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At Rajghat, several countries find representation with trees planted by leaders

Two Ashoka trees -- planted by the erstwhile President of Yugoslavia and former President of the State Council of Romania, respectively -- stand near the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat.

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: December 15, 2021 10:54:11 am
The Ashoka tree planted by Marshal Josip Tito (L) and the Arjuna tree at Rajghat. (Express Photo)

At Rajghat, not far from the Mahatma Gandhi samadhi, a 67-year-old lush green Ashoka tree stands out on the manicured lawns.

The tree was planted on December 18, 1954, by Marshal Josip Tito, the erstwhile President of Yugoslavia, when he visited India during Jawaharlal Nehru’s term as Prime Minister. It now has dense foliage of long, glossy leaves.

The Ashoka tree (Polyalthia longifolia) is on a list of trees that the Delhi government intended to declare as ‘heritage’ trees a few years ago. Another Ashoka tree stands near the memorial, younger than the one planted by Tito, but nearly just as tall. This one was planted by Nicolae Ceausescu, former President of the State Council of Romania, in October 1969. Pradip Krishen writes in his book, Trees of Delhi, that the Ashoka tree is nearly evergreen and widely cultivated throughout India. The bark is used for fever and to make drums, pencils and boxes, Krishen writes.

In the same line as the two Ashoka trees, stands a glorious Champa tree almost in front of the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi with white flowers in bloom. Like the two Ashoka trees, the Champa was also planted by a communist leader – Ho Chi Minh, former president of Vietnam.

Several countries find representation at Rajghat through the trees planted by their leaders as a tribute to Gandhi. Rows of trees, with signboards at the front, line the outer lawns that surround the memorial, while only a small number including the two Ashoka trees stand inside, closer to the memorial.

A gardener laying fresh lawns along the slopes around the memorial, points to the rows of Kadamb trees, speaking of their fragrance when the trees flower. Tall and broad-leaved with round fruits, some of which are scattered on the ground, these trees have been planted by leaders from countries such as Moldova, Sweden, Poland, Uzbekistan, Iran, Namibia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Greece, Denmark and Japan.

Some of the older trees date back to 1950 – including an Amaltas tree planted by former Uttar Pradesh governor KM Munshi. The most recently planted sapling appears to be that of former US President Donald Trump – a Pachira aquatica tree planted in 2020.

An Arjuna tree at Rajghat also features on the Delhi government’s list of probable ‘heritage’ trees. Three large ones stand in different parts of the lawns with grey barks and clusters of fruits. These are usually one of the largest trees lining some of Delhi’s avenues, Krishen writes. At Rajghat, workers laying the lawns take a break in its shade.

According to a horticulture handbook from 2020 of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which manages the garden, Rajghat has a total of 1056 trees of 42 species.

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