The flame of forest – Palash

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The story dates back to may be ten thousand years. A fine warrior, avid lover with his beloved wife walked the trails of Vindhya parvat. They were tired of walking hundreds of miles and as they reached this place, they got astonished by the beauty of the jungle. Especially, thousands of trees in the jungle, those looked as if they are set on fire, and the flames of the fire were emerging from every single branch of all the trees. The hero, off course, the great Ram, even beautified such a spectacle even more charmingly . Aadya kavee Walmiki, put these words in Ram’s conversation with Sita.

आदिप्तानिव वैदेहि 
सवर्त: पुष्पतान्नगान
स्वै: पुष्पै: किंशुकान्पश्य
मलिन: शिशिरात्यये

Literally meaning, Oh beloved Sita, Look, in this vasant ritu the palash tree seems like its wearing a swag of flowers. This fully flowered Palash tree, seems to be like its set on fire.

Poet Walmiki, not only narrated story of a hero but also the flora and fauna of ancient India. And that is the first ever mention of Palash tree and its flaming flowers in the ancient literature. Later, many celebrated poets across India, used Palash and its flowers, to garnish their timeless compositions like Kalidas and Jaydev.

Even before that, Rigved talks about the divinity of this tree. Like the flowers, दंड made of stumps from this tree are considered to be sacred and were in use rituals like Maujibandhan. The tradition still prevails in modern India.

Geet Govindam, is yet another lyrical poetic composition, by Jaydev Goswami, a odisha (उत्कल प्रदेश) based poet, which exquisitely talks about Krishna and Radha’s unimaginable, divine love for each other. In this work, he sees the petals of this flower as nails of Kamdev (The god of love making) and these nails are shown as tearing the hearts of young lovers. Those who have seen the flowers, would be able relate how subtle and illusive the simile is!

मृगमदसौरभरभसवशंवदनवदलमालतमाले।
युवजनहृदयविदारणमनसिजनखरुचिकिंशुकजाले॥

You would love to listen to this greatest ever song of love. Here it is. Take out some time and do listen to this song of love, I bet, you would love it from the bottom of your heart. Moreover, the singer is India’s best classical singer, Dr Balamuralikrishna.

These very few names, I gave here, there are hundreds of authors and poets who have mentioned Palash tree, in the constructs. Another very well know name in this list is Rabindranath Tagore. Spring, that is Vasant is the time when mother nature takes on new avatar. Trees bud out and flowers bloom. The SriShtee is garlanded with also also colors, that is the reason, we Indians have been celebrating the festival of color i.e. Holi, for many thousands of year. Poet Tagore, initiated one more festival, on the day of Dhuli Pornima, the full moon day of Phalgun month, in his notable Shantiniketan campus. And teachers and students, sing songs, composed by Tagore, till date. Of the many songs, following the most sung and celebrated, enjoyed, danced song, in shantiniketan.

ओरे गृहोबाशी, खोल द्वार खोल, लागले जो ढोल,
स्थोले, जले, बोनेतओले लागले जो ढोल, द्वार खोल, द्वार खोल ॥
रंग हशि राशि राशि अशोके पलाशे,
रंग नेषा, मेघे मेषा प्रभातो अकाशे,
नोबिन पथय लागे रंग होल्लोल, द्वार खोल द्वार खोल ॥

The translation of this Bengali compositions would be like this

There is a spring stir! (Let’s rejoice and dance in the harvest spree!),
On the soil, in the water, in the forest, there is a mad, spring stir !
A ruddy, wild laughter pervading everywhere( as on the festive occasion of HOLI)
Amongst the Ashok and Paulash flowers.
 An intoxication amidst the clouds of the morning sky
With new leaves leaving a bright splendour,
Break open the doors, open the doors!

What a lovely depiction and lovely way to celebrate life this is! I hope you would also love to listen to such beautiful song and see people of Shantiniketan celebrating, Basantotsav. Watch the video.

Such significance, this tree has got, which attracted many poets and writers in India and abroad as well.

Now you must have come to know that the various colored flowers of this tree are used in what? Any guess?

Well, its quite obvious for indian seers, to relate the flowers with colours of holi. Yes, these flowers, when dry, are used to make natural colour to play holi. In some parts of India, its played on the fifth day of Phalhun, which is also called as Rangpanchami or vasantpanchami.  So let me show you, how easily you can make natural colours to play holi.

Apart from this, Palash is also considered very very important tree in Ayurved. It has been in Ayurvedic practice for many thousands of years. Charak and Sushruta Saमhita, give detail account of how and in which diseases, medicines made from this tree can be used. I am not going to talk about it here. Sharing a link to detailed talk about Palash tree in Ayurved.

This is tree is used widely in timber as well. There are three basic variants of this tree. Red/Saffron Palash, Yellow Palash and white Palash. Red and yellow are quite common and can be seen in tropical region of India and other countries in Indian subcontinent. White Palash has its significance in Tantric practices.

Do you remember the battle of Plassey (प्लासी)? Yeas, that’s how we read it and uttered it. But let me open a secret to you now. Plassey is actually mispronunciation of Palash. The place where this battle was fought, is a village called Palash, as Palash tree was found in abundance in this village. But British, coined a new word altogether for this village.

The flowers are namely used to attract pollinators like insects, birds etc. However, in some parts of India, they make a sabjee also of these flowers. Another sacred use of these flowers is offer them to MahaShiv on the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri.

It is identified with many names across india. Polash in Assamese, PalaaSh or Dhak or Tesu in Hindi, Muthhuga in Kannada, Mukkapuyam, chamatha, Brihmavriksha in Malyalam, Pangong in Manipuri, Palas (पळस) in Marathi.

Bastard Teak, flame of forest, Bengal kino tree, parrot tree are other names used in English.

Being a Marathi speaking person, I have a heard an idiom hundreds of times. It goes like this..

कुठे ही जा पळसाला पाने तीनच

It means, there are only three leaves tp palash tree, you go anywhere in the world. It reminds us of the truths which are beyond time and place. Some values never change, they remain as it is, whatever, which ever time is and whichever place is. There is another idiom in Hindi with same meaning and coincidently using same tree. This goes like ढाक के तीन पात. This idiom also carries the same, deep meaning.

This tree fruits in Vaishakh month every year. The fruit is in the form of pod. The seeds can be collected in Margsheersh month and they be planted to root and bud. Watch another small video on how you can germinate seeds of Palash at home. Though the process given is for yellow Palash, the same process can be used for Red and even white Palash.

Now let’s see some stunning photographs of these attractive flowers.

Palash – The flame of forest
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