The Coral Jasmine Tree (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis)
If you grew up or spent a considerable amount of time in many Hindu home gardens when you were a child, you are probably familiar with the aromatic flowering tree called Parijatha or Harashingara. Its botanical name, Nyctanthes means Night Flower and arbortristis the Sad Tree. Parijata means descended from the sea and Harashringara is an ornament of the gods or beautiful ornament. It is also known as Pagadamalle in Telegu.
This plant is used for many religious uses and has a deep seated place in Hindu mythology. The flowers are used to make garlands and the outstandingly orange stalks are used to dye silk, started by the Buddhist monks, hence the orange colour of their robes.
The sweet scented flowers are small and attractive with white petals and a bright orange tube in the center. They bloom profusely and open only at night and drop off in the morning. If you don’t get to see the blooming flowers at night, you cannot miss the carpet of flowers in the morning.
So why does the Parijatha bloom at night?
A legend in the Vishnu Purana tells us about Parijatha who was the daughter of a king. She fell in love with Surya, the Sun God for whom she left her father’s kingdom. However, the Sun God grew cold and tired of Parijatha. Parijatha was abandoned by the Sun God leaving the poor princess heartbroken. She was burnt and from her funeral pyre grew a single tree with beautiful white flowers with orange hearts. As Parijatha couldn’t bear the sight of the sun, the flowers of this tree bloom only at night. As the first rays of the sun shoot out at night, the flowers fall and die.
How was Parijatha born?
Mythological excerpt elucidate that when the Ocean of Milk was churned, the Parijata tree was created. But Indra, the chief of the gods thought it was far too beautiful for the Earth. Its bark is golden and embellished with young sprouting leaves of a copper colour and its fruit stalks bear numerous clusters of fragrant fruit, he said eloquently. He took it to his heavenly garden Amaravati and there it grew as one of his five celestial trees until Krishna brought it back to Earth.
So how did Krishna bring this celestial tree back to earth? We all know Narada Muni, the mischievous sage who took great delight in creating problems for both gods and humans. After seeing the beautiful Parijatha tree Narada Muni, went back to Earth and taunted Krishna to give a flower of Parijatha to Rukmini as she loved flowers. While, Krishna thought this was a great idea Narada Muni had other plans. He went to Krishnas other wife Satyabhama and told her about how Krishna gave Rukmini a flower but not her. On hearing this, a very aggravated Satyabhama kicked up a fuss and insisted that Krishna get her the whole tree of Parijatha from Svargaloka. Bewildered Krishna flew right up to Indra and explained the entire story to him. Indra gladly let Krishna take the tree back for his wife. Krishna carefully planted it between the gardens of his wives such that the plant was rooted in Sathyabhamas garden, but the flowers fell into Rukhminis garden. This is how the Parijatha tree appeared on Earth.
Despite the countless religious connotations that the Parijatha has, it has a number of medicinal uses. All the different parts of the plants have some value ranging from building immunity, fighting bacteria, fungi and viruses and also being a liver stimulant.
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