khejri-tree-importance-rajasthan-india-plantation

Why Khejri Is The State Tree Of Rajasthan?

My earliest memories of Khejri trees are from the driving trips made to Shekhawati in Rajasthan during childhood years. Khejri trees were ubiquitous after a drive of 70 Km from Jaipur. The semi-arid landscape on either side of a single lane road was dominated by Khejri trees. Often, the trees were in a pruned state.

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The landscape of the semi-arid region of Rajasthan

Akada shrubs, Neem and Khejri trees was all one could see for miles. A couple years later as a stamp collector, I secured a stamp issued by India Post featuring Khejri tree.

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The scientific name of the Khejri tree is Prosopis Cineraria. In India, it is also known by many other names such as Shami, Khijro, Jhand, Jat, Khar, Kanda, and Jammi depending on the region. In Rajasthan, it is called as Khejri or Khejro. Khejri is the most dominant tree of the region; and for this exact reason, Khejri is called the state tree of Rajasthan. The tree is also present in the Middle East region and is called Ghaf Tree.

The tree is not easy to spot in cities like Jaipur due to rapid urbanization. The Forest Dept. has preferred decorative and flowering trees like Gulmohar and Golden Shower Cassia tree over native species. One can surely find the Khejri tree in the suburbs and villages near Jaipur.

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The rural landscape near Jaipur

The tree is closely tied to the history of Jaipur. During the days of royalty, the king would worship the Khejri tree on the day of Dussehra at Dussehra Kothi in Jaipur. The rulers of Jaipur were Kacchawa Rajputs, the descendants of Lord Ram. It is believed that Lord Ram worshipped a Khejri tree before the final battle with King of Lanka, Ravana. In this battle, Lord Ram killed Ravana. Dussehra is one of the festivals that predates Diwali and is a celebration of this win by Lord Ram. This tradition of worshipping the Khejri tree in Jaipur royalty nevertheless continues in a modified and scaled-down manner.

Its leaves resemble Gulmohar leaves and are similar to the ones found in other trees of the same family like Babool, Sickle bush tree, Prosopis Juliflora or Vilayti Babool.  All these belong to the Fabaceae family. Here are a few pictures of leaves from this family.

The spikes in Khejri are very small and appear as a single unit. It sheds its leaves in January and new ones appear in February-March. The fruit appears between May-July in the shape of a slender stalked pod measuring between 7-20 cm. Initially, it is green in color and later turns into the brownish shade.

The Khejri tree used to play a vital role in the economy of villages and rural areas. The leaves are used as fodder for cattle and therefore one observes the tree in a pruned state.  The pruning is also done to enhance tree growth. Apart from this, leaves also make for excellent compost.  The wood from the tree is used for preparing food as firewood.

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Rural landscape consisting of Babool, Neem, and Khejri trees

The texture of the bark of the Kheri tree is quite similar to the one in the Neem tree – rough and cracked. The dried fruit of the tree is used as Sangri. People who appreciate Rajasthani food must have heard of Ker Sangri. While Ker grows on a bush, Sangri is derived from the Khejri tree. It fruits in summer. Sangri is a pendulous bean-like pod. Some documents suggest that the bark of Khejri was used as a flour during the Famine of Rajputana in 1869. Even today the bark is used in treating many conditions like leprosy and asthma in Ayurveda.

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The tree is a hardy tree that requires less care which explains why it can be easily sighted in Thar desert. It can survive in cold & severe hot conditions with a temperature range of 5-47 C. The tree is well known for its ability to bind the soil. Its roots can attain a considerable depth in search of the water sources. Khejri tree is found in areas that receive annual rainfall less than 75-80 cm. This is one of the secrets for its survival in the hot and harsh climate. As per a report by Central Arid Zone Research Institute in 2015, the Khejri tree is gradually losing its ground. The area covered by this tree has come down significantly. It is being said that in the past, this tree was found in Punjab. But with increased water availability, the scenario has changed. It is unlikely to be found where the annual rainfall exceeds 100 cm. A number of reasons are being provided against this phenomenon but these are just theories. We still don’t know the exact cause. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that changes in the lifestyle of the rural areas from agrarian to modern are one of the major causes. New sources of water, availability of modern fertilizers have brought in changes bound to impact old ways. Even then, a significant landscape in Rajasthan is covered by the Khejri tree. The tree takes a long time to grow and unless we plant a lot more trees now it is unlikely the situation will change.

