Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Tree of Life

The Mahua trees in the garden are clothed in vibrant new coppery red young leaves again and their graceful oval crowns are delightful to look at especially in the sunlight.

There were two young saplings growing wild on our plot when we first started gardening here. Insignificant looking but on identifying them I decided to give them room to grow.

They are known in Central India as the tree of life to the tribes of the region and considered to be sacred. It is said that the Mahua tree is a sentinel that guards the Adivasis (forest dwelling tribals) from cradle to the grave and true-blue Adivasi will ever cut down a Mahua tree, which is revered and worshipped.

No Adivasi ritual is complete without the ubiquitous mahua - much like plantain ( Banana) trees elsewhere. They keep a nightly vigil to save the fruit from the animals and collect them at dawn. They eat the dried flowers, make sweets out of it and make potent liquor called Sidhu from it too. My dad who used to go hunting and knew a lot about the ways of the jungle and its people had told me about this when I was a child.

Their scented sweetish fleshy flowers are an irresistible attraction to nectar and fruit eating birds that are reported to get drunk when they peck fermented flowers. Bears and deer also eat the flowers that fall at night and get intoxicated. This tree reminds me of its counterpart the Amrula tree that I came across in the movie Beautiful People where the animals got drunk after eating its flowers.

I love their graceful oval shape and find it looking its cheerful best at this time of the year.

Astrid Rao


Jean Ann said...

Thanks for the kind words and commiseration! We will get mother nature in line yet... :)

chey said...

Your Mahua trees sound very interesting, and very special.Looks like they have grown very well for you!

Sanjeev said...

Nice to know about mahua. Really it is counterpart of Amrula.