Kalahari Christmas tree
or... Chinese Lantern
or... Sickle Bush
Perhaps many of us know it by it's other synonym tree named Khejri thanks to our learning in school about the Chipko movement. As kids i am sure how most of us were aghast more with a sense of incredibility to the story than to really appreciate the brave act of the Bishnoi community. Of course then it seemed as an exercise in futility to be axed for, ' A Tree ' .
But we can be excused for that. For naturally we were too senseless then to feel anything other than the boring social studies class to get over.
Nevertheless my blog would be incomplete if i am not able to reproduce the story here.

After a severe famine in Marwar 500 years ago, Jambeshwar Bhagwan formed a community that would live in harmony with nature to survive even in a worse famine. The community is known as Bishnois or twentyniners' on account of 29 principles that they follow. They not only protect trees and wild animals with great dedication but follow several customs that conserve nature. Bishnois allow wild animals to forage on crops from their fields. They do not cremate dead bodies because that needs firewood; they instead bury them to give back to the elements. They even do not use blue coloured clothes because blue die has to be produced from trees. A village 'Khejarli' in Thar desert near Jodhpur has many Khejari trees (Prosopis cineraria) which the Bishnois consider to be very valuable. They are one of the few trees that survive in the deserts of Rajasthan.
On a fateful 10th day of Bhadrapad in 1730, Maharaja Abhaysingh of Jodhpur sent men to cut Khejari trees in Khejarli village. A lot of firewood was needed to produce lime for the new royal palace. Amritadevi, a local Bishnoi sent them back in defense of Khejari trees. They retaliated with armed soldiers but Amritadevi embraced Khejari trees and challenged the soldiers to axe her head to spare Khejari trees. The obedient soldiers not only severed Amritadevi's head but went on to kill 363 Bishnois who dared to follow the courageous lady. The news of Bishnois sacrifice for Khejari trees reached the king who then apologized to Bishnois and assured protection to trees and wild animals of that region. 
Since the day of Khejari sacrifice, Amritadevi's embrace has become immortal 'Chipko' movement among dedicated conservationists, who gather at a monument in Khejarli every year in Bhadrapad month to salute the great Khejari sacrifice. Bhadrapad month is the sixth lunar month in the Hindu Calendar.

Khejari trees are native to the sandy deserts from Rajasthan to Afghanistan. They belong to the Mimosaceae or 'touch- me- not' family. They are large deciduous trees with black, deeply cracked bark. The roots go very deep in search of water. The slender branches are armed with small prickles. The leaves are double feathered with small dull green leaflets. Flowers are small, yellow and fragrant; they are borne in slender spikes about 10 cm long at the end of branches. Flowering season is in September. Pods of Khejari trees contain edible pulp. 

Khejari tree is also known as Shami' tree from the time of Mahabharat. Pandavas had hidden their weapons in the hollows of Shami trees. Shami tree is a favourite of Lord Ganesh; Shami leaves are offered for Ganesh pooja. This is how the Shami tree is found in Pune, far away from its native Rajasthan. Gupchup Ganpati in Shaniwar Peth is an ancestral Ganesh temple belonging to Dixit family. The Shami tree at this temple is at least 100 years old. This tree is one of the heritage trees of Pune. Two young Shami trees grown from the saplings produced from the heritage tree are planted at Ganesh temples at Sahakarnagar and Ganeshkhind. Unfortunately the heritage Shami recently had to be relieved of a few branches since they got infested with white ants and became dangerous for the worshippers. 

The conservation of khejari trees is a religious tenet of Rajasthan's Bishnoi community. The Government of India has recently instituted the 'Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award for Wildlife Conservation' in the memory of Amrita Devi Bishnoi


It is fascinating to realize that nature worship forms an integral part of all our rituals associated with festivals and thus the worship of trees which symbolizes life and the whole gamut of creation itself.

Shamipujan: While worshiping the Shami tree, special prayers are recited asking for victory not only in one's endeavors and ventures but also over one's inherent enemies. The enemies lurking inside each one of us in the form of evil thoughts from the simplest to the most deviant.
In brief, prayers are offered to ask the Shami tree to cleanse us from our sins and help us to lead a virtuous life through which harmonious co-existence could be achieved.


The fact of the comprehensive success of the Pandavas in their endeavor has been extrapolated to the everyday ventures of the common man today.
Even to this day, people exchange Shami leaves and wish each other victory
in their own ventures and efforts. The following shloka is used, sometimes, to signify this:
शमी शमयते पापम् शमी शत्रुविनाशिनी ।
अर्जुनस्य धनुर्धारी रामस्य प्रियदर्शिनी ॥
करिष्यमाणयात्राया यथाकालम् सुखम् मया ।
तत्रनिर्विघ्नकर्त्रीत्वं भव श्रीरामपूजिता ॥

shamI shamayate paapam shamI shaTruvinaashinI |
arjunasya dhanurdhaari raamsya priyadasrshinI ||
karishyamaaNayaatraayaa yayaakaalam sukham mayaa |
tatranirviGnakrtrItvam bhava shrIraamapUjitaa ||

Meaning of the shloka: The Shami tree cleanses sins.
It's thorns are reddish in colour. It is Lord Rama's 
favourite tree and in such a tree Pandavas hid their arms.
O' Shami, Lord Rama has worshipped you.
I now embark upon my journey to victory.
May you make it pleasant and free from obstacles.

