Living gold for Dussehra
|Dussehra falls on the tenth day after Navratri, the festival in honour of the Mother Goddess. It symbolises various values, including the victory of good over evil.
One of the practices observed in the state of Maharashtra on this day is to offer leaves of the Apta tree to friends and family.
The Apta (Bauhinia racemosa) is one of several varieties of Bauhinias found in India. It is found commonly in dry decidous forests and may even be found upto an altitude of 1500 metres in the Western Himalayas. Given the title 'Vanarajah', king of the forest in Sanskrit it is also known as Svet Kanchan for its small white flowers and often mistaken for the more commonly found Kanchan which has rose purple flowers, because of the similarity in the shape of their leaves. The Apta has been found to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties for which it has been used as a cure for digestive diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery. It is also displays antitumor properties and is useful in treating the first stages of cancer. For this reason it is also called 'Sonpatta' or the tree with leaves of gold.
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, to piles. This tree, sacred also to the Bishnoi community, has proven to be a valuable source of food and fodder to local communities.
Also important is the fact that both trees can grow under harsh climatic and poor soil conditions, a quality which makes them a valuable resource for rural communities. In times of famine, people in Rajasthan survived by eating the bark of the Shami tree. This tree is a legume and adds to soil fertility and its roots are found to go as deep as 35 metres to access water.
During Dussehra people worship the Shami and in Maharashtra, they exchange leaves of the Apta tree ( also known as Sonpatta ). In some parts of south India, the leaves of the Shami are soaked in water until the day before Diwali when people bathe with this water.
In recent times, these trees are not so commonly found especially in urban environments. The tradition of offerring the leaves, leads to a widescale destruction of the few remaining trees in and around the cities.
To reverse this trend, eCoexist proposes gifts of Apta and Shami saplings for the festival of Dussehra.
These have been prepared in association with Oikos, an organisation that works for ecorestoration of lands.
Our saplings are presented in jute pouches handmade by dispriveleged women.
They can also be bought without the packaging for bulk orders only.
See here for a list of stores where you can buy the saplings.
Dussehra falls on 28 Sept in 2009.