As November approaches, the beautiful vale of Kashmir is enveloped in a fiery shade of crimson thrown by the majestic Chinar Tree.
Locally known as "Booin", the tree is at its magnificent best during the autumnal season. Its matchless beauty has never failed to mesmerize famous personalities of all eras. The poet of the East, Allama Iqbal traces the warmth of the Kashmiri soil to the "blaze of the Chinars it nurses in its bosom".
There are many versions of how the Chinar made its presence into the valley of Kashmir. Some say that it was brought by the Mughals, some say that it was brought by Shah-e-Hamdan and others maintain that the Chinar stood tall even at the time of Lalla Ded.
Irrespective of who got it here, the fact of the matter is that it adopted our beautiful land and our beautiful land adopted it. It grew here, spread its roots here and even after hundreds of years, its significance can be felt in the arts and crafts of Kashmir. Be it a sumptuous Pashmina, Paper Mache, Houseboats or Walnut Wood carvings, the Chinar Leaf motif is a quintessential symbol of Kashmiri identity.
The Mughal rulers in particular, had a love for these trees. Legend has it that Akbar ordered to nourish this beautiful tree with milk instead of water and when Emperor Jehangir visited Kashmir, he coined the foundation of the Char Chinari - a set of 4 Chinar Trees planted in a square so that people could move within that square without the rays of the scorching sun touching them.
These trees stand tall and strong for hundreds of years. If a Chinar Tree could speak, it could reveal secrets which are centuries old. It could tell us how Lalla Ded contemplated in its shade and how the Mughal Emperor Akbar took refuge in its hollow trunk along with his 34 soldiers. It could tell us of the love with which it was planted in historic gardens of Kashmir and how generations of people have marvelled at its beauty and how it has waved its branches to provide its cool shade to passersby. It could tell us how times have changed - what went by and what still remains
And even though The Chinar Tree has always adorned the land of Kashmir, the people of this land have somewhere failed the Chinar in that it has been relentlessly cut down. The horticulture department has now introduced the Bonzai Chinars (those which can be grown in vases and pots)in order to preserve them.
It is interesting to note that even while dying, the Chinar does not let us down. It provides us its valuable wood and its stumps remind us of its royal demeanor, its antiquity, beauty and above all, its loyalty to the land in which it was planted.