Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Muttuga Tree - Flame of the Forest


Butea monosperma (Sanskrit : किंशुक, Telugu: మోదుగ/మోదుగు, Hindi : पलाश, Bengali : পলাশ) is a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, ranging across India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and western Indonesia.[1] Common names include Palash, Dhak, Palah, Flame of the Forest, Bastard Teak, Parrot Tree, Keshu (Punjabi) and Kesudo (Gujurati), Kannada - Muttuga
It is a medium sized dry season-deciduous tree, growing to 15 m tall. It is a slow growing tree, young trees have a growth rate of a few feet per year. The leaves are pinnate, with an 8–16 cm petiole and three leaflets, each leaflet 10–20 cm long. The flowers are 2.5 cm long, bright orange-red, and produced in racemes up to 15 cm long. The fruit is a pod 15–20 cm long and 4–5 cm broad.[2]

It is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and dye. The gum from the tree, called kamarkas in Hindi, is used in certain food dishes. The gum is also known as Bengal Kino and is considered valuable by druggists because of its astringent qualities and by leather workers because of its tannin.[3] The wood is dirty white and soft and, being durable under water, is used for well-curbs and water scoops. Good charcoal can be made from it. The leaves are usually very leathery and not eaten by cattle. The flowers are used to prepare traditional Holi colour.

This tree amongst others provides leaves that are used either with many pieced together or singly (only in case of a banana leaf) to make a leaf-plate for serving a meal over.


In West Bengal, it is associated with Spring (season), especially through the poems and songs of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who likened its bright orange flame-like flower to fire. In Santiniketan, where Tagore lived, this flower has become an indispensable part of the celebration of spring. The plant has lent its name to the town of Palashi, famous for the historic Battle of Plassey fought there.
It is said that the tree is a form of Agnidev, God of Fire. It was a punishment given to Him by Goddess Parvati for disturbing Her and Lord Shiva's privacy.
In the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, these flowers are specially used in the worship of Lord Shiva on occasion of Shivratri. In Telugu, this tree is called Modugu chettu.
In Kerala, this is called 'plasu' and 'chamata'. Chamata is the vernacular version of Sanskrit word 'Samidha', small piece of wood that use for 'agnihotra' or fire ritual. In most of the old namboodiri (Kerala Brahmin) houses, one can find this tree because this is widely use for their fire ritual. During Upanayanam ceremony the boy would carry a stick from this tree when he enters into brahmacharya phase





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