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Parijat: Tree of sorrow

  

SABITRI DHAKAL

Parijat ( Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) commonly known as night flowering jasmine or night queen is a fragrant flowering plant. It is found in South Asian countries — Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Its flowering season is quite long, extending from August to December in most regions.

It is usually a small tree or a shrub with grey bark. The flowers have corolla with an orange-red centre along with a bright orange stalk. The flowers bloom during night and shed at dawn. The flowers are famous for its fragrance that is prominent only during the nights. That’s why the tree is often called the ‘tree of sorrow’ as the flowers lose their brightness and fragrance during daytime.

If you have a plant growing in the vicinity, its fragrance spreads far and you can recognise that there is a Parijat tree growing nearby. These flowers can be recognised easily because of its unique coloured flowers. The flowers start dropping when the sun shines. The area surrounding the plant looks like a bed of flowers.

Along with the flower the plant produces fruit which is a flat brown-hearted shaped to round capsule with two sections each containing a single seed.

Mythology

There are interesting myths associated with this flower. The first myth is a sad romantic myth. According to this myth, Princess Parijataka fell in love with the sun god Surya Dev. She was enamoured 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 favoured 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 Parijat tree arose. Since she is unable to bear the sight of her love during the day, she blooms only at night, and sheds the flowers as tears, before the sun rises.

Some myths go on to say, that the tree sheds its tears at the touch of the first rays of the sun! The flowers spread their fragrance in the entire area, during the day, as a sign of undying love for her lover, the Sun.

Beneficial uses

The leaves of Parijat tree are used as ayurvedic medicine for fever and icterus. The plant is not only useful for the medicinal purpose but is also useful for dyeing. The flowers can be used as a source of yellow dye for clothes. They are also used to make perfume because of its aroma.

Plant care

Because of its fragrance the plant is cultivated in many houses. It requires less water and can grow without much care. Even when neglected, Parijat produces fragrant flowers in abundance.

But the greatest enemy of this plant is standing water which causes the roots to rot and die. If a little care is given to the plant in the form of periodic deep waterings, well rotted compost, and judicious pruning, Parijat can take on the form of a truly elegant specimen.

Fertilising the plants in soil once a year and twice for the plants in containers is good. The plant needs trimming as the shoots grow in different directions. It is best to grow the plant in the shaded area of the garden which receives few hours of direct sunlight. It will be an excellent selection for planting in semi-shaded situations.

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