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HEALER AMONG TREES

HEALER AMONG TREES


Miraculous Properties and Folklore of Nim 

Dr. Satish K. Kapoor 

It is only mythical that the Tree of Knowledge existed in the Garden of Eden, but the Tree of Life certainly grows in India. Nature has gifted this land with a rare arboreal wealth. Its woodlands and forests contain a bewildering diversity of trees, plants, herbs and shrubs which sustain and support life in a number of ways. But it is the Nim tree (Margosa) which is really the wonder Tree of India. Its medicinal properties and the variety of uses to which its bark, twigs, leaves, flowers and seeds can be put make it one of the greatest boons of nature to this land.
In this well-researched article, the writer, Dr. Satish K. Kapoor, gives our readers, a deep peep into its folklore and reveals its numerous therapeutic qualities. ,after having read this article you can’t pass by a Nim tree without passing a grateful smile at it !
Tradition has it that Emperor Alexander's chronic fever was cured  when he rested in a Nim forest in Punjab.
The miraculous virtues of the Nim were known Indus valley people. Both Charak and Sushruta recommended it for a number of diseases. Ancient works on the veterinary science like the Palakapva Samhita (also known as Hastyayurveda) and the Shalihotra samhita prescribe it for the treatment of many maladies of elephants and horses also. Kautilya includes it in the magical formulations for injuring an enemy. The Gobhila Grihsutra prohibits its use for sacrificial purposes perhaps because the bitter-fumes of its leaves and wood may repel some and thus distract attention.
Much folklore has grown around Nim which is often associated with Shitata, the goddess of smallpox, who along with her seven sisters Brahmi, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, lndrani and Chamunda resides in the tree and is propitiated in different parts of lndia on specific days named after her on Shitala Shastahi (sixth day of bright hatf of Magha in Bengal); Shitata Saptn[(seventh day of the dark half of Shravana) in Gujarat and Shitala Ashtmi (ejghth day of the dark half of Phalguna) in northern Indla. It is customary to place Nim leaves near smallpox patients or to fan them with fresl branches of the tree for early recovery.
 As a matter of ritual, tht Hindus take Nim leaves on the firs day of the bright fortnight of Chaitr:  (March-April) to insure themselves against any disease for a period of one year" This is the most appropriate time when the tree, after a short leafless spell in March regains its foliage.
Nim's association with the lndian ophiolatriac (snake-worshipping) tradition is due to its efficiency in mitigating the effects of snake poison. ln rural areas, the affected person is administered Nim leaves and black pepper till his taste buds recapture their sensitivity to bitterness.The tree, like the serpent, is regarded as the emblem of, life. Its curative virtues are embodied in the goddess Mansa, the queen of snakes, who is worshipped during the rainy season.
Nim has also been regarded as a protective and a talisman against the effects of the evil eye. lt is customary among some Brahmin families to place Nim leaves and cow's urine outside a delivery room to safeguard the mother and the child from a possible malefic influence. During an epidemic Nim leaves are hung outside the houses or at a village entrance to scare away the ghosts and spirits of the disease.
The tradition of carrying a dead body on a plank made of Nim wood, sprinkling water over mourners with Nim twigs and chewing Nim leaves after returning from the cremation ground is still in vogue. ..
 Due to its germicidal properties some Natha yogies insert Nim sticks in the ear-holes of their disciples after piercing the ears at the time of initiation. The tree is so valuable that the nomads swear by its name. The Banjara males test the fidelity of their wives by asking them to lift the branch of Nim thrown by them only if they are chaste. The tribal people of the Himalayan region refrain from cutting the tree even in dire circumstances. The Tai Khamtis tribe of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh grow Nim outside the Buddhist shrines.
Nim or the Margotla tree (Azadirachta indica A. Juss or Melia indica Linna) is of a medium or large-size having a height of 15-20m. lt belongs to the family Meliaceae; it remains virtually evergreen, and is found throughout in dry areas in India.
ln Sanskrit, it is called by various names -,Nimba, for it promotes health (nimbati sinchati svasthyam), Pichumarda, for it destroys leprosy (Pichum kusthammardayati nashyati), Arishta, for it is harmless to the body ( n arishta m ash u b h a m asmaf) and Hinguniryasa, for it releases a useful gum like asafoetida. Nim is also described as a panacea for all diseases (sarvarogahara) and hence a bitter boon of Mother Nature.
The traditional uses of Nim are many and varied. lts soft twig serves as a natural toothbrush and tongue-cleaner. lts leaves are soaked in water for a hygienic bath  or for drinking in case of skin complaints, the rooms are fumigated to drive away mosquitoes and other insects, its leaves are Put in drawers or cupboards, placed between clothes or mixed with grains to keep away bugs and worms; it is chewed or taken in paste form in cases of fever, Ciabetes, jaundice and other diseases, or applied as Poultice to heal wounds or soreslts bark is rubbed against. ground or decocted for use in nausea, lumbago, rheu1 matism and general debility or as an anthelmintic (wormicide) against intestinal worms. lts Yellow fruit (nimboli) is a blood Purifier and a purgative. lts seeds yield the bitter margosa oil which is used both internally and extemally as a sure remedy in many diseases; the remaining Khali(oil cake) is used by farmers as a fertilizer and as a pesticide. Nim's wood which is resistant to more than a hundred species of insects is used for house construction, ship-building, furniture and for sculpting idols, as in the case of holy images in the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri.
Nim is an air-Purifier of great value; it releases more oxygen during daytime than many other trees because of a larger leaf-area and a higher rate of photosynthesis. 
Modern science has corroborated what the ancient Hindu sages, seers, botanists and ayurvedacharyas observed about the extraordinary virtues of the Nim tree millennia ago.
Dr. Satish K. Kapoor

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