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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Punnai mara neezhal ..... Lord Krishna and "வண்டமரும் மலர்ப்புன்னை"

Calophyllum inophyllum is a large evergreen, commonly called Alexandrian laurel,  balltree, beautyleaf…. and more ….. this medium-sized to large, slow-growing tree with very hard wood can reach heights of 20 m (65 ft). It typically has a broad, low-branching, spreading crown. The simple, glossy leaves have many parallel oblique lateral veins.  Understand that these were  once grew along the beaches and shorelines all around the northern Australian coastline.  Its strong limbs and deep roots protected the shoreline creating an effective buffer between land and water. It is not native to Europe, and has traditional uses in many other countries, Calophyllum inophyllum  has many names …. Its seeds are rich in oil which was once used to light lamps and lanterns. Dilo oil is believed to have great medicinal values

Not to confuse further, it is the famous ‘Punnai maram’ associated with our Puranic lore. Understand that there is one inside the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore (the sthala vruksha) and the  Shiva here is also known as ‘Punnaivananathar’ (lord of the punnai grove).  At our Divyadesam of Thiruvidanthai, inside the compound of the Sri Nithyakalyana Perumal Koil, is a magnificent punnai on a specially-erected platform. The Archaeological Survey of India, which maintains the temple, has put up epigraphical information to show the temple is more than a thousand years old.  There is one at Sri Vaikundavasa Perumal temple at Koyambedu too. 

Lord Krishna grew up in Brindavan with great exploits – still having time to play around with cowherds the gopikas.  The Punnai tree is associated with Krishna.  At Thiruvallikkeni divyadesam Sri Parthasarathi has purappadu in Punnaikilai vahanam (depicting the vasthrabaranam of gopikas) on 1st day evening of Chithirai Brahmothsavam and on the day next to Sri Jayanthi. 

Thirumangai Mannan refers to the tree at a couple of places in his Thirumozhi :
“பூநீரைச் செருந்தி புன்னை முத்தரும்பிப் பொதும்பிடை வரிவண்டு மிண்டி… தேனிரைத் துண்டங்கின்னிசை முரலும் திருவெள்ளியங்குடியதுவே.”……. “வண்டமரும் மலர்ப்புன்னை வரிநீழலணிமுத்தம், தெண்டிரைகள் வரத்திரட்டும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்துறையும்”….

Here is a news item that appeared in Times of India, Chennai edition titled ‘Marina Beach to get tree-lined promenade’.

Rare ‘Punnai’ Tree With Medicinal Properties To Be Planted From Anna Square To Lighthouse.  The promenade in front of the famous Marina sands is set to get an all-new green cover. Stretching for 6km from Anna Square to the lighthouse, it will be lined with trees of a variety that grows best in coastal areas. The decision on the makeover was taken following complaints that the existing longitudinal green space, raised between the pavement on Kamarajar Salai and the service lane, has only been growing weed and grass, a corporation official said. The lawn is surrounded by a fence.

Now, several trees of a species locally called punnai (Calophyllum inophyllum) are proposed to be grown along the stretch. “This is a good species of tree,” said founder of Nizhal, an NGO promoting tree culture in urban areas. “We need to bring back such trees to the city. Mylapore was supposed to be a punnaivanam (forest of punnai) but obviously they have become rare,“ she said. Apart from holding mythological and religious significance, the tree is said to possess medicinal properties and its seeds are used to extract oil. “Its glossy leaves will be unaffected by pollution and can withstand the weather of the sea side,“ a corporation official said. It will be a slowgrowing tree with medium and large branches hanging low. “We also plan to put up seasonal flowering plants around the statues along the stretch,” the official said. The new lawn too will be protected by a fence to restrict cattle, littering and at the same time not obstruct the view of the beach.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

24th Sept. 2014.


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