Participating artists and projects

Artists, activists and you!

Suresh Jayaram
Raghu Tenkayala
1.Shanthi Road

Elisabeth Lengheimer, Salon Emmer
Tanja Dinter, Salon Emmer
Deepak Srinivasan, Maraa

Montag, 28. Juni 2010

banni mara and its significance by- Chandra Ravikumar

Our ancestors were intelligent people. More importantly they were wise people. The traditions they devised were imbued with meaning and knowledge that would ensure the well-being of the future of not just humans, but also of all animate and inanimate aspects of this planet. The generations that passed forgot the knowledge, but not the traditions. This is because these traditions are loaded with enjoyment. Often, we encounter strong denunciations of one of our greatest traditions, which are the scores of festivals we celebrate. This is one more exhibition of ignorance. For, every festival we celebrate is a great repository of knowledge, and is also a means to transfer this knowledge through generations. If one foolish generation forgot the knowledge, no matter, it is not completely lost to the next intelligent generation which can recover it from our inherited traditions and festivals; while the wiser generations can use this knowledge to better their lives and our world.

These traditional festivals were made enjoyable in many ways. The gathering together of people, the delicious food, fascinating myths and legends explaining the celebrations, the music and dance, the opportunity to exhibit artistic abilities and the light and colour, help the effortless and natural preservation of these traditions; and also give them the strength to withstand the multifold historical and societal attempts to erase them from our memory.

Here I would like to use the Dassehara festival and our old Mysore tradition of worshipping the Banni Maara to help us know and understand the importance of the Banni tree to the people of our land.

The name PANCHAVATI is familiar to every Indian. It is the place in the forests on the banks of the Narmada river, identified for them by the Sage Agasthya, where Rama and Sita and Lakshmana made their home during their exile. PANCHAVATI also stands for a grove of the five kinds of trees, very sacred to the people of our land. These are the :

Asvatha Mara – the Peepal tree – Ficus religiosa

Bilva Mara – Aegle marmelos

Audambara Mara – the Athi tree – Ficus indica

Nimba Mara – the Neem tree – Azadirachta indica

Shami Mara – the Banni tree – Prosopsis spicegira/Prosopsis cineraria/acaia ferruginea

It is believed that just like some people are gifted with a concentration of certain abilities, so certain places, minerals, plants and animals are also gifted with concentrations of certain qualities. This belief is based on observable, measurable and experienced truths and is not a child of the imagination. The Panchavati trees are a treasure house of health, wealth and happiness for this Earth and the creatures on it, including us people. I am here copy-pasting extracts from other sources, with due acknowledgement, that will explain what I mean. I am duly giving the proper credits for the sources. You are welcome to search in these and other related sources for more information on these trees.

Whenever I read about the continuing massacre of out trees, even these that have been held sacred to our land for thousands of years, I suffer such anger, anguish, and sorrow, that I begin to wonder why these Rakshasas are being allowed to continue to perpetrate this terrible crime. Please do not consider me as unbalanced, but the sheer agony of watching the perpetration of all these horrors and not being able to stop it, makes me often plead,”Are You blind? Are You deaf? Why are You still resting atop that hill? How much more has to happen before You take up arms and come down to destroy this evil? You who were the destroyer of Ignorance personified in the form of Mahishaswara – is the abysmal ignorance of these people too much for even You to destroy?”

The great sages of our ancient land, perceived the immeasurable significance of our trees. The Banni Mara is also known as the VANNI MARAM in the Tamil language. According to the Saiva Siddhantha philosophy and the medical tradition of Siddha Vaidya that was born of it, the BANNI or VANNI tree is associated with the Heat Principle of the Universe. This Cosmic Heat is called RUDRAAGNI and is supposed to emerge from the third eye of SIVA. KARTIKEYA or SUBRAMANYA or SKANDA is the deity who represents this Cosmic Heat . That is why the story says that he was born of the sparks that flew out from Siva’s third eye. And that is why Skanda and Ganesha, representing Heat and Light, are brothers. The BANNI MARA has the power to hold and preserve the Rudra-agni energy in its leaves.

This heat is essential for the existence of Life on this planet as well as for the protection of this life from harmful influences. It is present in the five elements or materials (Panchabhutas) that form all of Creation and the one Life Force (Jeevan) that permeates them. These six aspects of Heat are the six faces of Shanmukha. Therefore Skanda is the Leader of the protective forces of the Universe. His planet or Gruha is Mars, the fiery planet. His day is Tuesday. The plant that is sacred to him and worshipped at all his Sthalas or Sacred Places is the BANNI.

The BANNI is also sacred to Durgaa, in Her role as protector of the world from the Asuras. As the BANNI is the tree that holds the heat of the fire that protects, the Mahabharata says that the Pandavas hid their weapons in a BANNI MARA during the years they had to be in exile incognito.

As the BANNI holds the power of the Cosmic Heat in itself, it is the twig of this tree that is used to start the fire for a Vedic Homa/Yagna. Another name for the BANNI is SAAMI. Do we see the common origin between this Saami and the name Samidha given to the special kinds wood fuel used in fire rituals?

There is a very important group of people called the VANNIYAR in Tamil Nadu. But their community is spread all a cross India going under different names. They trace their descent from the two soldiers who guarded the BANNI MARA in which the Pandavas hid their weapons near the Kingdom of Virata in the North. They are of the Kshatriya caste and became renowned soldiers of the Pallava and later Chola kings. They were the people chosen to be the King’s special protectors. They worship Draupadi. Draupadi herself was born of Fire, says the Mahabharata.

The BANNI is very important in folk-medicine too. I remember my grandmother treating a sudden drop in body temperature during a sickness, with a decoction made from the pods or leaves of the tree.

There is lot more to be said about this beautiful tree. I will cut-paste some extracts from the sources that will tell you more. I hope this bit has been of interest to you and leads you to make further connections.