Museum of Trees curator wants Central Vista landscape with sacred trees

Vishal Gulati

Chandigarh, Jun 20 (IANS): After earning name and fame for the first-of-its-kind Museum of Trees, a unique environmental landmark here for conservation of sacred trees of Sikhism after which many Sikh gurdwaras are named, former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer D.S. Jaspal is now keen to plant sacred trees in the Narendra Modi governments Central Vista project in the national capital.

He's not in favour of keeping its landscape as close as possible to the original Lutyens' Delhi plan, a photocopy of 1912.

Talking to IANS, creator and curator of the Museum of Trees, Jaspal said the Central Vista Project is a great opportunity to showcase India's spiritual and environmental heritage through a carefully curated landscape.

"Trees and plant life are deeply embedded in the Indian religious tradition," he said.

"The trees are repeatedly referred to in all religious texts and ancient hymns which emphasize that man must coexist with the environment and respect the forests."

In Chandigarh, the former bureaucrat worked for 10 years to clone 12 trees for the cause of conservation of sacred trees of Sikhism.

The first Sikh master, Guru Nanak, is the most widely travelled religious preacher across the globe.

The Guru interacted with common people in the open under the shade of trees which is why most of the sacred trees are associated with him.

Jaspal said that many of the sacred trees associated with the Sikhs also have botanical significance. For example, the Beri tree of Gurdwara Ber Sahib in Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab is unique because it has very few spines.

Over a period of 10 years, the Chandigarh museum has been successful in reproducing genetically true replicas of 12 sacred trees, including Dukh Bhanjani ber tree of Golden Temple; Ber tree of Gurdwara Ber Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi; Ber tree of Gurdwara Babe-di-Ber, Sialkot, Pakistan; and Peepal tree of Gurdwara Pipli Sahib, Amritsar, whose leaves have a unique yellow pigmentation.

About the landscape of the spiritual and environmental heritage in the Central Vista Project, Jaspal told IANS that a proposal was sent to Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Puri, on June 8 to have a plantation of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Islam trees.

"There is a lot of literature on sacred trees of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sacred trees of Sikhism are well documented in my book 'Tryst with trees -- Punjab's sacred heritage'. Sacred trees of Islam can be sourced from the Islamic Botanical Garden in Sharjah which has around 50 plants mentioned in the Holy Quran.

"Even the Jews have a sacred tree -- Gharqad -- which is extensively planted in Israel, especially along the borders, as it is believed that Gharqad protects against the enemy fire," he said.

The landscape will connect people to the lawmakers, Jaspal explained.

"At least 20 acres of approach area should be open grass where up to 5,000 people can rest and also interact with leaders while sitting on the grass under the shade of the trees," he said.

Expressing dismay over media reports that the focus of the Central Vista plantation will be to "keep it close to the original Lutyens' Delhi" plan, Jaspal said it is distressing to note that the landscape will be a photocopy of the British plan of 1912.

"Since India's new Parliament is a national project, I urge the authorities to have a more creative and contemporary landscape plan for the Central Vista," he said.

According to Jaspal, the trees take at least a decade to take shape.

Chandigarh's Museum of Trees, which was set up with grants from the Union Ministry of Culture, has India's most modern mist chamber facility and a glass house conservatory, with 16 air-conditioners, to preserve and propagate rare and endangered species which grow at high elevations.



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