Location in BHU campus : Planted near Vishwanath temple, some hostel premises and College of Indology.
Botanical name : Saraca asoca (Roxb.)de Wilde S.indica auct.non L.
Family : Caesalpiniaceae
Vernacular / local Name : Bengali-Ashoka, asok; Gujarati-Ashopalava, asupala; Hindi–Ashok, sita-ashok ; Kannada-Aksunkar, asokadamara, kenkali, anchange; Malayalam-Asokam, hemapushpam, vanjulam; Marathi-Ashoka, jasundi; Oriya-Oshoko; Sanskrit –Ashoka, vanjuladruma, pallavadru ; Tamil-Asogam; Telugu-Asoka, kankeli, vajulamu .
English names : Ashoka
A small to medium sized tree up to 15 m high with umbrella shaped crown.Leaves paripinnate,leaflets 3-6 pairs ,oblong –lanceolate or oblong.Flowers orange ,fragrant in corymbs .Fruit a flat pod ,oblong ,compressed and black.
Flowering :February- May
It is one of the most important trees for both Hindus and Buddhists.The tree is associated with Budh and Indra. Ashoka means without grief or one which gives no grief. The flowers are washed in water and that water is consumed to ward off grief.
In Vamana purana, use of the flowers of Asoka is recommended for worshipping.`Its flowers are used in temple decoration.In Bengal Ashoka flower buds are eaten during Ashoka Sasthi, on the sixth day of bright fortnight of the month of Baisakh (April-May).
The tree is also a symbol of love and dedicated to Kamadeva who is supposed to have used the flowers as one of the five arrows in his quiver. The tree is regarded as a guardian of female chastity and the belief comes from Ramayana. Ravana abducted Sita and forcibly kept her in Lanka for a long time .She spent those years in a grove of Ashoka trees and remained chaste. Gautama Buddha was born under an Ashoka tree in Lumbini.
As per Bhavishya Purana, a person named Sashoka, who was a cannibal repented his way of life and wanted to change. He approached a sage who advised him to live rest of his life doing prayer and penance. Then he would be reborn as a tree in Ravana’s garden and Sita would take refuge under the shade of that tree. When Hanuman would console her sitting on that tree ,her grief would vanish.The sins of Sashoka would also be washed away and the world will know the tree as the one which takes away grief.
Ashoka trees are planted in Buddhist monasteries. Wood is used for plough and shafts.Its bark and flowers are used in Ayurvedic medicine.Timber is used for house building. The seeds are chewed as a substitute for betel nut.