Dinesh M Nayak : Making the Earth a Better Place to Live in

Jun 7, 2009

Gulagunji or manjutti  also known as Tula Beeja or Weather plant, the pea-sized small    red wonder seed with that tiny black beauty spot is familiar to all those who had a rural background during their childhood.  Collecting and playing with these brightly coloured seeds were common for children and there are instances of children putting them in their nostrils with some disastrous consequences.  In the good old days when proper weighing measures were not available gold was measured against gulgunjis and thus deriving the name Tula beeja.   But many of us may not be aware that there are as many as 12 coloured Gulagunjis and that the plant has curative properties for asthma, leprosy and nervous disorder.  Research by J C Bose and other scientists has revealed that by fixing certain instruments to this plant it is possible to predict volcano eruptions and hence the name weather plant.  The botanical name for this is Indian Liquorice.  

This is just one example to show that we are endowed with rich ecological wealth, about which people are ignorant.  Dinesh Nayak Vitla of Sassya Shamala fame is the one-man- army who has been trying hard to create the much needed awareness about plants, trees, shrubs, roots and flowers and make known their medicinal value to the common people.  The two-day plant photo exhibition held in SDM Law College hall in the city in association with Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) as part of the World Environment Day was an effort in his endeavor to create consciousness among people and also provide them an opportunity to clear their doubts and wrong information on plant species. 


Explaining his motto of conducting the exhibition Dinesh Nayak, the silent crusader who has been doing a yeoman’s service in the field of protecting our natural wealth said “many people cannot identify the real plants and there is confusion about their names.  Naga Sampige is usually mistaken for Nagalinga Pushpa and similarly Ashok tree is mistaken for ornamental Ashoka tree usually planted on roadsides or parks.  Photographs of plants and exhibitions of plants/shrubs is an attempt to do away with the confusion from the minds of people”.  Dinesh is also advising those who are interested in plants and trees on what to grow and what not so that whatever little space people have is utilized to the maximum. 

The photographs exhibited here is like a journey into the wonder world of plants around us.  The eye-catching photographs are not only pleasing to the eyes but also are informative.  The local and botanical names of the plants/trees and their medicinal use are written in bold letters at the side of the enlarged photographs.  This was the first large scale exhibition organized by Dinesh Nayak in Mangalore which was made possible by MSEZ sponsorship.  He is happy with the response the exhibition has elicited where nearly 400 samplings were distributed freely to enthusiasts.  “Even personnel from the Forest Department have come and taken some of the rare plant collections I have”, says this soft-spoken self-taught environmentalist who is obsessed with the nature and the rich and unique plant diversity we have.  

A photographer by interest Dinesh’s tryst with tress and plants began 12 years back.  He father Das Srinivas Nayak was an avid nature lover who enjoyed planting varieties of trees and plants.  It was from his father Dinesh developed a bonding that has become stronger with each passing day.  In Vitla he started a NGO named Sassya Shamala in the 1990’s which has been very active in planting trees and creating green consciousness among the citizens.  Thanks to his Herculean efforts today that entire Vitla has transformed into Sasya Shamala.  By now Dinesh has acquired some knowledge about plants and trees and he even began contributing write ups on plants or flowers with suitable photography.  

With his natural interest in photography Dinesh began capturing any interesting plant or flower he came across.  At the same time he tried to grasp more knowledge about the plant from the locals who know about it.  To his good luck researchers and even students began approaching him for the botanical or Sanskrit names of certain plants and trees which naturally endeared him to research about the plant variety.  A University student wanted to know the botanical name of Chakotha and Dinesh found out that it is the biggest fruit in the citrus family and is named Citrus Maxima.  Chagte plant (Thojank in Tulu and Thaikulo in Konkani) which grows in the open area following few showers of rain, has two varieties and larger one is known as Elephanta Cassia Tora.  

After all this information if one believes that Dinesh owes acres of land to collect and conserve endangered and rare  plant species then it is going to be totally wrong.  He lives in a rented house and owns no land.  But he has set up such a protective umbrella all around him by his generous distribution of plants and trees, the beneficiaries reward him suitably with plants and fruits he has no dearth for the same to distribute.  Dinesh had given seeds of Naga Sampige to a person who had come asking for it to prepare oil to get rid of a nagging skin allergy.  The same person who used the seeds came to thank him saying the medicine worked wonders for the allergy.  Similarly Elephant Cassia Tora (Aane Chagte) juice mixed with lemon is a wonder cure for ringworm.  After reading his article a person used it on his dog which was suffering from the disease for long.  He called up Dinesh to thank him. This way Dinesh has emerged as knowledge bank on the medicinal values of plants. 

He has now made it his mission to create more awareness among the people about the medicinal values of the plants around us and also to conserve endangered and plants which are on the verge of extinction. “Yellow Punarpuli (Binda) botanically known as Garcinia Indica is on the list of extinction.  Wild mangoes, those mouth watering luscious mangoes grown in the wild are also disappearing.  I am trying to plant these trees in the green belt area of SEZ”, he says with his characteristic grin. 

