Chinar tree is a deciduous tree of the Platanaceae family, having the scientific name Platanus orientalis. In India, it is found mainly in Kashmir. It is a symbol of Kashmir and gives a unique value to the beauty of Kashmir. They are the soul and heritage of Kashmir. Chinar tree is called ‘Boon’ or ‘Buen’ in the local Kashmiri language.
Origin of Chinar
Chinar is a Persian word that means ‘blaze or fire‘ because it shifts the Green color (Summer) of leaf to red, yellow, and amber during the autumn days and looks like they caught fire. Some ecologists believe that the Chinar trees belong to Greece, while others acknowledge they are from the Oriental planes of the eastern part of the world. They are primarily located in India, Pakistan, Eurasia, China, and the Balkans in Iran.
Topography, Climate and Size
Chinar trees shed their leaves once a year. In the Autumn season, the leaves become Red, eventually Yellow, when winds shed their leaves. Green leaves grow back in the Spring season.
They are very tolerant trees and can even survive in droughts. It grows in fair weather, with hot summers and cool winters. They need rich and fertile soil to develop with full sunlight. They mostly grow in hilly regions in the Middle Himalayas.
Chinar trees can grow up to the height of 30 meters or even longer with a width cover up to 12-15 meters. The bark of the tree is very broad and greyish. It takes approximately 30 to 50 years to attain its grown height and around 150 years to grow to its full size. The Chinar leaves are very big and beautiful with five elongated tips. The size of the leaves is 12 cm and goes up to 20 cm.
History of Chinar Tree in Kashmir
It is believed that this tree was brought from Persia. But now it is so much in numbers, it has become native now. The oldest Chinar tree in the world is also in the Chattergam, Budgam district of Kashmir. Through carbon dating, ecologists found that the tree is more than 600 years old, planted by Syed Abul Qaim Hamdani.
Mughals are very fond of these trees. Akbar alone planted more than 1200 trees and declared them as the “Royal Tree”. His son Jahangir is also very fond of these trees and put the concept of Char Chinar island in the middle of Dal Lake in Srinagar. The island has 4 Chinar trees from which it got its name Char Chinar.
Chinar trees can be found everywhere in Kashmir valley in UT of Jammu and Kashmir of India. They can be located in every village, city, or district of Kashmir. They are very popular among locals, and they planted these trees in every park and backyards. Because the tree is vast and dense with trees, people chill under these and enjoy nature in summers.
The tree is helping in making harmony in the religions of Kashmir, where both the communities (Hindu and Muslim) love these trees equally. It can be seen in or near shrines and mosques. These trees are now a part of the culture of Jammu and Kashmir. Sultan-ul-Arifeen and Hazratbal. Hindus also worship these trees and are found in some temples like Kheer Bhawani Temple in Kashmir.
The Mughal gardens of Naseem Bagh in Srinagar, dwelling more than 100 Chinar trees and very famous among tourists visiting Kashmir. Newlyweds couples come here for their photoshoot, which they can remember throughout their life. Youth is also very excited about chinar’s in their background and always posted pics and videos on their social media accounts.
Officially, there were around 42000 trees in the late 1970s. But due to industrialization and deforestation around the globe. It also affects these trees. In the year 2000, there were as few as 17000 trees.
But then the government comes to the rescue to save these trees, and now it is illegal to cut these trees, and with the help of the Horticulture department, they planted around 14000 more trees. Also, due to some government events to educate people about these, people became aware and planted many trees by themselves.
Ecologists, environmentalists are still very concerned about this. According to them, the loss of so many trees cannot be undone, and the speed of plantation is shallow. Also, there is a massive difference in the number of trees planted and the number of trees that survive because the period of these trees is very long as it takes up to 50 to 60 years to mature the tree and 150 years for fully grown.
So, we can plant as many, but the question arises. How many will survive till that period? Although we cut a lot of trees that are 300-400 years old. So, the future does not look quite good. But we can make it better by joining hands and taking pledges, not to cut the remaining Chinar trees and plant more and more trees.