Lord Ekambareswarar Temple’s importance of maintaining and reproducing the Sthala Vruksham (sacred tree of each temple).
The Agames state three essential requirements for a place of pilgrimage Sthaia, Teertha and Murthy. Sthala refers to the temple, Teertha to the temple tank and Murthy to the deity(ies) worshipped. A temple will usually be associated with a tree, called the Sthala Vriksham (literally, tree of the place). For instance, the Kadamba tree at the Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple is the Sthala Vriksham. A lone banyan tree that adorns the spacious courtyard of the Ratnasabha at Tiruvalankadu is the Sthala Vriksham, The entire area is believed to have been a forest of banyan trees once, The Teerthas (temple tanks or rivers flowing nearby) have special names. Surya Theertham and Chandra Theertham and Agri! Teertham in Tiruvengadu (Nagapattinam District), the temple tanks are said to have been created by three drops that fell from the eyes of Lord Siva when he was dancing.
The Sthala Vrikshas are rare trees in several temples. There is a story associated with each Sthala Vriksha which links it to the Sthala Purana. They are either rare germplasm or have been created by grafting etc so that they are one of a kind. I had realised their importance in 2004 when I was the Agriculture Secretary cum Agriculture Production Commissioner and even earlier from 2002 when I was the Commissioner of Agriculture, Archaeology and Museums. I had taken steps to conserve them and reproduce them by cloning them so that the original characteristics are retained in full.
The Policy Note states:
‘Conservation of rare tree species — Eco friendly (Green) Movement:
In the Policy Note of the Agriculture Department of 2004-2005, there is a paragraph on this (Para ti. 11, page 90, .demand No.5, Agriculture, Government of Tamil Nadu), wherein resuscitating them and reproducing them by cloning has been referred to.
Conservation of rare germplasm is an important item in the ‘Green Agenda’. There are trees, some more than a thousand years old in temples that are worshipped as `Sthala vrikshas. This was an attempt of our ancestors to conserve rare germplasm and also show the Importance of trees and forests. This also testifies to the ecological awareness of our ancient civilization’.
It was proposed to conserve multiply such rare trees which are becoming extinct due to their age by use of Hi-tech tissue culture propagation. This was to be done by the department of horticulture in association it the Tissue Culture Laboratory of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. But actually, this ‘work was done by the late Thiru R. states that the 3000-year-old tree which was dying in 2004 has gained a fresh lease of life. It is giving outshoots, branches and fresh leaves after treatment by the Agriculture Department.
II Mango Tree (Sri Ekambareshwara Temple, Kancheepuram)
There was recently an article in Daily Thanthi dated 30th March 2014 on this tree, Kanchipuram Ekambaranathar Temple is located at 1 km from Kanchipuram Bus stand. The place, where this temple is situated is also called ‘Siva Kanchi.’ The mango tree grown inside the ‘inner-prakarami of the temple is 3500 years old.
The mango (Mangifera indica) tree in Kancheepuram Ekbareshwara Temple has different types of fruits in different branches. The four branches in the ancient mango tree yielded mangoes in four different tastes and shapes viz, sweet, sour, bitter and astringent (thuvarpu in Tamil) taste.
The Sthala Purana states that the Devi Kamakshi Amman did penance under the tree in front of a Shivalinga made of sand molded by her with her own hands. The purpose of the penance was to marry Lord Siva, which materialised, People, therefore, have been conducting the marriages of their family under the sacred tree for ages, I have myself seen a young Muslim girl and a boy performing Archana after their marriage which was performed by the Sivacharya, The girl tied bangles and also a baby’s swing to the tree branch.
BY R.Kannan, Ph.D., IAS.