The Fabled Jand (prosopis cineraria) Tree

There are many references to “Jand” tree in Punjabi literature. Foremost it is connected to a place called Danabad the village of Mirza in the legend of “Mirza-Sahiban”. After getting Sahiba from her home on the day of her marriage to someone else, and sneaking on his mare-called Bakki in local language, he decides to take rest under the cool shade of Jand tree. He was overconfident that even after taking rest for the summer noon, he will make it easily to his native place before the end of the day. Rest is well known. He was killed by Sahiban’s brothers who came chasing them.

Then there is a famous Gurudwara called “Jand Sahib” in Bathinda Punjab where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have rested under a Jand tree. And and there is one tree located behind Kiran Cinema in Chandigarh which I saw today. This is said to be very old and indeed it looked like that as only skeleton was there. Many people worship it.I always thought about how this tree must look.

I found a very beautiful video describing the beauty of this tree by Mirza. it is in Punjabi language but brief summary of the meaning is “Mirza describes the cool shade of Jand tree, the branches are touching the ground, you shouldn’t say no to sitting under the shade of it. And why to stress the mare in the hot sun because it is not rainy season. You don’t worry, we will reach Danabad (his native village) before the sunset.

Before Chandigarh came into existence, there were villages here. People lived mostly rural life based on agriculture. They worship female goddesses which is attested by many temples in the area. Like Hindu culture they worshipped trees and idols. The Jand tree is one such tree which was worshipped in the area.

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There are not many trees of this species in this area nowadays. I was curious to know how this tree looked like and other details. I found an article in the English daily “The Tribune” which gives the good information about the tree.

The tree known by scientific name of “prosopis cineraria” is endemic to dry areas and is found mostly in Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana. It is known by is known as “Jand” in Hindi and Punjabi, “jandi” in Haryanvi, “khejri” in Rajasthani, and “sami or samri” in Gujarati. The tree plays an important role in ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. All the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru or wish fulfilling tree.

During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing yajana. There are references of it in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Lord Rama worshipped khejri tree known as Sami  Pooja, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their agyatavasa.

Khejri tree provides shelter and protection to animals and birds in desert areas. This tree is home to many large birds like kites, hawks and vultures.

Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (known as sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles. The importance of the medicinal value of samitree has been highlighted in our ancient literature. The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.

The Legend of Mirza Sahiban

Among the doomed love stories of North India is the story of Mirza and Sahiban. You must have heard the other love stories like Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahiwal. Most of these love tales have tragic end. But notice one thing: while the names of other love stories begin with the name of girl for example Heer, Sassi and Sohni, the order is reverse in Mirza Sahiban tale. While in other stories, the sacrifice made by female was supreme, in this case Sahiban became double minded and could not forego the love of sibling.
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The story is simple like others. In the village of Danabad lived Wanjhal the tribal head of Kharal Jatts community. Mirza was his son. In the nearby village, Sahiban was born in the home of Mahni Khan, also from Jatt community of Khewa sub clan. Both families were related and Mirza and Sahiban were cousins. As the fate would have it, Mirza lost his mother and was sent to live in the home of Sahiban. As they grew up, the bond of love also grew between them. There are stories of their school days where when teacher asked the class to write the first alphabet, Sahiban wrote Mirza instead and was punished by the Maulvi. These instances are added to reflect the deep bond between them.
After many years, Mirza who was now a handsome man returned to his home. But they the love kindled in their hearts was always there and they were longing for each other.
The parents of Sahiban fixed her marriage with another man. She sent a messenger to inform the news to Mirza on the day of marriage. Marriage of his own sister was to happen on that day itself. It was very difficult situation for him. But he rode on his mare called Bakki in local language and his quiver and bow to bring the Sahiban. With the help of a confidante woman and a rope, Sahiban was transported to his waiting mare and thus the gallant man dashed away to his village with the bride.
He rode very fast and decided to take rest under the shade of a Jand tree. He hanged his arrows and bow on the branch of the tree and placed his head in the lap of his lover. He soon fell asleep. Meanwhile, her brother, Khan Shah Meer and other village people came chasing them as soon as they found out the elopement of Sahiban. She heard the commotion and neighing of horses from afar. She was familiar with the prowess of Mirza and was sure that he would definitely kill her brothers with arrows. She became double minded. On one side was her love for Mirza and on other his sibling. She broke the arrows and then alerted the Mirza about the danger that was coming towards them. But Mirza was aghast to find all the arrows being broken. He was helpless and was killed by Sahiban’s brother.
The ballad is very popular in Punjab on both sides. It has been sung by numerous singers both from West punjab and East Punjab and made into movies.