Parijat Tree: A tree that fulfills your desire! An overview of the magic tree!
Parijat (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) or harsingar is considered to be the flower that is fit for the Gods. The word ‘parijat’ literally means descended from or celestial. While flowers like jasmine, rose or marigold are plucked in the daylight to offer them at the altar, the flowers of parijat are the only one picked from the ground and deemed to be as sacred as any other- to an extent that they have attained the special status of being God’s favourite flowers. No wonder, the name ‘Harsingar’ translates into God’s ornament. The flowers of parijat bloom in night and this is why they are called night-flowering jasmine. In Bengali, it is also called ‘Shefali’. In Sri Lanka, it is known as sepalika. It is also called Kalpavriksha – a tree that fulfils every desire in your heart and what you may ask for it. In the local language, it is also referred to as ‘raat ki raani’- simplifying the supernatural phenomena that the plant can thrive without the Sunlight.
Harsingar Flower Tree ( Nyctanthes ) - पारिजात
Set full of leaves...among which come forth most odoriferous and sweet-smelling flowers, whole stalks the colour of saffron, which flourish and show themselves only in the night time, and in the daytime look withered and with a mourning cheer: the leaves also at that time shrink in themselves together...very sadly lumping, lowering, and hanging down the head, as though it loathed the light and could not abide the heat of the sun." - John Gerard (The Herbal 1633)
According to Bhagavata Purana, Mahabharata and the Vishnu Purana, parijat flowers were produced as a result of samundra manthan.
‘Paarinaha Samudrath jaatho va parijatah’
Parijat, which was born out of the sea after much searching.
The Gods were smitten by the beauty of these ethereal flowers and Krishna fought with Lord Indra to win over them. While the parijat has provoking fragrance and unparalleled beauty that Gods fought over to lay a claim on it, it is cursed to not bear any fruits and this is why it is also called the tree of sorrow.
Harsingar - A Flower of God
One anecdote also entails the story of Satyabhama and Rukmini, Krishna’s wives. After Krishna won the tree in the battle from Lord Indra, Satyabhama demanded it to be planted in her backyard. However, the flowers would bloom in the night and fell in Rukmini’s backyard- Krishna’s most loved and favorite wife- speaking volumes about her love, devotion and dedication towards her husband.
As to why parijat bloom in the night, there is a very sweet love story behind it. Of course, anecdotal but something that would put any best love stories of all time to shame. According to this tale, the princess Parijatakafell in love with Surya, the Sun God. Surya, aware of his glory and power promised to marry her at one condition that she wouldn’t turn her back on him no matter what. Parijat in love never thought of it. They got married in autumn and time just flew by until summer. Surya’s powers became immense than ever and Parijat would burn at his mere sight. During one such afternoon, Surya dropped by at Pariah’s doorsteps and Parijat flinched at his sight. He became so angry and fumed in rage, wilting the princess in the process. However, when he came to his senses, he realized how much they loved each other. The Gods revived her like a tree and the Sun would visit her during the night. The flowers of Parijat are so fragrant during the night as if they have been kissed and loved by the Sun. The flowers fall down as soon as the first ray of the sun touches the ground. In another version of this story, it is said that Lord Sun refused the love of Parijat and the princess couldn’t take it. She killed herself and the tree rose from her ashes to prove her love once again. The fallen flowers are considered to be her teardrops, which she sheds, unable to bear the sight of her lover.
If you thought that parijat has an only rich mythology and romance culture associated with it, you are in for a surprise. The flowers have richer culinary associations too. In North-East India, parijat is known as bewail or shiuli. In an Assamese household, it is a common sight and not only is an ornamental flower but also a delicacy. Assamese believe it to have a myriad of health benefits and use it in a number of dishes. It is bitter in taste but is said to be beneficial for digestion and gut health. In Bengal, it is added to fish recipes and to make the fish curry more aromatic. Since the flowers are very delicate, they are picked from the ground very carefully and washed very gently. Other than fish, Bengalis also fritters and use it as a side dish with sweet potato. The flowers are picked in bulk during their blooming season and are sun-dried. They are stored in air-tight containers and used throughout the years for the recipes. In some houses, the traditional breakfast still comprises boiled rice and shiuli flowers seasoned with oil and salt with a side dish of chilies and fried onions. The residents believe that shiuli flowers aid in immunity and prevent flu-like symptoms. The flowers are also used as a natural food colorant and a cheaper alternative to saffron.
The flowers also have its roots in Assamese literature where it symbolizes various phases, from freedom to romance and life. Jyotish Bhattacharjee weaved the magic ofl yrics around parijat flowers in one of his very popular songs- JuwarPorot where he writes:
Ki hobo kua
Nai je xomoiubhotisua
The maestro Bhupen Hazarika compared the falling of parijat flowers to the ground with the freedom they yearn throughout their life.
