Saturday, 25 January 2020

The largest ''banyan tree'' in the world in Telengana, India undergoing conservation - an arboreal wonder

Thimmamma Marrimanu, Telengana, India .Alamy.com
Thimmamma Marrimanuhistoricalplacesandtemples, India.wordpress.com
Thimmamma Marrimanu or "Thimmamma's Banyan Tree" is  a unique  banyan tree in  the newly formed state of Telengana. Located on a barren and dusty plain roughly  25 kilometers from Kadiri and 70km away from Horsely Hills, this verdant tree (a species of Ficus benghalensis)  covers over more than five  acres of land  and is  seven hundred plus years old.  It is believed to be the largest banyan in the world  according to the Guinness Book of World Records published in 1989.
location map. Kadri, telengana. /frontline.thehindu.com

In the local parlance - Telugu spoken here "marri" means "banyan" and "manu"  means"trees".  This tree is said to have grown from   one of the  wooden poles used in the funeral pyre  in which Thimmamma Marrimanu, a local woman  committed sati - suicide by getting into the funeral pyre of her husband. It was a horrible custom in those bygone days which was put to an end by great social reformers like Rajaram Mohan Rai of Bengal. This pretty old Hindu custom is obsolete  and gone for ever. It was in 1829 it was banned by Governor-General of India William Bentinck of the  East India Company, the British Crown's proxy ruler.  He enacted  the Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829, declaring the practice of burning or burying alive of Hindu widows to be punishable by the criminal courts.  Mind you, non-existent in ancient India,   in the later  days, it was a rare practice and not widow burning, rather it was a voluntary act on the part of the women. It was quite prevalent among the princely families in north India way in the past when they lost the kingdom to the Muslim invaders to avoid ill treatment and subjugation.
Sati voluntary suicide in the funeral pyre of her husband. .indictoday.com

Gov. Gen. williamBentnick abolished ''sati''. en.wikipedia. org .
 According to the local myth, the  banyan tree  grew from the half burned  wood pole en in the funeral pyre  and is named after
Thimmamma Marrimanu.  This myth later  led to the construction of a small temple right under the tree and the belief has been that those childless women, if prayed to the temple here, will be soon blessed with a kid. Lots of couple used to visit this small temple here. On the day of  the Shivaratri festival a large jatara is  held at Thimmamma  and couples in thousands  go there to worship the deity  and to relax in the  peaceful ambience around this place. This was  despite the fact that there were  no proper facilities like restaurants,  public toilets, potable drinking water, etc. Presently, conservation work is underway and the Forest deptt. banned visitors to his historical site to preserve the old tree.
The credit goes to one
Sathyanarayana Iyer,  a freelance journalist and photographer from Bangalore, Karnataka,  who brought to light for the first time, the presence of this  huge old  tree  here and he was responsible for its entry into the  Guinness Book of World Records.

This interesting  tree, presently under the management of Telengana Forest department  (since January 2018) because it became weak and  facing  slow death. Part of the reason is its continuous massive lateral growth and lack of strength in aerial roots that are not good enough to support the  enormous weight of this rare banyan tree.  In the recent past one of its branches came crashing down. The Forest deptt. is engaged in conservation and restoration work, as the huge tree has become weak to bear its own weight that increases as the tree grows side wise  with weak roots under the soil.   The Forest officials   banned the entry of public as many visitors  hung on to the  aerial  roots and sometime  used them to swing hard. This resulted  in damage to  Pillalamarri which loses many aerial roots to support  its growth and weight.  The Forest deptt., at certain important places,  built 35  concrete pillars to  prevent crashing down of any  tree branches in the future. There is a need to preserve every branch of this antiquated tree.  
Last year, in consultation with experts  under the chief officer of the Forest deptt.  at selected places small holes were driven in the tree  and pesticide solution (IV drip of pesticide)  was injected  in the holes to fight termite attack.  Termites pose threats to such old trees.  Every two days about 200  plastic bottles  were emptied  for this purpose.  Checking every sign of elapse, the  conservation officials frequently observed  the new aerial  roots  for their  easy growth. Besides, they also went  deep into the roots into  the ground to check their growth and strength. This precaution  was  taken regularly, though termite attack is almost under control now. 

Yet another major problem being faced by the forest officials is lack of good  soil cover. This means the tree is unable to get  enough nutrients for its further growth and strength of aerial roots  to penetrate the earth.  Tilling and moisture conservation work  was under way to enable soil growth.  The Forest deptt., is making every effort  for continuous supply of water to the tree in this almost semi- arid plain and the growth of its  huge canopy.  They already installed water pipe line to introduce drip irrigation to cover the entire area of the tree  and its revival. 
Thimmamma Marrimanu.Alamy.com
The conservation workers are  working hard to get the  site classified as a Bio-diversity  Heritage Status  by the state government   and this will help it  conservation efforts on a broad-based level so that Pillalamarri (meaning tree of children), a rare and historical entity that saw innumerable generations over it's pretty long survival in this part of Telugu Desam,  will stay fit. This venerable colossus, covering more than 19,107 square meters (canopy area of 17,520 sq meters),  needs to be preserved and
Local temple under the banyan tree, telengana. frontline.thehindu.com
 safeguarded for our posterity.  As for the devotees of the small temple in the shadow of the tree, it  keeps  hope, sentiments  and aspiration of childless couples and others 
alive.   
Tit-bits: 
Banyan in literature:
''The banyan has often been talked about in literature too. John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, was not unaware of the great Indian banyans. In the sensational Ninth Book of the epic poem, where he describes the scene immediately after Eve and Adam become aware of their shameful nakedness following the great sin they committed, Milton says they cover themselves with the leaves of the banyan tree.
He writes: “...and both together went/ Into the thickest wood; there soon they chose/ The fig tree; not that kind for fruit renowned. But such as at this day, to Indians known/ In Malabar or Deccan, spreads her arms/ Branching so broad and long, that in the ground/ The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow/ About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade/ High over-arch'd, and echoing walks between:/ There oft the Indian herdsmen shunning heat,/ Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds/ At loop-holes cut through the thickest shade. Those leaves/ They gather'd, broad as Amazonian targe,/ And with what skill they had together sew'd/ To gird their waist. Vain covering, if to hide/ Their guilt and dreaded shame!” (lines 1,099 to 1,114).
''In another literary instance, Robinson Crusoe (the protagonist of Daniel Defoe's novel of the same name) builds his home in a banyan tree. A famous collection of short stories by R.K. Narayan is titled Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories. The banyan also has a religious significance in India; it finds mention in the Bhagvad Gita.'' (https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2911/stories/20120615291108300.html)

 https://chaibisket.com/thimmamma-marrimamanu/
 https://historicalplacesandtemples.wordpress.com/about-thimmamma-marrimanu/
The Hindu Sunday Magazine (Tiruchi Edition): dated Jan. 19, 2020:: ''Addressing the root of the problem''.