Parijat in Barabanki - the Tree from heaven is the only of its kind in India

Parijat Tree located at Kintur village near Barabanki (Uttar Pradesh) is the only one of its kind in the entire country (apart from a different sub-species in Madhya Pradesh), and if you trust the locals and the legends related to the place, the only one in the entire world too. It's also known as Kalpavriksha, which basically means that it fulfills any wish or desire that you may have.

Keeping the legends aside, it's true that Parijat (Adansonia digitata) is not a native Indian tree so its presence here in the fertile lands of the Ganges is a bit of an anomaly. Though non-existent in India, it's fairly common in parts of sub-Saharan Africa's dry and arid areas and known globally as baobab. 

Update:
Once I published the article, a few Baobab enthusiasts directed me towards a few more in different parts of India. Here are some:
  1. Botanical Garden, Kolkata
  2. Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh
  3. Mandu region, Madhya Pradesh
  4. 4. Vasai Fort, Maharashtra
  5. Theosophist Society Gardens, Chennai

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Parijat tree, Kintur

Video of Parijat

Here's a quick video of my visit to the Parijat tree at Barabanki. Do read ahead though to learn more about the tree as well as the legends associated with it.



How did Parijat came to India?

I like to tell stories, and here's one I made for Parijat in India. It's highly likely that the introduction of Baobab in India wasn't as dramatic though :)

Early in the 14th Century, a young boy was born in the sub-Saharan country Morocco and then went on to travel the entire world. The name of this boy was Ibn Battuta and during his extensive travels, he also visited India and spent many years living in north of the country. So as per my theory, he had carried a sapling of baobab from his home where the tree is common and when he made India his home (he stayed here for more than six years during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq), he decided to plant the tree here.

And this is how Parijat came to this nondescript village in the middle of nowhere!

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Parijat tree from the back

Scientific reasoning

Looking beyond the stories, there has been some good amount of work done to trace the genetic connection between the Indian and African Baobab, and one thing that's clear is that it came to the Indian subcontinent from Africa, and not necessarily directly from heaven.

Here's the conclusion from this excellent study:

"This led us to the marvellous realisation that the geographical distribution of baobabs in the Indian subcontinent are living reminders of the long history of African diaspora across the Indian Ocean."

My visit to Parijat Tree

Of course I had no clue about this place or the tree till recently when I was on my way to Barabanki from Lucknow. I was reading the sign-boards and was pleased with how many names of the places I knew already. Parijat was not one of them and that's when my driver showed his surprise and told me that I should know about it, being a traveller etc (and I rolled my eyes in mock frustration). This is what he said:

"Sir this tree is very special and god himself got it to earth all the way from heaven for his mother. This is the only such tree of its kind in the entire world and it's also now a protected site - so you can't go near it, break its branches or leaves."

Now I was super intrigued and a quick online search did corroborate what our driver, Anup, told us. The tree is certainly the only one of its kind in India, though not in the world as it's fairly common in parts of Africa. The actual age of the tree in Barbanki isn't known, but it's estimated to be fairly old considering it's overall size and girth of 10 metres.

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Entrance to the tree complex

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Parijat flower - we could see two of these but far away at the top

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Leaves of Parijat tree

So on our way back we decided to stop by and check out the Parijat tree. Right from the moment we reached there, I realised that the place is of much religious significance for the locals here. Even before you get near the tree, there are numerous people selling flowers and prasad to offer to the tree.

The tree is truly impressive too, especially because it's so unique here in India. I had seen only one baobab tree during my trip to Africa, so this one was quite a sight. We were lucky as we visited the place in August because this is the month when the tree flowers. There is an interesting story about the flower too - apparently it turns from white to golden when it dries up, and that's when it's offered to the gods as gold. I saw only two flowers and they were fairly high up on the tree, but they were certainly beautiful.

parijat parijaat tree barabanki kalpavriksha
Parijat tree with the temple at the base

There is also a small temple at the base of the tree but based on the orders of the district magistrate of Barabanki the area is fenced off and not anymore accessible. The offerings over the last hundreds of years actually spoiled the tree and it got infected with fungus and stared slowly dying from within. The fencing is meant to prevent further deterioration while the tree is treated with insecticides.


Legends about Parijat Tree

An I mentioned earlier, the place has numerous stories and legends associated with it. So without much ado let me share the popular myths and legends associated with this Parijat tree.

Legend of Kunti

Once Kunti and her sister-in-law had an argument about who would be the first one to offer water at a prominent Shiva temple. To break the stalemate, it was decided that the one who can offer a golden flower to the God would get the right to do it. Kunti knew about a mythical tree in the heaven whose flowers turn into gold when they dry, and asked her son Arjun the warrior, to get it for her.

legend of parijat tree kunti arjun
Legend of Kunti

Arjun got the entire tree itself and that's how it came to be here. Since then the Shiva temple is known as 'Kunti Temple'.

However, according to another 'Kunti' legend everyday sun god used to bring Parijat flowers for her to worship, but once on a cloudy day no flowers came. She was very worried so her son Arjun went to the heaven and got the tree itself which was planted here. Since then it's been worshipped. After Kunti died, this was also her final resting place.

Legend of Krishna

One of Krishna's wife Satyabhama had heard about the Parijat tree and so Krishna had to get it for her the heaven after waging a war with Lord Indra. However, this made his other wife Rukmani jealous, so he found a unique arrangement - the tree was located near Satyabhama's window but it's flowers fell near Rukmani's.

legend of parijat tree krishna
Krishna getting the Parijat tree

Legend of Samudramanthan

Another legend says that during the great churning of the ocean, Samudramanthan, one of the many booms that came out, this Parijat tree was one of them. The tree is believed to fulfil all our wishes, and especially so if you offer its golden flower at the Shiva temple nearby.

legend of parijat tree samudramanthan
A painting by Raja Ravi Verma about Samurdramanthan

How to reach Parijat Tree?

Parijat Tree is located at a distance of about 70km from Lucknow, and takes about two hours to reach. It is in a small town called Kintur, about 3km from the main junction at Badosarai and is well-marked on the sign-board.

Here's a map for reference:

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this info- its pretty interesting. The story about Krishna planting the Parijat is similar to the story of him planting a harshringhar tree in the same manner. I guess our mythology is often twisted to suit the narrative ;-) But all the stories make for a wonderful listening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right, these are stories and often change form region to region. They are certainly interesting though :)

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  2. Baobab are very different from the tree in this pic they are tall and have branches at top and that too a very few in number or leaves this is to prevent the ETL (evaporate transpiration loses)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good observation and google image search shows exactly what you say. However, there are many sub-species...do look up 'Adansonia Digitata' which is one one the sub-species of Baobab.

      I can't confirm the sub-species of this Parijat tree though.

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  4. The same tree is existing in my home town Hamirpur of Uttar Pradesh province. It is also protected by Archaeological Survey of India.
    I request your site to please include it in your list.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for sharing.
    Its great chance for famous Barabanki .
    Thanks wanderer!
    Thanks Siddhartha.

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  6. I always thought a magic wishing tree was probably too fantastic to be real - but now I see I was wrong!! I really love your version of the Parijat origin story - and who knows? Perhaps there is some truth in it. It certainly would be on my list of attractions if I visited - I'd love to be able to tell people I'd seen a real, live magic wishing tree and watch their reactions!

    ReplyDelete

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