Hundreds of Years Old Trees Saved and Replanted in India

Due to powerful winds and light showers earlier this week, 350- to 400-year-old Neem and Peepal trees at the Ukkadam Lakshminarashimar Temple in Coimbatore, India were uprooted. But thanks to a successful attempt by locals and government authorities the ancient trees have been replanted and live to see another day.

The tree’s recovery is credited to members of Siruthuli, – an NGO based in Coimbatore, India which works to rejuvenate the water sources in the city of Coimbatore –  the Forest Department, a large number of devotees and Tirupur Exporters Association – Exporters of cotton knitwear.

Uprooting of the tree is in part because of some construction work around the tree before the windstorm in which workers carelessly cut some roots of the tree, destabilizing it and making is susceptible to the gusty weather. Temple authorities were involved in constructing a pucca concrete structure i.e., sanctum sanctorum for the Vinayakar under the Peepal and Neem trees.

The centuries-old trees fell causing damage not only to themselves but surrounding shops and a few vehicles. Upon examination, Siruthuli realized that the trees could be saved and approached the Conservator of Forests in Coimbatore, Circle I. Anwardeen, who in turn asked District Forest Officer A. Periyasamy to send in a team led by Range Officers C. Dineshkumar and M. Senthilkumar for inspection and recovery.

Managing trustee of Siruthuli, Ms. Vanitha Mohan, gave The Hindu details on the re-plantation of the trees and the collective efforts of local bodies that brought the trees standing tall once more.

It took 30-odd hours to save the trees with the help of  two cranes, an earth mover, and 18 workers pressed into service. The devotees persisted in their recovery of their beloved tree with much enthusiasm during the long and difficult hours.

Locals now hope that the ensuing Monsoon season will bring life back once more to the shredded branches in the rainy weather.

What is Tu B’Shevat? The New Year for Trees

Tu B’Shevat is the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat – Tu is the Hebrew number for 15. The holiday is commonly known as the ‘New Year for Trees.’ This year  it was celebrated on Monday, January 25, 2016; the date varies each year. In this season, trees in their early blooming days begin their fruit-bearing cycle in the Land of Israel and emerge from their winter sleep.

Tu B’Shevat serves a specific purpose of marking the new year for calculating the age of trees for tithing. This is reference to Leviticus 19:23-25:

23 “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden.[a] For three years you are to consider it forbidden[b]; it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.”

According to the passage, fruit is not to be eaten from fruit trees in its first three years. Nor in the fourth year, which is holy and reserved for God. In the fifth year, the fruit from the trees can be eaten. Each year is marked by the passing of the Tu B’Shevat.

The holiday is celebrated by eating fruit. Jews particularly seek to eat fruits that have been mentioned in the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land. They eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) which include wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Some Jews also plant new trees on Tu B’Shevat.