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Cutch Tree And Woodpecker Legends In Buddhists Jataka

Senegalia catechu is a deciduous, thorny tree which grows up to 15 meters in height. These plant is called khair in Hindi, hence the name was Latinized to Catechu in Linnaean taxonomy. Cutch tree as the type-species from which the extracts cutch and catechu are derived. Common names for it include kher, catechu, cachou, cutchtree, black cutch, and black catechu. Senegalia catechu is found in Asia, China, India, Nepal and the Indian Ocean area.

Cutch Tree

Through derivatives of the flavanols in its extracts, the species has lent its name to the important catechins, catechols and catecholamines of chemistry and biology. Khadira wood is considered sacred both by the Hindus and the Buddhists. There is a mention of the plant in the Bhagavata Purana and other ancient Indian texts. It also finds a mention in the Buddhists Jataka stories. 

The heart wood and bark of the tree are used in traditional medicine. A wood extract called catechu is used in traditional medicine for sore throats and diarrhea. The concentrated aqueous extract, known as khayer gum or cutch, is astringent. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine, it is used for rasayana (rejuvenation treatments). It is also used for its actions like anti-dyslipidemic, anthelminthic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diuretic, anti-pruritic, coolant, taste promoting, enhancing digestion and curing skin disorders. It used as a teeth cleaning twig, with some sources naming it "the original" such twig.

Cutch Tree And Woodpecker

When Brahmadatta was king of Benares, Bodhisatta was born as a woodpecker and since he lived in a forest of Acacia trees i.e. Khadirj-vana, he was called Khadiravaniya. He had a friend called Kandagulaka, who used to get his food from soft, good fruit. 

Once Kandagalaka visited Khadiravaniya and the latter took him into the Acacia woods and pecked at the tree trunks until the insects came out and these he gave to his friend to eat. Kundagalaka was an arrogant bird and thought that he could himself get the insects to eat, why should he be obliged to Khadiravaniya for them. When he told his intentions to his friend, Khadiravaniya said: 
"You are used to take your food from pithless silkcotton trees and trees that bear abundant soft fruit. But Khadira is full of pith and is hard. You should not peck at it". 

But Kandagalaka did not heed the warning given by his friend and pecked at the hard Khadira wood. The wood being hard, his beak snapped, his head split and he could not hold fast to the tree. He fell to the ground arid died.
Bodhisatts identified the Birth and said: "Devadutta was Kandag-abka and Khadiravaniya was myself. This was not the first time that Devadutta had destroyed himself by imitating me".

The dried pulp extracted from the cutch tree is used as a paste for the betel leaves. It has digestive and other medicinal properties. The inflorescence of Khadira is essential in marriage ceremonies in certain parts of India. 

The sacrificial post is made of Khadira wood, also the sacrificial fire, as it produces very hot embers. The Sruva or sacrificial ladle is also made fromits woodperhaps because the wood is very hard.


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