Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tree of state

Not too many Indians are clued in about their national or state symbols. Part of it could be lack of any rituals around any of the national symbols. It could also be genuine confusion caused by a multiplicity of symbols; for example, India's national animal is the tiger (Panthera tigris), but a child could be forgiven for thinking it is the lion (Panthera leo persica): for India's state emblem, from Ashoka's Sarnath Lion Capital, shows 3 lions but not a single tiger. On the original Lion Capital, you can actually see 5 lions; it is placed on top of an inverted lotus (Nelumbo nucipera gaertn), which is India's national flower. But the lotus is also the symbol of the BJP and therefore not usually paraded about when the BJP is out of power.

The reason for placing all these explanations before getting to the subject is quite simple. Until a few days ago, I did not know much about the state symbols of Tamil Nadu. The big fact I knew was that the gopuram on the state emblem was that of the temple at Srivilliputhur. Beyond that, I was clueless about the symbols of state. Oh, well, the website of the state government also does not have any information about them, but buried somewhere deep inside was a document that acknowledged the palmyra tree (Borassus flabellifer) as the state tree of Tamil Nadu. It may be easy to forget this fact, more so because there are far fewer palmyra trees in Chennai than before - in fact, the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is probably far more abundant in the city.

If you have ever tasted the jelly from inside those black fruits on a hot day, or even the candied panankalkandu, however, you will never be able forget this tree, will you?!


RiverMaker said...

IIRC, the Lion was the national animal, long ago.

Shantaram said...

@ RiverMaker: Was it? Thought it was always the tiger, from the time National Symbols were instituted!