The King of Deserts

Some must have heard about this tree in our great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The tree that represents the Goddess of Power is worshiped by Pandavas who hid their weapons in it during Agyatavasa as well as Rama before advancing his army to kill Ravana. But the greatness of Khejri tree (Prosopis Cineraria/शमी) is not limited to this mention.

An evergreen thorny tree which can grow in very harsh climate & in poor soil, well adapted to the arid conditions and also stands well to the browsing by animals. Khejri withstands hot winds & dry seasons and exhibits considerable drought hardiness. The tree reproduces freely by root suckers and establishes well from seeds too. The seeds should be soaked for 24 hours before plantation.

Khejri is reported to be astringent, demulcent & pectoral too, a folk remedy for various ailments. The bark, considered anthelmintic, tonic & refrigerant, can be used to treat a variety of other ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, skin disorders, leprosy, muscle tremors, piles and wandering of the mind too!

But the value of the tree goes much beyond its medicinal properties.

The root system of Khejri is long, deep & well developed, securing a firm footing for the plant and allowing it to obtain moisture from ground-water. It do not compete for moisture and nutrients with crops. A symbiotic relationship with some bacteria allow it to fix nitrogen in the soil, improving soil fertility. Furthermore it also adds organic matter through leaf litter decomposition, rejuvenating poor soils. It coppices readily & profusely. Owing to all these, Khejri is compatible with agrihorticultural crops. The tree boosts the growth and productivity of the companion plants.

Due to its importance in afforestation of arid & semi arid areas, rural communities encourage the growth of Khejri in their agricultural fields, pastures & village community lands. Because of its extensive root system, it stabilizes shifting sand dunes and is also useful as a wind-break. Because it is the only tree species in arid regions, it provides provides much needed shade & shelter to the farmers working in the fields as well as to the cattle & wildlife during the summer months.

Khejri pods are used as vegetable in the dried and green form in many parts of the Thar desert. In Rajasthan, during times of famine, people used eat the bark of the tree. It being an excellent fuel, gives high-quality charcoal. The tree yields a pale to amber coloured gum with properties similar of gum acacias. Bark and leaf galls used for tanning. It is one of the much valued & best browse plants for cattles, sheep, camels.

Being such a multi-purpose tree, no doubt it is highly worshiped by Bishnoi community. In Rajasthan, the tree is treated with the reverence that the Banyan & Peepal command elsewhere in India. Its a state tree of Rajasthan. In 1731, Amrita Devi sacrificed her life to protect Khejri trees with 363 other people who were also killed defending the trees.

In some parts of south India, the leaves of the Khejri are soaked in water until the day before Diwali when people bathe with this water. People consider it to be symbol of good luck. The tree is worshipped with the recitation of the special prayer, asking for victory over one’s defects..

Shami Shamayate papam shami lokhitkantaka
Dharinyarjunbananam Ramasya priyavadini
Karishmanyatraya yathakal such mya
Tatra nirvighanktri twam bhav Sree Rampujite

Meaning: The Shami tree cleanses sins. Its 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!

3 comments:

  1. You can find more information about this tree (SHAMI) in MUDGAL PURANA and GANESH PURANA..

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    1. wow. great information, Bayas ji. thank you.

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