Parijat is a flower that is found in almost all parts of India. It has amazing fragrance and it blooms in the night. It is considered as auspicious and is generally used in poojas et al.. One should smell it on summer nights.. the scent stays with you for long believe me!
The biological name for this tree is “Nyctanthes arbor-tristis “
It is a shrub or a small tree growing to 10 m tall, with flaky grey bark. The leaves are opposite, simple, 6-12 cm long and 2-6.5 cm broad, with an entire margin. The flowers are fragrant, with a five- to eight-lobed white corolla with an orange-red centre; they are produced in clusters of two to seven together, with individual flowers opening at dusk and finishing at dawn. The fruit is a flat brown heart-shaped to round capsule 2 cm diameter, with two sections each containing a single seed.
The tree is said to have a lot of medicinal properties .
The fresh leaves of the plant prepared in the form of juice, infusions or decoctions and in combination with other herbs are found to be useful in treating inflammations, sciatica, itching, fever, bronchitis, asthma, cough, dyspepsia(difficulty with digestion associated with pain, flatulence, heartburn and nausea), constipation as the active principals contained within them are found to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, digestive, expectorant, diuretic and laxative properties. The leaves were also considered antidotal for reptile venom
The bark when chewed with betel nut and leaf was eaten to promote expectoration of thick phlegm. The seeds when powdered and prepared as a paste are used to cure scurvy and affections of the scalp.
The flowers are also used as a traditional yellow dye. They are also considered to be water purifiers. The wood has been used to form a food batten base for tile or grass thatch roofs while the young branches are suitable for making baskets. The bark of the tree is sometimes used as a tanning material and the leaves are used for polishing wood and ivory.
In the Indian mythology, parijata has been mentioned in many a stories..
There is an interesting story from which the name “Nyctanthes arbor-tristis” seems to have been derived from.
It is said that once a royal princess fell in love with the sun god . She was enamored of his brilliance and beauty as he daily passed through the sky from east to west in his fiery chariot. Her devotion attracted his attention and for a while he favored her with his attention but after awhile he was distracted with other interests and she was deserted. In despair she killed herself and from her cremated ashes the parijata tree arose. Since she was rejected by Surya Dev, the flowers of the tree only bloom at night. Then before the sun rises the flowers fall so its rays will not strike her. Based on this story the tree was given the species name “arbor -tristis” which means “tree of sorrow“.
Another story surrounding the trees origin is found in several ancient Indian scriptures called the Puranas. It is said that when the celestial beings, at the behest of Hari-the Preserver of the Universe, churned the cosmic ocean to obtain certain boons that would help alleviate suffering and protect the powers of good from the powers of evil one of the parijata tree appeared as one of the divine treasures. Its perfume was said to permeate the entire universe. After the parijata tree emerged from the ocean of existence it taken to the heaven and planted in the pleasure garden of Indra- the lord of the gods.
It is said that Lord Krishna’s two wives, Satyabhama and Rukmini wanted this “Parijata” tree from the Heaven to be planted in their personal garden. Krishna, wanting to keep both his wives happy, planted this tree so that the flowers fell in Rukmini’s garden while the tree remained in Satyabhama’s garden.
All in all an interesting flower don’t you think ? Personally I don’t care about the medicinal properties or the stories.. the fragrance is divine.. Many of the houses near my street have this tree and when it blooms in the night *………..Sigh………*
I love walking in the night and smell them…
And I remember I used to wake up 5:30 am.. long time back.. to pluck it for my Uncle who would do puja everyday.. the grass was wet with dew and the flowers too had dew drops.. that one moment made me feel as if I was indeed in paradise 🙂
Uncle had a rule… we would shake the tree and the flowers that fell down were collected and the rest were not touched.. so well it was like standing in midst of the canopy of white and orange 🙂