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It is unfortunate that the state forest department hasn’t been a catalyst in promoting this tree. We have seen ill-effects of the flawed policies adopted by Forest Dept. during the last few years by promoting imported trees like Israeli Babool and Australian Eucalyptus. Both these trees have been counterproductive leading to more harm than gain. In the case of the latter, the soil underneath would turn infertile. Local trees support the local ecology but imported trees don’t. Khejri tree is linked with many historical events like Chipko Movement started by Sunderlal Bahuguna in the 1970s. It is being stated that this movement itself was fuelled by an event that took place in the early 1700s in Jodhpur. A king ordered the cutting of Khejri trees; the local Bishnoi community opposed the movement to retain them from felling. During the Chipko movement or Chipko Aandolan, people in Uttarakhand started hugging trees to stop woodcutters from cutting trees.

We need native trees like Neem, Peepal, Dhok to name a few to preserve local ecology. What’s your view? Have you ever seen Kheri tree? Or ever tried Ker Sangri in Jaipur or elsewhere in Rajasthan?

Read complete posts on trees found in Jaipur –  Trees of Jaipur

 

 

 

 

80 thoughts on “Why Khejri Is The State Tree Of Rajasthan?

    1. Absolutely. But I guess we are losing the connect with modern lifestyle. We are less reliant on many things the tree offers. The cattle is being fed with commercial cattle feed as an example. Have you ever seen this tree?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Nature ensured that trees support local ecology and are hardy enough to survive in local climatic conditions. This is a reason why we don’t have oak and spruce in semi-arid region. Similarly, trees like Neem and Khejri will never survive English cold. I think it is best if our race stopped playing around with nature. We haven’t yet reached a point where we can rule nature completely. We are witnessing the ill-effects of tampering, already. Some people on the contary feels that these extreme climatic situation are part of planet’s evolution. We won’t know what is true, though. I know for sure you are a person who loves woods. Which is your favorite tree?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Favourite? That’s a difficult one. I’ve always had a soft spot for the English Oak, although there are so many others I love, too. It depends on where I am – in India I’m particularly fond of the Neem and the Flame Tree.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I was thinking about Oak when I asked. I guess that’s a popular tree for making furniture. Flame of the forest is certainly beautiful. Have you ever heard of silk cotton tree? Quite similar to the flowers of flame of the forest tree

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      3. I think you must have. They flower during spring and I assume you must have seen plenty of them in Bihar if you were there in this season. Flame of the forest is orange in color while other is crimson.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right. Our race is the most ferocious species on this planet. We want all resources exclusively for us. A reason for extinction of many animals and plants. Looks like you are a nature lover?

      Liked by 2 people

  1. One tree that comes with a big legacy. Interesting to note it’s association with Chipjo movement. I hope the authorities promote it as losing indigenous natural heritage wouldn’t do good to anyone. Amazed by your detailing of a single type of tree.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s hope so, Nellanjana. We need to appreciate what is around us rather than fancy what we don’t have. If you are curious, finding information is not very difficult. Do you love trees?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True that. We never value what we have and that’s true in every aspect of life. I absolutely love trees…have you read this book – The Hidden Life of Trees? If you haven’t, do try and grab one.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Shami tree is a sacred tree. Another name for Lord Shiva & people keep one at the entrance of the house (or west side) for certain vastu purpose. It is believed that if you keep a few leaves of Shami / Khejri with you,the day unfolds brilliantly .But if you have one at home you need to treat it like a God (represents Shani dev) …….

    A good read Arvind. I know a bit about Shami but was not aware it’s Khejri 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Monica! that’s something I was not aware of. Good to know. In fact, I have never heard that this tree was called Shami. I have always known it by Khejri. The case as your 🙂

