The late former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, had a dear old friend and he shared his official home, 10, Rajaji Marg in New Delhi with it. It is a Arjuna tree. The late President was pretty fond of the hundred-years-old tree and and spent time with it daily and would marvel at the 300 kilo honey in the beehive hanging from its branch, and the bevy of birds – cuckoos, mynas, sparrows, black crows – that would frequent it and indulge in endless chatter, while the Arjuna merrily provided them the much-needed break and shelter.
Kalam’s dear old friend, the (Arjuna’s botanical name is Terminalia arjuna from the Combretaceae family), he had said, was almost the same as his parents — his father a 103-years-old and mother (90+) when they passed away. It was a tree that was a living testament to life itself, one that disclosed many things about the nature to Kalam.
The tree grows up to 80 feet, has a long life and goes by names Koha, Kahu, Arjan, White Marudah, White Murdh, Arjuna Myrobalan, Orjun, Yerra maddi, Sadada, Sadaru and many more. Arjuna flowers between March and June and fruits from September to November and are planted by seeds.
Found in abundance in Chandigarh and according to a first of its kind tree survey conducted last year by the Haryana Urban Development Authority’s horticulture wing, it is very common in Panchukla too.
Found on Chandi Path, Dakshin Marg (Sector 25-38), Industrial Area, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 46, 47, in Chandigarh.
One can also give credit to the climate that is conducive to the growth of the Arjuna. Native to the forests of Bundel Khand, common on the banks of river, dry streams and dry water courses in central India and in the Peninsula, Ceylon along with the Sub Himalayan tract, the Arjuna is a large deciduous tree with a buttressed trunk and leaves and bark that resemble the mango tree.
The bark of the Arjuna is the hero of the tree, full of medicinal properties. “You can spot people peeling off the bark in Sector 27-28, it is good for heart ailments according to Ayurveda,” said Field Man Group’s Rahul Mahajan.
From dysentery, earache, maintaining cholesterol levels, strengthening the heart muscles to treatment of asthma, urinary problems, fractures, ulcers, oedema, dyspepsia, fever, indigestion, boils in mouth, wounds, blemishes – the Arjuna is an important part of Ayurveda medicine. Charaka considered this as Udarda pprasamana (anti-allergic).
However, here’s a piece of advice: “Residents do not realise that only the bark in a fresh environment can be used for healing. People often cut the bark from roadside trees that have absorbed pollutants and do more harm than good,” Hardeep Malik, superintending engineer (horticulture), HUDA, had remarked in The Indian Express news on tree survey last year.
Arjuna is also fed on by the Antheraea paphia moth that produces the fine tassar silk, which the women of Tricity must be well versed with. The tree’s hardy wood is used in boat and house building, agricultural implements and weapons.
The tree holds an important position in the religious and cultural landscape of the country. According to the Chandigarh.gov.in website, in Rigveda, the word Arjuna is used (R.V.1/122/5). The tree, according to Hindu mythology, has its origin when Lord Indra slayed a gaint called Vritra. A sacred tree, Arjuna, it is said, was also born of the two sons of Kubair after saint Narada cursed him. The leaves and flowers of this tree are offered to the Lord Vishnu and Lord Ganpati. In Sanskrit, arjuna means bright, silver or “shining,” – also the quality of the bark of the tree.
The bark molts or peels once a year, rendering it accessible for harvest at that time. It finds mention in Theravada Buddhism too, as the tree for achieved enlightenment by tenth Lord Buddha called Anomadassi.
But largely, it gets its name from the Mahabharata – Arjuna, the protector of his family in this battle, and tree, a guardian of the heart.