It is said that the Shami tree chosen by the Pandavas stood inside a cremation ground. 
It was chosen to render detection that much less likely. The Pandavas wrapped their weapons 
in a white cloth and concealed this on that Shami tree, making the weapons look like a dead body.
Arjuna's Gandeeva bow was one among them.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2007, 10:08:28 PM by Y V RAMUDU »

Shree Raama, it is said, worshipped Shami tree before proceeding to Ayodhya.
On the same day, the Paandavas too, took out their arms hidden in the Shami tree and revealed their identity after their one year of Ajnaatavaasa ( living incognito) after twelve years of exile to a forest.
That marked their preparation for the victorious war of Kurukshetra.
Invoking these inspiring memories the Shami is worshipped on this day and the holy leaves are distributed by one another as an auspicious omen for the coming year.

The Shami leaves occupy pride of place during the Dussara festival and
 they are regarded as golden leaves. It is reported that the legendary poet
 Kalidasa got enlightenment and divine power by doing penance under the 
Shami tree and worshiping it. 
Our farmers believe that Shami trees in their fields enhance the fertility
of land and sustain the productive capacity of their fields.

Back home in Bihar and the neighboring states like Jharkhand, the Shami tree full of blossoms
is a very common sight. The Shami tree greet you as soon as you enter the gates of private homes.
It is generally planted towards the right side of the gate entrance because it is believed
here that a mere sight of the Shami tree is auspicious while going about the day to day
business or else embarking on any journey. It is also believed to thwart any evil influences
or bad luck.
Poojas are common among families who follow the planetary movements.These are performed
to appease Lord Saturn known as Shani Deva

So much of what i have just reproduced is in the form of legends, mythological and otherwise.
But what i shall be adding is from this unique book which was gifted by my father 
to his grandson that is my son.
My son was then in that stage of infancy when at mere sight of animals, trees and
birds, he would erupt into peals of joy and glee. 
Later when he could understand stories i would read stories from this unique book.
The stories which reverberated my own mother's stories which she narrated to us when we 
were infants. Stories associated with some trees around us in which wrong doers were
cursed by rishis (saints) and and turned into these trees but to be redeemed of their sins
later by Lord Vishnu in one of His reincarnations.
Stories which had amazing but unnoticed facts like why the leaves of a Peepal tree
shook even when there would be no breeze and the air was still.
Or why does the silk cotton tree also have thorns in it.
Also about how the fragrant Harsingaar/Paarijaat was cunningly brought to the earth 
from heaven by none other than Lord Krishna.
Thus this book till date remains my favourite  even when my son has outgrown it long ago.
For i am able to still regale kids of that same impressionable age with all of my mom's stories
about trees, shrubs and plants. My sincere thanks to this book for making me awesome in that.

According to this book  another reference about the special status of Shami tree is in 
the Rigvedas. The Vedas have endowed the Shami tree with the property to create fire.
According to a Rigvedic legend Pururavas, the ancestor of the Lunar race
of kings ( Chandravanshis) which included Kurus and Pandavas , generated the primeval
fire by rubbing together the two branches of the Shami tree and the Ashvattha tree 
also known as the Peepal tree in Hindi ( Ficus religiosa). 

Then during the age of the Rajput kings, the King would go in a procession to worship
the tree on the tenth day of Dashehera. He would further liberate a blue Jay (also known as
Neelkanth in Hindi ) as the Neelkanth was the sacred bird of Lord Rama.
It is believed that the Neelkanth bird is yet another manifestation of Lord Shiva and
those who get to spot a Neelkanth on the Vijayadashami day are very fortunate
as they will get all their wishes fulfilled. Strange phenomenon though that they would be
out of sight on this particular day, no matter where you looked. But could be seen easily 
on other days.

In the Deccan however the Marathas shoot arrows on to this tree and later put the
falling leaves into their turbans.

In Punjab, when the bridegroom goes to fetch his bride home he plucks a branch 
from this tree to ward off evil spirits that lurk around to interfere with the wedding

The essence of all these regional lore being the same,  symbolizing safety
and well being and emerging unscathed both from physical enemies and those
that dwell in the form of bad spirits.

All this and many many more in this favorite book of mine which i treasure 
like a prized possession.
One tree and so many legends both mythological and folk.
It is fascinating because just like our holy scriptures have mentioned
it, the preface to the first chapter which is the story of Paarijaat
says,"...all plants are created from the hair of Brahma, the creator."

Surely the book that i am talking about is by Maneka Gandhi  and Yasmin Singh and it is called
' Brahma's Hair '.
i on my part feel proud to be a part of that culture which has taught me through the years
to revere all creatures of the earth. i am actually a devotee of this rich heritage which has
forever imparted the wisdom of protecting nature and nurturing it.
The world might be getting more alert now on conservation and the irreparable
damages caused by disturbing the biodiversity but i hail from that land where the
significance of ecological balance in it's richest form has been sounded like a clarion call
from times immemorial.
The strong and clear message about trees emanating positive energy
and protecting us from all maladies physical and mental is embedded into all our rituals.