      How do you know so much about the religious connection of this tree?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have an ardent Shiv bhakt at home and a friend has this plant at home. Apparently, the plant is got home with pomp & show like one would get an idol during puja. I also got to know that Rajasthan shares same tree as state tree of Telangana.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Arv, I never knew the local name of this tree to be Khejri, nor did I try to find out but used to call it as some species of Babool. I have seen them in many places and probably a couple of them in my vicinity (just need to cross-check if they are not Babool). Although I feel every native vegetation is important and has its role to play I never had any proper idea about the significance of Khejri trees, just thought them to be the fodder for the cattle. Thanks for sharing this information.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sarmistha, it is only recently that I have become more aware of the trees around us. I felt we don’t pay enough attention to our surroundings. There is so much to know. Often, we are curious when we travel as our minds are switched off and relaxed but it is not the case when we are back home. I know you are a nature lover and would enjoy reading more about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sarmistha. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Yes, trees are essential for human survival as well as life on this planet. I’m glad you liked this post. Do you ever stop and notice the trees around you? the species?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Had always seen these trees in Rajasthan but thanks to your post I am now educated about them! WOW! There is so much to this tree from Ayurveda to chipko movement to its beautiful flowers! 🙂 Have had the Ker Sangri vegetable in Jaisalmer. Delicious!

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    1. Divyakshi, isn’t it an irony that we know so little about the trees around us? How many of us can recognize the native trees? I’m sure we all can make a difference in this world with some tree education. That’s the idea behind writing about these trees. Have you read my previous posts on trees?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember seeing this tree on our road trip to Rajasthan. I will look up my archives and share the picture. What I loved about your post, Arvind was the wealth of information you shared. So good to know more about the tree. Also, looking at the leaves and the name you shared – my Mum has a Shami planted back home. She tell me at the entrance, this wards of evil.
    Thanks a ton! I hope to see you back on the 12th.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will look forward to seeing the picture from your travel. I always feel that what we post needs to be more valuable and make a difference. This is what I shared with you when we interacted on TTL. This is a reason why I decided not to share just the picture. A picture cannot do justice to beautiful trees around us. I will request everyone participating in TTL to provide the name of the trees. It’s daunting task but certainly worth the efforts. I will join whenever I have something worth sharing from this part of the world, Parul.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I have seen this tree being planted in Gurgaon in several places where re-greening is being done. Love the purple and yellow flowers which reminded me of the bottle brush tree. Thanks for sharing such wonderful information about this tree.

    You are right about the ill will of our forest departments in ruining the tree variety in our cities and forests. We need to make sure we are planting more of the native variety as they are hardy and adjust well to the soil and water component of the region.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Khejri tree in Delhi NCR? That’s something new for me. I’m not sure about the flower part especially the purple one. I wonder why our forest department decided to follow the British legacy of planting decorative trees? A disaster actually for the local ecosystem. Are you a tree lover?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s always interesting reading about flora and fauna in India, Arv. You not only know the history of Jaipur well, but also the nature aspect of it as well. Never heard of the Khejeri tress and nice to read about it. It is interesting to hear it is known by different names – not something you hear about each day as you think, one plant, one name. Perhaps the tree differs slightly in different states? The photo of the yellow fruit and spokes reminds me of the bottlebrush, which is an Australian plant/tree.

    I’ve heard tree sap is medicinal, and interesting to hear Khejeri tree’s bark is used for treating conditions. Nature is powerful.

    Stay safe, Arv.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is Certainly interesting to hear and know more about the trees. After all we depend on them. Even locals have seen this tree often but don’t know it’s name. Tree doesn’t figure high on the list of people. Yes, there are always many variants of every tree. Happy to hear about bottle brush. I have seen this in Singapore, if I’m not wrong. Hope things are ok in your city as far as corona is concerned.

      Like

      1. One of the best things I like about trees is the shade the bigger ones provide – like your best friends on a hot sunny day. Things are not too bad here in Melbourne. Just very quiet and everyone is staying indoors.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. A hardy and enduring tree with so much history attached to it and meaning so much to Rajasthan, should certainly be protected, in my opinion. I enjoyed reading about this tree and the part it has played in your heritage. It’s a pity that native species have come to mean so little in many places. Easier managed species, often not native ones, seem to be creeping in everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Millie, this tree is quite hardy. I guess our dependence on trees has gone down as we are increasingly becoming modern in our apporach. Also, a lot more focus is being laid to the decorative element. In India, the forest authorities asopted a wrong approach of planting trees from Australia and Africa a couple of decades ago. In the end, these trees turned out to detrimental to local ecology. Also, they do not support local fauna. I hope things are corrected fast and we adopt focus on indigenous trees. Do you notice trees around you?

      Like

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