In Odisha, the flower is known as Gangaseuli or Jharaasephali. In Tripura, the flower is associated with the cycle of human life, signifying life and birth. The flowers of parijat are used as a garland for the dead. It is also the official flower of West Bengal and Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand. In West Bengal, its blooming season coincides with the arrival of Goddess Durga. The lyrical genius RabindraNath Tagore has penned several poems with shiuli flowers and Durga Puja in the backdrop.
The famous Parijat Tree and Temple:
A very famous temple with Parijat tree is located in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. The tree is believed to have risen from the ashes of Kunti and can be traced back to 5,000 years. It is believed to be the only Kalpavriksha, descended from heaven that can grant all your materialistic wishes. Every Tuesday, a fair is held where people from all over the country come and worship the tree.
Understanding the botanical side of Parijat - Indian Night Jasmine
So, there was some interesting trivia related to the origin of parijat and why is it called a night flower. Let’s now look at the scientific aspect of Parijat /HengraBubar or Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. A native to Southeast Asia, the flower is a species of Nyctanthes. It grows in the form of a small tree or a shrub and is usually 10-meter tall. The leaves are arranged in an opposite manner on a grey bark. The leaves are usually 2.5 to 4.5 inches long and are broad with an entire margin to the edges. The flowers feature white corolla, bright orange-red centre and grow in clusters of two to seven flowers. The flowers are highly fragrant. They bloom in the dusk and fall off at dawn.
Its botanical name ‘arbor-tristis’ signifies it being a ‘tree of sorrow’ and can be literally translated as ‘sad tree.’ The flowers are used as food colours and yellow dye for clothing.
Indian Night Jasmine
The flowers are arranged in a pinwheel pattern above the vibrant orange centre. The fragrance is overwhelmingly sweet and fills the surrounding environment with their fragrance. The flowers fall off one-by-one as the dawn approaches, rendering beautiful scenery on the ground. The flowers are used to roll agarbattis (incense sticks) and perfumes.
The flowers bloom from August to December. In India, Parijat grows in Jammu Kashmir, from the outer Himalayas above 1,400 metres and to East of Assam, Bengal, Tripura, to the Godavari in the South. Besides India, the flowers are also found in Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Apart from culinary roots, the flowers hold significant medicinal properties too. While the flowers and leaves are consumed along with boiled rice to gain resistance against seasonal ailments, they have been proved effective against several body pains, inflammation and fevers like flu, malaria and the common cold. The locals also vouch forthe efficacy of leaves in pain and inflammation due to arthritis and stomach ailments of kids. Since the leaves are bitter in taste, it is taken with a pinch of sugar.
The flowers are also bitter but are considered to be an appetizer and are a recommended remedy for gut-related ailments such as indigestion and constipation. The seeds of parijat flowers are used to treat a variety of skin diseases. The flowers are used to make different face packs for skin breakouts. The flowers give the skin a shiny glow and reduce acne.
The Buddhist monks use the flowers to colour their cotton and silk roves. They also prepare their breakfast soup with parijat flowers for their immunostimulant properties.
Extracts of the flowers, leaves and seeds are used by local people for their antifungal, antileishmanial, hepatoprotective and immunostimulant properties. Homoeopath and Ayurveda medicines use the extract as a laxative and as a medicine for sciatica, fever and arthritis.
Chemical Constituents of Parijat Plant
Leaves: The leaves of Parijat has D-mannitol, ascorbic acid, nyctanthic acid, β-sitosterol,nicotiflorin, tannic acid, an amorphous resin and glycoside, carotene, mannitol, glucose, fructose, benzoic acid, iridoid glycosides and a trace of volatile oil.
Bark: The grey bark of parijat plant has alkaloids and glycosides.
Flowers: Parijat flowers have sweet honey fragrance and are rich in D-mannitol, glucose, carotenoids, tannis, essential oils and a few glycosides including D monoglucoside ester of α-crocetin, α-crocetin (or crocin-3), β-monogentiobioside-β-, and β-digentiobioside ester of α-crocetin.
Flower oil: The flower oil of parijat contains 1-hexanol, β-sitosterol and glycoside naringenin.
Plant: The parijat plant has iridoid glycosides, arbortristosides A, B, and C, 2,3,6 tri-0-methyl-D-glucose, 2,3,6-tri-0-methyl-D-mannose, 2,3,4,6-tetra-0-methyl-D-glucose and 2,3,-di-0-methyl-D-mannose.
