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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Greetings on Dussehra with green gold.....

Dussehra word is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Dasha’ and ‘hara’ meaning "remover of bad fate"
It is also believed that Ravan had 10 faces. They are probably symbolic of the 10 evil facets of his character. The word Dussehra comes from the word 'Dus' meaning 'Ten' and 'Hara', meaning 'annihilated'. So Dussehra is the day in which the 10 facets of Evil were destroyed. Dussehra also marks the end of the nine days of Navratri, and is celebrated on the tenth day. According to popular belief, Dussehra celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the wicked demon Mahishasura. Navratri is an amalgamation of various themes, with the common theme of the victory of good over evil.

It is among the most important festivals celebrated in India.The festival of Dussehra(also known as Dasara, Dashain or sometimes Vijayadashami)

On this  auspicious day there is an endearing  tradition of exchanging  heart-shaped Apta (Bauhinia racemosa) leaves as gold among the near and dear ones.This token offering is actually about expressing happiness and respect. The vijay mahurat on Dussehra is considered to be extremely auspicious and one of wish fulfilment. Offering the leaf is symbolic of wishing prosperity and happiness.

Many people still follow the tradition with faith but there are many who find it funny, since the prices of gold have hit the roof, there are jokes being cracked about it. But the practice of offering the apta leaves as sona on Dussehra continues to thrive. It may be mere symbolism, but there is a deep significance behind it.

There are couples of stories connected with the above custom.

Legend of Kautsa’s Guru Dakshina….
A story in the puranas says that there was once a young man named Kautsa, in Ayodhya who was getting trained under Guru Varatantu. After his education was complete, he wanted to give Guru Dakshina. The guru declined the offer but after repeated insistence from Kautsa, said he wanted 14 crore (140 million) gold coins.

Kautsa approached Ram the ruler of Ayodhya and asked for the gold coins.Ram promised to help Kautsa and asked him to wait near the Apta tree in his village. Within three days, with the help of Kuber, Lord Ram showered gold coins through the leaves of Apta tree.

Kautsa collected the required number and distributed the rest among the poor. This happened on Dussehra and to commemorate this event, people collect the leaves of Apta tree and present it to elders as gold.

Legend of King Raghu…
One more story describes as, Sri Ram’s ancestor relative’s name was king Raghu. He was very generous. After a great ‘Yagna’ (Prayer) the king had distributed all his wealth among the poor.Raghu had nothing left to give a poor boy, who came to his door step asking for alms. Raghu attacked Kuber, the God of Wealth. As gold rained on earth, some of it fell on the Apta tree. Since then people exchange leaves of the Apta tree on Dussehra day.

This has a historical significance too. After a military expedition, the brave Marathas would bring home the plundered booty from the enemy's territory. These victorious warriors were welcomed by their wives or sisters with Aarati (a prayer sung with the waving of a lamp). In return the warriors would give some gold ornaments from their plunder. The warriors then placed their loot before the deities in the temple of the house and offered obeisance to God and elders seeking their blessings. Nowadays, this is commemorated by distributing leaves of the Apta tree, symbolizing gold.Traditionally Apta and Shami are two important trees worshipped on this celebration.

Apta (Bauhinia racemosa)
The Apta tree is worshipped with the following mantra:

Ashmantak Mahavruksha Mahadoshnivaran l
Istana darshanm dehi kuru shtruvinashnam ll

Translation: O great Apta (also known as Ashmantak) tree, you are the one who overcomes great defects. Unite me with my friends and destroy my foes.

It is commonly known as the Bidi Leaf Tree also known as Sonpatta being considered to be as valuable as gold for its medicinal value.

