Deodars @ the Himalayas: A sight that dare not be missed

Submitted by aurora on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 17:31

The deodar is one of the world’s four varieties of cedars and it is found in the Himalayas at heights between 1000 m and 3000 m above mean sea levelThe tree takes roots during spring as the saplings come up after winter. The small tree is just a slender stem; it takes years before the tree grows to its full height and thickness. A full-grown tree can have a girth of 15 to 20 feet; in height it rises, spreading its branches like huge arms on either side of the trunk, to around 200-250 feet. This full-grown tree is the mature deodar or the Himalayan cedar, with the botanical name cedrus deodara. A mature tree bears both male and female cones. These are initially soft and silvery green. They darken with age and become wooden when dry

Moing towards Rampur from Shimla, as you cross Narkanda, you encounter a magnificent sight that is at once awe-inspiring and overwhelming. A huge mountainside, literally kissing the sky, is covered with dense pine trees of almost equal size and height. Wonderstruck, you gape with amazement, just taking in the beauty too hallowed to be put in words. These are ancient deodar trees. In and around Chamba, the deodar forests are so thick and ancient that they lend a dark hue to the scenery. Sit on some isolated slopes in Kasauli and listen to the whistling breeze rustling through the pines and you will be soothed of all your stress and strain. In Manali, the long stretch of deodar grove just across the main road provides a divine sight as the rays of the morning sun come straining through the trees, making a gossamer pattern with light and shade and the birds resonating the air with celestial music.Deodars range across the Hindu Kush and Himalayas, at elevations from about 3,500 to 12,000 feet. They are native to northeastern Afghanistan, Pakistan (where it is the national tree), India and western Nepal. Deodars are common in the regions of Punjab, Kashmir and the Himachal Pradesh. Extensive forests still exist in the basin of the main tributaries of the Indus River. They can live to be a thousand years old and grow as tall as 250 feet$P=$ $=P$ The deodar is a symbol of prosperity and is venerated as the ‘tree of god.’ ; The name deodar, in fact, comes from the local word deodaru, in which ‘deo’ stands for god and daru means tree. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva was meditating under a deodar tree when Kamdev shot his arrow of love, disturbing Him and thereby incurring His wrath. In the western Himalayas, the deodar is closely linked with Shiva worship and often a Shiva temple is found near a cluster of deodars.“As Himalaya is considered to be the home of gods, it is believed that the forests are the part of their house. The landscape around temple is considered sacred and is preserved as temple grove. The tree of Cedrus deodara is believed to be the tree of God and is planted around temples,” wrote the authors of a 2006 article in The Journal of American Science

Deodar wood is extremely durable and rot-resistant. Deodar pillars of the great Shah Hamaden Mosque in Kashmir are over four centuries old. Hindu temples have been reputedly been built with deodar wood that has lasted 600 to 800 years. A 1926 Scientific American article described a bridge in Kashmir with deodar timber that was little decayed after four centuries of exposure to river water. Deodar wood is also prized for its curative properties. According to Indian Ayurvedic medicine, deodar bark, oil and wood powder possess anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties; and are used against fever, diarrhea and dysentery, for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, and to aid digestion. Insects avoid the wood, and an oil distilled from the deodar has been used as an application to the feet of horses, cattle and camels as a preventive against the bites of the troublesome Himalayan “potu” fly. The aromatic wood is used as incense. And, as if all that weren’t enough, Hindu Kush sibyls (female oracles) have used the smoke of burning deodar wood for divine inspiration. Clearly, the deodar is a most useful tree

In Himachal Pradesh, the local myths and legends associated with the deodar go a long way in preserving the tree from destruction. There are several groves dedicated to a particular deity.Consequently, nobody dares harm the woods. Of the large sacred groves, the biggest deodar grove in Shimla district is at Shipin, 12 km from Shimla. It is home to trees that are hundreds of years old. There is an interesting practice to protect the sanctity of the grove: those who pass through the grove dust their clothes before leaving the grove to make sure they do not carry anything belonging to the deity. Trees in the area are not hewed and all deadwood found in the forest is used in the temple located in the grove. Similarly, the sacred grove of Dev Kothi in the Kothai-rohru belt of Shimla district is a hundred years old. There are many such groves that have become ‘mother groves’ for the natural regeneration of forests and for sustaining bio-diversity

The deodar is a symbol of the eternal. It is majestic, tall, handsome and fearless. It guards as it stands erect, facing the raging storms of the mountains or the chilling snowfall. Covered with snow, it looks like a hermit, standing in its pure white garments with arms outstretched in prayer