Dinesh is the advisor to the green belt area proposed to be set up in around 600 acres of land by MSEZ and as such has found a proper forum to give vent to his dream of conserving the rich ecological diversity of this area.  In collaboration with MSEZ he is bent upon using the land for planting about 3 lack endangered and endemic plants and trees in the next four years.    Suresh Tantri, Horticulture Manager of MSEZ says with the active involvement of Dinesh Nayak the task of developing green belt has taken a new perspective.   MSEZ has also been getting help from National Medicinal Plant Board in conserving endangered plants, Tantri stated.  Modinde Cytrifolia (Indian Noni), Pride of India or queen’s flower, dancing butterflies, Musua Nagassarium (nagasampige) etc., are some of the names I learnt as I browsed through the exhibition of plants. 

Dinesh is overwhelmed by the response he received for the exhibition and feels that there is a welcome change in the perspectives of the people towards trees and plants.  Dinesh has adopted a non-controversial stand of planting more trees rather than crying hoarse over felling of trees.  “The trees or plants we plant should be beneficial to humans, animals and birds and it should also provide a variety of fruits.  That is going to be the focus in developing the green belt”, he asserts. 

Dinesh has more than 1000 photographs of different plant species.  He has made it a habit to gift plants and trees to his friends and acquaintances.  I got my share too in the course of interviewing him.

by Florine Roche -<br>Pics by Dayananda Kukkaje<br> Daijiworld Media Network
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Comment on this article

  • Subhash V.Kamath, Garodia nagar Ghatkopar East Mumbai77

    Wed, May 14 2014

    It was pleasure meeting you Dinesh.As a small kid I was fascinated by your father's enterprise and you've carried the torch forward.Looking forward to meeting you in Mumbai in a near future and hope people living in a concrete jungle will appreciate your work to be friends with Mother Nature.

  • Abraham Coutinho, Mundkur/Bombay

    Fri, Jun 12 2009

    Good efforts. Lot of trouble taken by Shri Dinesh M. Nayak to preserve the information with coloured photographs. Congrats. Gulagunji is called Tula Beeja (In samskrit "Tula" means weighing scale and " Beeja" meams seed) because it was used to weigh the precious metal gold in olden days. This seed is used so because of it''s uniform weight. Any seed has almost equal weight. It is of oval/egg shaped red coloured small seed with a black dot on top. It comes from small pods of creeper grown from ground and sheltered on shrubs. Because of it''s medicinal property it''s leaves are used while eating Paan (what we call in Mangalore - Beeda)in Bombay. It is called "Japrani" leaves here. Whereas Manjutti is though of red coloured has no black dot. It comes from big pods grown on trees. The shape is, thick in the centre and slope at the sides and it is at least 3 to 4 times bigger than Gulagunji. Manjutti seeds were being used play "Chenne Mane" game. In short, Manjutti and Gulagunji are two different things as known to me.


    Thu, Jun 11 2009


  • shivadas nayak, manjeshwar

    Thu, Jun 11 2009

    Dear bappa, nice see you in daijiworld. this is realy beautiful achivement. congratulations........... heartly wish you happy juorney with nature....

  • durga arvind hegde, puttur

    Tue, Jun 09 2009

    I''m proud of u dad. And congratulations.

  • vincent moras, doha madanthyar

    Tue, Jun 09 2009

    Well done mr nayak keep it up

  • Divakar, Udipi/Abu Dhabi

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Dear Sir, Thank you and Congratulations Nayak sir. It would be highly appreciable if you could give us the contact details Mr.Nayak to get more educated and interact with a great personality who is doing a yeoman service to mankind Regards Divakar Shetty

  • Harold D''cunha, Mangalore, India

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Congratulations to Mr. Dinesh Nayak. Your thoughts worthy to be praised. It is we can change this world beautiful by our inner vision, better outlook. Good photogrphs.

  • muralidhar, mangalore

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Congratulations! Mr.Dinesh M.Nayak

  • Olivia Juliet Lobo, Kulshekar / Bahrain

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Very few people impart true knowledge to the society. Mr. Dinesh Nayak you proved you''re one of them. Best wishes always on your good work.

  • Girish Prabhu, Bangalore

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    It is people like Sri Dinesh Nayak who let you understand the importance of mother nature and application of words like persistence and dedication in real life.When a simple man like Sri Dinesh Nayak with a humble background and completely unfavourable circumstances goes on to accomplish impossible looking feat & journey, we are bound to get up on our feet and applaud.Hats off to Sri Dinesh Nayak for his dedication and wonderful work.

  • Ramesh, Vittla

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Mother nature is great but Mr Dinesh Nayaks Photography is excellent...Great Contribution .... God bless you...

  • Vincent D''Sa,

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Well done Mr. Nayak. Keep up the Good work always.

  • John Vas, Kulshekar/Dubai

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Well Done Sir Nayak. Let us start a beginning by this kind of photoexhibition can be used as a tool to educate/train/teach people to make any change in daily affairs of life. Pls try to explore traffic, cleanliness, avoid plastics, respecting elders, helping people, educating etc there are immense ways. Let us work for the betterment of nature as well as for Mangaloreans. Good luck.

  • Gautam, Karkala

    Sun, Jun 07 2009

    The camara never lies & its been proven true in this case!How much has mother earth got to offer us...Excellent work Mr. Nayak...

  • Shree vathsa, Dharmasthala

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Thank you and Congratulations Nayak sir. Exibition was educative.

  • Varsha, Goa

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    Superb work Daiiji! never ever seen photographs of this kind! have heard enough lectures on environment though !!

  • Annapoorna, M''lore

    Mon, Jun 08 2009

    It''s said that mother nature speaks to u only if u care to listen1 how very true in this case! Hats off to u Mr Nayak- keep up the good work and Florine keep writing !!

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