Apta is one of several varieties of Bauhinia species found commonly in dry deciduous forests and up to an altitude of 1500 metres in the Western Himalayas. There are two other fast growing native species of Bauhinia, which are commonly mistaken for Sonpatta due to same bi-lobed leaves, known as Purple Orchid Tree (B Purpurea/Kanchan) and Orchid Tree (B Variegata/ Rakta-Kanchan). Why do leaves of other Indian trees not have such unique "golden" status? Why only the Sonpatta tree? Many consider that the medicinal importance of the tree may be the reason for its being equated to Gold. By giving Sona Patti to our dear ones, we wish them so that they remain free from all the diseases and become rich, as health is wealth.

Almost each & every part of this tree has some medicinal values. The stem bark of the tree is an astringent and is used in the treatment of headache, fever, skin diseases, blood diseases, dysentery & diarrhea. A decoction of the bark is recommended as a useful wash for ulcers. The tree is demonstrated to have anti-oxidant & hepatoprotective effects. An extract of the leaves has been proved to show analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anthelmintic and anti-microbial activity too. The tree has anti-tumor qualities and is also used in to treat early stage of malignancy. The flowers are laxative & seeds are anti-bacterial.

The leaves are used for making bidis (Bidi Leaf Tree). The tree yields a useful gum & fibres. The bark is used for tanning and dyeing.

                                             Shami ( Prosopis spicigera)

Shami (Prosopis spicigera)

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

Shami Puja is an important ritual performed  on the day of Vijayadashami. It is performed by worshipping the Shami Tree.Shami Tree destroys our paapaa, it destroys our enemies. It was holding the Dhanas of Arjuna for one full year and it is Sri Ramachandra’s favourite tree.
Legend of Pandavas...
Associated with Dussehra is the legend of Shami tree found in our epic Mahabharata. The Pandavas who were on their 14 years of exile in the forests, were to spend another year in disguise. They possessed many divine and distinctive weapons due to their skill as well as penance. Since the last year of exile was crucial and as they had to take great care in not being recognized they secretly kept their weapons in a Shami tree for a year. A year later they returned to the Shami tree and found their weapons intact. They offered prayers to the Shami tree as well as Goddess Durga, the presiding Goddess of strength and victory. The Pandavas fought valiantly in the battle and emerged victorious thus commemorating Vijayadashami.
There are many legends relating to the importance of worshipping the Shami Tree on this day, But every story emphasises that worshipping the Shami Tree on this day would bring the devotees happiness and resolve their problems.

The Shami (Prosopis spicigera) is a tree found in dry and arid regions at low altitudes. It is administered to prevent miscarriage and is also used as a beauty enhancer to remove unwanted hair. The bark is used to treat a range of diseases from asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, leucoderma, leprosy, muscle tremors, piles etc.

But the value of the two trees goes much beyond their medicinal properties. Both of them can grow in very harsh climatic conditions and in poor soil. The roots of the Shami are known to go down as deep as 35 metres in search of water. Being a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil and increases its fertility. In Rajasthan, during times of famine, people eat the bark of the tree.

Despite having so much importance these rare trees are brutally treated on the Dussehra. Taking few leaves is different thing. But people who sell these leaves on this day, usually end up defoliating almost the entire tree and ruthlessly breaking its branches. I don't think hurting a live sacred tree will serve the purpose of Dussehra. Instead, we should  plant or gift the tree itself to our loved ones? The Green gold will be a perfect gift on this Dussehra to keep the tradition of respecting the two trees alive and to minimise the impact of this tradition on our nature.

I think our ancestors had given lot of significance to worship various medicinal plants in several festivals just to safeguard the nature and also our health.

Happy Dussehra to all….


Mobile Tempered Glass said...
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Blogesh More said...

Absolutely relevant information and very well presented for the curious mind. Wish that it spreads and we all celebrate the Dasara for the right reasons and in a sustainable way.

Dr.Vaishali Gautam Kamat said...


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Archana Bhatia said...

Very nice article. Informative and interesting. The last paragraph sums it up beautifully.

Vani said...

I came across through your blog. I found the valuable information about ayurveda. Thanks for sharing.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Skin Diseases


Where to buy this plant?
I need it.