Seeds: The seeds of parijat have a water-soluble polysaccharide made of D-mannose and D-glucose along with arbortristosides A and B, nyctanthic acid and glycerides.
Link for pictures:
Parijat is a non-fuss tropical region tree. It doesn’t require much maintenance or care but you need to follow a few pointers to look after it like any other plant in your garden. If you are planning to plant a parijat in your backyard, take care of the following instructions and you are good to go!
- Standing water is the single greatest enemy of the flowers. It can cause the roots to rot and eventually, led the plant to its death. The soil needs to be porous and well-drained. The water should be deep enough to wet the soil but not fully drench it. Regular composting and pruning work wonders with the plant.
- Fertilise the plant on a yearly basis. The plant can grow and be all over the place. To promote its growth in the right direction, it is recommended to trim it regularly.
- The plant needs a few hours of direct sunlight to grow properly. However, it is recommended to keep it in the shade after sometime.
- It cannot survive in a frosty region. It needs sandy, well-drained soil to grow properly. Highly saline soil can damage the roots and prevent the plant to gain proper nutrition and thus, causing it to die.
- It doesn’t grow indoors.
Medicinal Properties of Parijat Tree
As stated above, parijat comes with its unique share of medicinal benefits. The local population in and around in North East, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa swear by the plant for remedial measures. However, it is recommended that you follow due consideration and consult your physician before trying any of these at home. We don’t take any guarantee of side effects or benefit and shouldn’t be held responsible for any of it.
Relief from Arthritis:
Arthritis can be very limiting and debilitating disease. Harsingar flowers have been proved very effective in providing relief from arthritis pain and inflammation. The flowers are boiled in water and this water is consumed hot for immediate relief.
Mix three tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of parijat essential oil. Warm the mix and apply it on the affected areas.
Relief from Dengue, Malaria and Chikungunya fever
While the leaves of parijat or harsingar tree can’t alleviate the symptoms and pains associated with dengue or chikungunya completely, the tribes and locals have used it since time immemorial as a decoction to increase the platelet count. The leaves are boiled in water and this water is given to the patients for instant relief from high temperature and pain. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, the leaves extract is used to eliminate malaria parasites.
Mix 3 teaspoons of olive oil and 2 drops of harsingar oil. Rub this mix gently on the soles of a patient to reduce body temperature and prevent the viral / bacteria outbreak further.
Prevents radical damage
The parijat tree has anti-oxidant properties and reduces radical damage to the body due to ageing. The flowers and leaves of the plant can fight free radical and block the growth of radical as well as cancer cells.
Add three teaspoon of Jojoba oil with one teaspoon of parijat essential oil or extract. Apply this oil on your body and massage gently for 21 days.
Helps you to stay calm
The essential oil extracted from the flowers helps you to stay stress-free and cool in a distressing situation. If you are insomniac or have trouble sleeping due to stress, you can try perfumes, attar or body oils made of extracts of the parijat flowers. It has been proved immensely beneficial for vertigo and anxiety patients.
Put a drop or two of parijat essential oil on your pillow before sleeping.
Alleviates breathing issue
Patients experiencing chronic and persistent cough due to asthma, lung ailments, throat infection, bronchitis or smoking can drink its concoction to get relief from the cough and open the respiratory pathways. Please note that it only relieves the patients of some symptoms and doesn’t cure the diseases.
Treats a range of broad-spectrum infections
The plant’s each part has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-allergic properties that can be used to treat infections and ailments. Skin breakouts can be treated naturally using face packs made of aloe vera and parijat flowers.
Mix three-four teaspoon of coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of parijat oil/extract. Apply it directly on any wound directly with a dab of cotton. The oil prevents the growth of bacteria that cause pus or septic in a wound.
Can provide relief from constipation and gas
Regular consumption of Harsingar can act as a laxative for patients suffering from constipation and indigestion. It regulates the digestive systems and regulates the bowel movements. It also helps in stomach ache and gaseous tendency in the intestine. It also relieves and regulates acidity in some cases.
Relieve menstrual cramps in women
Harsingar or parijat can help in relieving menstrual pain in women and regulating the flow. It should be consumed if the patient is experiencing irregular flow and the periods are particularly painful.
Miscellaneous health benefits
Parijat has been used to treat lice, dandruff and scurvy problems in kids and adults. The tribes use it as an antidote to snake bite. Some Ayurveda experts also use it to cure piles in some patients.
Contra-indications& Allergies of Harsingar
Harsingar is generally considered to be safe but its usage should be in moderation. The leaves and flowers are bitter in taste and some people may experience nausea due to this. It can leave a strange yellow colour on the tongue too.
Please follow due to caution and consult an Ayurveda practitioner before trying any remedy.