India is a country where everything in the creation is revered – both living and non-living. Every festival or celebrations includes this aspect in some form or the other.
After the holy nine night, the Navaratris, Vijayadashami is a day to Celebrate Victory of Good over Evil. While every region has its own unique flavour and significance for the day, this is a piece discussing a ritualistic practice – Worship of Shammi Vruksha (Tree) and giving Shammi Patra (Banni ele in Kannada) to others.
Some scientific facts (sourced from Web):
The binomial Botanical name of Shammi Tree is Prosopis cineraria, which is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is native to arid portions of Western Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, including Afghanistan, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It is the state tree of Rajasthan and Telangana in India. A large and well-known example of the species is the Tree of Life in Bahrain – approximately 400 years old and growing in a desert devoid of any obvious sources of water.It is also the national tree of the United Arab Emirates.
Shami, is highly revered among Hindus and worshipped as part of Dasara festival. This tree takes importance during the tenth day of Dasara Festival when it is worshipped in various parts of India. Historically among Rajputs, the Ranas, who were the high priest and the king, used to perform the worship and then they used to liberate a jay which was considered the sacred bird of Lord Rama. In the Deccan, as part of the tenth day ritual of Dasara, the Marathas used to shoot arrows on to the leaf of the tree and gather the falling leaf into their turbans as a custom.
In Karnataka (and many other places too), Banni mara is believed to be the tree where the Pandavas hid their weapons during exile and revered and worshipped on Vijay-Dashami day. Banni mara or the Shammi Vruksha holds a special place in the Mysore Dasara where its worshipped on the Vijay-dashami day.
In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas are known to have spent their thirteenth year of exile in disguise in the kingdom of Virata. Before going to Virata, they are known to have hung their celestial weapons in this tree for safe keeping for a year. When they returned after a year, they found their weapons safe in the branches of the Shami tree. Before taking the weapons, they worshipped the tree and thanked it for keeping their weapons safe.
The Legend ( in Karnataka)
There lived a very poor destitute child Shamivruta who despite being an orphan was an epitome of good qualities. In the same place existed a Gurukul (India Traditional School) called Sisu managed by Guru Mahaana. Hardworking and diligent Shamivruta came to the Gurukul and began his education with extreme sincerity and commitment. He also had Prince Vrukshita, son of the Maharaja of that Kingdom as his classmate.
As Guru Mahaana used say, Good Education demands a lot of humility and would also mean going hungry at times to acquire knowledge – Shamivruta followed this unscrupulously but Vrukshita used to believe that “enthusiasm and knowledge can be acquired only when the stomach has no hunger. Else a student is as good as a breathing dead body”
Years flew past and their education in Gurukul Sisu came to an end and it was time for everyone to move out to face the real world and put their knowledge to worldly use. Before they embarked on to their native places, Guru Mahaana says that he will come to each one of them in due course for receiving his Gurudakshina (Reverential Offering/Gift made to a Guru in return for knowledge imparted).
One day Guru Mahaana arrives at the palace of Vrukshita who had become the king by the time. He receives the Guru with ceremonies befitting a royal reception. He wanted to gift his Guru something that no one should have given before or no one can gift later. He also wanted the Guru to realize the worth of this royal student who is now the king. He then loaded the Palace elephant with chests of Gold Coins, Gems and Jewels sent it along with the Guru. He then secretly followed the Guru just to witness the misery of Shamivruta – who would surely be repenting due to his inability to give anything to his Guru
As Guru Mahaana reaches Shamivruta’s humble hutment, he receives his Guru with utmost devotion and offers him Milk and fruits. He enquired about the wellbeing of the Guru. Despite knowing he has nothing to offer, Shamivruta tells his Guru to ask anything and he ensure that is made available. To everyone’s surprise Guru Mahaana demands Shamivruta to give him a complete Shami Tree with fully grown fresh green leaves from the Garden of his backyard. Shamivruta who believed that there is nothing Greater than a Guru and nothing beyond death, offers it to the Guru right away and takes him to the backyard.
As soon as Guru Mahaana touches the tree, all the leaves on the tree turns into Gold coins. And it started dropping down from tree one by one growing into a huge heap. Surprisingly, tree was still not bereft of leaves.
Guru Mahaana then tells, “Even a leaf given with love is equivalent to Gold compared to any gift given out of pride” He then summons Vruskhita and tells him that Gold may be available anywhere, but it can never buy Love, and Good relationship. He then asks Vrukshita to seek forgiveness from his friend Shamivruta. Since both of them become one and thick friends due to the greatness of this tree – it was came to be known as Shami Vruksha after both of them.
Thus began the practice of giving Shami patri or Banni ele, (leaves) on Vijayadashami to symbolize a gift equivalent to gold but filled with love. We say “Banni Bangaaravaagona” while handing over leaves – which has two meanings. Literally it means – Come, let us become Gold – but symbolically it means, let us be like the Banni/Shami Gold relation
Shanitrastu, Pushitrastu, Thushtirastu.
May you be blessed with Peace, Prosperity and Contentment.