Just like the rest of my genre for a very long time i used to treat all these aspects
as  magical stories and will not deny that they sounded just too fantastic.
And can't put my finger really as to when that transition occurred when i started sensing
the powers of nature. It has been very therapeutic for me.
For when i am really very down in the dumps and nothing can lift my spirits, not even
food, i find that the trees and plants bring me back to my own joie de vivre.
No one forced me to do so and it happened quite automatically that learnt the
sacred chants for Holy Basil and the Peepal tree. And now with the help of this blog
which required some research i have learnt the shloka for the Shami tree.
Good for me...for what could be more energizing and invigorating for me
on this Maha Saptami day than the realization that i have learnt so much today.
Care to join me in this...then let's start...
Shami shamyate paapam
           Shami shatruvinashini l

           raamsya priyadarshini ll

           Yayakaalam Sukham Mayaa l

           bhava shriraamapujitaa ll

And before i quit let me wish you a Very Happy and Fulfilling Navaratri
JAI Kalaratri Maa !! JAI Maa !! JAI Ambe Bhavaani Maa !!

Image courtesy:


  1. That is indeed a lot that you have written about the Khejri !

  2. @Karthik OMG you actually had patience to go through the "lot".Now it's my turn to feel just an enormous sense of gratitude and say THANKS A LOT.
    i guess u r right...i did try to put in a lot...if not all.
    There were more about it's Aryurvedic significance which i learnt from Ms Nirupama of
    and thought it best not to repeat.Plus i am still on my quest to know whenever i can.\M/

  3. i too learnt a lot from this post.thanx for sharing the history of khejri. i salute the bishnois & they inspire us 2 do our our neighbourhood every house has this tree as it is considered auspicious acc. to the Vastushastra.

  4. @Gauri thank you and yes the tree is considered auspicious according to Vaastushashtra which deals extensively also with the trees to be planted in the campus or in and around homes thus helping with the flow of positive energy.
    i am indebted for taking time out for this voluminous post of mine.
    Hugs :)

  5. lot to learn.thanks

  6. @ Anonymous glad that you found the learning worth your time.Thanks a lot.It feels good when someone finds your posts as useful.i learnt and through my blog the learning is passed on...:)

  7. Very informative and great learning for an ignorant person like me. I admire nature but you have given me a wider lens. Thanks Shivani for sharing this

  8. @Amita thank you... mon ami...maybe my post was meant to be just that and it pleases me tremendously that now you shall glance around with some new look...hope u remember it enough to pass the info around.:)

  9. You have used copyrighted matter - text and image from without taking permission. This is a bad practice. You may be prosecuted some day. Please keep original text here and delete the stolen matter immediately.

  10. @Anonymous thank you for ur words of advice and i shall keep this in mind. i actually thought that mentioning it below and giving credits was okay.
    All the parts where i have taken as a learning process were compiled here for my sake.
    Thanks again but henceforth i shall be more careful.

  11. This article on "Shami" is indeed full of facts and plenty of them .

    Some one like me find it very difficult to differentiate between "Khair" " white Khair" , "Hivra " and Shami .

    I think we should plant Shami as much as we can .

  12. @ PV Pawar thank you for your time and appreciation. Hope i have proved useful in compiling all that i know.

  13. Thanks for all the information

  14. hey i want to buy shami tree bark how can i get it

  15. @ Mahesh lalwani first and foremost apologies for the delay...have been away from the blogging to ur query...well i'm not sure but you can try the Patanjali Ckitsalaya. Most metros in the cities have Patanjali Ckitsalayas...and i don't know where you are put can try there...they might have it...otherwise they will procure it for you...or else guide you. Hope i am guiding you towards the best. :)

  16. The information above is probably true about the Shami tree - Prosopsis cineraria. The photos you have used though are of another species the sickle bush - Dichrostachys cinerea.

    1. Thank you dear Anonymous...wish i could know your name too so that i could meke my sincerity feel even more real.
      Thanks for pointing that out about the image i have put. My apologies and i shall now edit the image by providing the right information as to the identity of the flower.
      My purpose was to share all that i had learnt in my observation, reading on the net, articles in the newspaper.
      Furthermore since i belong to Bihar and had noticed ever since childhood the tree that was worshipped to have this flower and be called as a Shami tree there it still remains as such for me. Nature has many synonyms although to a layman these don't seem noticeable or distinct at all.
      i am not a Botanist or a scientist either who would know so Thank you. Grateful indeed !
      But for you i would not have learnt another NEW today.
      i shall now edit the pic and mention the scientific name and the common name too and maybe add a line or two mentioning why this tree is my Shami tree.

    2. Kindly omit the typos that you see any in my reply...i was in a real hurry to answer and before i could really check for the mistakes i had already clicked 'publish'. :)