Heritage tree of Kashmir, 'BOUIN' at the verge of extinction.
The growing concern world over about the environment protection and saving mother earth from further degradation gaining momentum day in and day out. However in our part of the world different parameters are being adopted. Majority of the water bodies across rural as well as urban Kashmir have dried up. Great sain of Kashmir Nund RESHI (RA) had predicted and given lessons on environment long back when he said..
ANN POSHE TELI
YALI WAN POSHE...
'BOUIN', the tree which was historically introduced to Kashmir by the Islamic missionaries, which later became an identity of Kashmir has turned out to be the victim to unplanned and so called developmental activities. With every passing year 'BOUINS'- The Chinar trees, are becoming a rare sight. Thanks to the unplanned construction activities and absence of any future planning to save this heritage tree. Gracing the paths and gardens of exotic Kashmir, over the years the Chinar is now at the verge of depletion because of human apathy and the administrations indifference.
As spring dawns into Kashmir and plantation season begins. Administration will soon be seen holding ceremonial plantation drives across Kashmir. However these Chinars, once abundant, are increasingly becoming a rare sight.
Gods of nature have always taken mercy on Kashmir. If there is a heat wave there is rain immediately after. If there is drought there has been snow too, but despite this mercy Kashmir continues to suffer. That is because the cruel human hands continue to destroy what nature has given in abundance. Cruelty with nature and human interference galore is eating up the vitals of the paradise. Take for example the environment; immense damage is done to it undermining the nature’s benevolence. The natural environment is getting decayed due to rapacious interference by human beings. All its facets like rivers, jungles, pastures, gardens are on the verge of destruction. Nothing has been spared, not even its unique feature, the majestic Chinar tree. Due to the apathy of administration and lack of self-discipline of the people, this ‘king of trees’ is under the axe of smugglers and their mentors among the officialdom. Visit any corner of the valley, including the protected Naseem Bagh on the shores of Dal Lake, one gets the impression that the gracious chinar tree, which has added to the picturesque beauty of Kashmir for centuries is close to extinction. Every year, the number of Chinars is decreasing. The Chinar trees, which flourished everywhere in the valley, is increasingly becoming a rare sight even though there is a lot of clamour about the rule of law, economic prosperity and environmental awareness. The chinar was considered to be a wealth, because it contributed not only to the beauty of Kashmir but also to its resources. Chinar wood is as good for furniture, as for making ‘papier machie’ items like wall hangings. It has also been one of the main sources of firewood for the rural lot whose firepots (Kangris) are filled by charcoal of red chinar leaves in winter. Gone are the days when one would come across gigantic chinar trees. These have been and are still being cut down ruthlessly. Revenue, forest or police agencies either do nothing or connive actively. The laws are flouted. It is unfortunate that there is no government agency, which would use government land, parks or gardens or even highways for the conservation of this majestic tree. Both the administration as well as citizens seem to be totally apathetic to this great loss. People shun its growth to save land. It is also normally planted in kitchen gardens for ornamental purposes. Chinar leaves engraved on Kashmiri traditional pots like ‘Samavar’ (tea pot) etc and other decorative items are used to adorn drawing rooms. The chinar tree is grown in Greece, Macedonia, Armenia and Northern Persia, besides Kashmir and western Himalayan region. Chinar or oriental tree (botanical name - Platinus orientalis) popularly known as ‘bouin’ in Kashmir is a large, graceful deciduous tree, which is closely associated with the culture and folklore of Kashmir. It is considered to be the manifestation of nature’s bounty that the valley is blessed with. There are frequent references to the grandeur of chinar in Kashmiri literature. The famous mystic poetess Lal Ded, also known as Lal Ishwari (1320-1390 AD) made the reference to this tree in an epigram containing: “Virtuous and loving wife to the cool and refreshing shade of bouin (chinar) on a hot summer day.” In the Akbarnama written by Abul Fazal, it is mentioned, “The emperor took 34 persons inside the hollow trunk of an aged chinar tree.” Similarly, emperor Jahangir, in his memoirs has made mention of a huge plain tree, in the hollow of which he and his seven companions could be comfortably accommodated. These and other references were used as a source to try and establish the date when the Chinar was introduced in Kashmir, which usually has been ascribed to the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1605-1627 AD) and Shah Jahan (1627-1658 AD) who brought it from central Asia. But history was rewritten some years ago when an investigation on charcoal remains from archeological site at Simthen in South Kashmir revealed that this tree was in existence centuries before. The history of the tree has been traced back to 500 AD and the importance of the majestic tree has increased in archaeological context. But no one has awakened to the danger to its actual existence, neither the people nor the government.