Location in BHU campus: Planted in Botanical and Ayurvedic gardens
Botanical name : Butea monosperma (Lamk.)Taub. Syn B. Frondosa Koenig ex Roxb.
Family : Fabaceae
Vernacular / local Name : Bengali-Palas; Gujarati-Khakharo,kesudo; Hindi-Dhak,palash; Kannada-Muttuga; Marathi-Palas; Oriya-Porasu; Punjab-Chichra,dhak,palas; Sanskrit-Palasa,santal-marup; Tamil-Parasa,pilasu; Telugu-Mooduga,palasamu.
English names : Flame of the Forest, Bengal kino tree
A small or medium ,deciduous tree up to 15 m high and 3.8m girth, with a somewhat crooked trunk and large irregular branches. Bark fibrous ,light brown or grey, exuding a sticky red juice which hardens into gum.Leaves long petioled,trifoliate;leaflets coriaceous,15 -20 x12-18 cm ,broadly and obliquely obovate.Flowers spectacularly beautiful,3.5 x 5 cm, bright orange red, rarely yellow,in long racemes (about 15 cm)on bare branches. Fruit a pendulous pod, silky tomentose,10-13 cm long. The ripe pods are light and scattered by the strong winds during the hot weather. Seed one.
Fruiting : May-July
The tree is supposed to have sprung from the feather of a falcon imbued with Soma. According to Vayupurana the plant originated from the right side of Yama’s body.This beautiful tree is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. According to the legend Queen Mahamaya seized a branch of this tree at the very moment of the birth of her son Gautam Buddha.
It is employed in various religious ceremonies .The middle leaflet of the trifoliate leaves of this plant is supposed to represent Vishnu,the left Brahma and the right Shiva; hence its worship in Chaturmas Mahatma. During the sacred thread ceremony the leaves are used as platters when a particular part of a ceremony called ‘Chewul’ is performed; the dry twigs are used for the sacred fire (Hom or havan) of the Navagraha Pooja to pacify the nine planets on the occasion of Vastu shanti . According to astrologers the plant is used in sacred fires to have the benevolent effect of the celestial body, the Moon.
The stem is used as a staff on the day of ‘Sodmung’ a part of thread ceremony. When a boy becomes sadhu he is given a leaf of this plant to eat and his staff is made up of Palasa wood.
The leaves are offered to Lord Vishnu on Shree Narasimha Jayanti Vrata.
The plant is associated with the celestial body ‘Soma’ and the constellation Purvaphalguni or Pubba whose presiding deity is Bhag.
In Himachal Pradesh it is used in funeral pyres. Many religious songs have mention of the fruits and flowers of Palash being offered to Gods along with Keora, Bela, Kachnar, Champa, Gurhal and Mahua to fulfil their wishes.
Tree is valuable for afforestation of saline regions.It is a valuable host for the lac insect.Leaves are used for making platters ,cups etc .Dried leaves are used to wrap beedis.Young shoots yield fibre used for making ropes .Root- bark yields a coarse fibre used for cordage . Bark is astringent and used for piles, tumours and menstrual disorders. Butea gum or Bengal kino from this tree is an astringent and used to control diarrhoea. The flowers yield a brilliant yellow colouring dye which is used during Holi. When the seeds are pounded with lemon juice they act as powerful rubefacient and have been successfully used as a cure for Dhobi's itch a form of herpes. Wood is used for well -curbs and water scoops.