Kashmir is very dear to Indians, and they consider it as the “heaven on earth”. Although there are many types of plants and trees that add to the beauty of the landscape, all over the Kashmir, but one tree, that truly represents the heart and the soul of Kashmir, is the “Chinar Tree”.
The Chinar tree is a very special and beautiful tree; it is known for its uniquely-shaped leaves which look like the open palm of the human hand. It is a tall and wide tree and provides ample shade during the summer season to the residents.
The Chinar tree is fondly called “booen” by the locals of the area. This name is believed to have come from the name of the Hindu goddess “Bhawani”, an avatar of the goddess “Paravati”. In the Mughal period, the emperor Jahangir named this tree “Chinar”. The word “Chinar” in Farsi language is associated with “fire”.
The tree has been an integral part of the culture of Kashmir for many decades. It is believed that the Chinar tree produces a fresh and cool environment beneath it, which refreshes the body and the mind; as such it is considered very beneficial for health.
Chinar tree is a deciduous tree and it is believed that it has its origin from the land of Greece. The leaves of the Chinar tree look much like the Maple tree of Canada, but in fact, they are not the same trees. In layman terms, the Chinar tree can be considered a distant relative of the Maple tree.
Chinar Tree – Some Scientific Facts
The scientific name of the Chinar tree is “Platanus Orientalis” and it belongs to the family “Platanaceae”. The leaves of the Chinar are palmate in shape which looks a lot like maple. These leaves grow alternate arrangement on the stem in lobes, with a focal length of around 5 mm.
The beautiful Chinar can grow as tall as 25 to 30 meters i.e. around 80 feet. It is also a wide growing tree and it can generally grow around 10 to 15 meters wide. The fruit of the chinar is bur shaped and grows on the stem in clusters of 2 to 6.
Chinar And The Autumn Season
The autumn season is called “harud” by the locals of Kashmir. It is an important season in the lives of the people as it marks many changes in their lifestyles. The biggest physical change that can be observed in the landscape is the starting of the shedding of the leaves of the Chinar.
The leaves of the Chinar are green to dark green in color, but with the onset of the autumn season, the colors of the leaves change to golden and dark red color, making the valley look like the land of fire.
Though tourists like to visit the valley throughout the year, but the beauty of the area in the autumn season is unmatched. This season generally starts from mid-October and stays this way till around the end of November month.
Efforts For Saving Chinar Tree
The Chinar tree is considered the “Royal tree” of Jammu and Kashmir. But the sad part related to the situation of this tree is that its numbers are rapidly decreasing. As per reports, there were more than 50000 chinar trees in Kashmir but these numbers have drastically decreased to a mere 5000 to 6000, as of now.
This rate of the vanishing of the trees is very alarming. And, the dreadful part is that if strict measures are not taken, then we may altogether witness the extinction of this beautiful tree from the land of Kashmir.
Although, the government has become proactive recently regarding the conservation of the Chinar tree. Recently, thousands of trees were planted by the floriculture department in aggressive campaign mode. Also, 15th March is celebrated as the “Chinar Day” in Kashmir every year. And on this day the floriculture department distributes thousands of plant saplings to various districts for plantation.
The government has also put a complete “ban” on cutting of Chinar tree and in June 2019, Jammu and Kashmir government banned putting up advertisements, signboards, and other such materials on the Chinar tree. This step was taken to prevent the damages that are being caused to the tree and its natural beauty. Efforts are also being done to plant the chinar in other parts of the country.
Chinar And The History Of Kashmir
Chinar tree has been deeply associated with the erstwhile Kashmir province. The oldest Chinar tree in Kashmir, which is located in the Chadoora area of the Badgam district in Kashmir, is said to be planted by a Sufi saint in the year 1374, which means that the tree is around 650 years old.
It is said by the locals, that the Mughal emperor Akbar ordered to plant more than 1100 Chinar trees in Naseem Bagh and further ordered to irrigate them with milk.
The Chinar tree is also closely associated with the history of Kashmiri Hindus, this tree is found growing in most of the sacred places of Hindus like Kheer Bhawani temple in Tulmul village near Srinagar.
It is mentioned in the sacred Sikh scriptures that Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism, addressed a group of brahmans under the shade of a giant Chinar tree at Martand tirtha sthal in Kashmir, it is also said that he himself planted a chinar tree in Kashmir.
The chinar has also witnessed many cases of violence around it, since the girth of the stem of chinar is quite big; it is often used by the militants as a means of hiding out during the encounters with the forces.
Chinar is also found standing tall, boasting of its beauty in all the famous gardens of Kashmir like the famous Shalimar Bagh in Sri Nagar, Nishat Bagh in Sri Nagar, Verinag Mughal Garden in Anantnag, Naseem Bagh in Sri Nagar, and the Achabal Garden in the city of Anantnag.