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Sal
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Dipterocarpaceae
Genus: Shorea
Species: S. robusta
Binomial name
Shorea robusta
Roth

Shorea robusta, also known as sal or shala tree, is a species of tree belonging to the Dipterocarpaceae family.

Contents

Distribution and description

new leaves with flower buds at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India.

This tree is native to southern Asia, ranging south of the Himalaya, from Myanmar in the east to India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. In India it extends from Assam, Bengal and Jharkhand west to the Shivalik Hills in Haryana, east of the Yamuna. The range also extends through the Eastern Ghats and to the eastern Vindhya and Satpura ranges of central India. It is often the dominant tree in the forests where it occurs.

Sal is moderate to slow growing, and can attain heights of 30 to 35 m and a trunk diameter of up to 2-2.5 m. The leaves are 10-25 cm long and 5-15 cm broad. In wetter areas, it is evergreen; in drier areas, it is dry-season deciduous, shedding most of the leaves in between February to April, leafing out again in April and May.

Religious significance

Queen Māyā giving birth to the Buddha.

In Hindu tradition the sal tree is said to be favoured by Vishnu.[1] Its name "shala", "shaal" or "sal", comes from Sanskrit; other names in the Sanskrit language are Ashvakarna, Chiraparna and Sarja, among many others.[2]

The sal tree is often confused with the ashoka tree (Saraca indica) in the ancient literature of the Indian Subcontinent.

In Buddhist tradition, it is said that Queen Māyā of Sakya gave birth to Gautama Buddha under a sal tree or an asoka tree in a garden in Lumbini, while grasping its branch. When this event took place Queen Māyā was en route to birth him in his grandfather's kingdom.

There is a standard decorative element of Hindu Indian sculpture which originated in a yakshi grasping the branch of a flowering tree while setting her foot against its roots.[3] This decorative sculptural element was integrated into Indian temple architecture as salabhanjika or "sal tree maiden", although it is not clear either whether it is a sal tree or an asoka tree.[4]

Uses

Sal is one of the most important sources of hardwood timber in India, with hard, coarse-grained wood that is light in colour when freshly cut, and becoming dark brown with exposure. The wood is resinous and durable, and is sought after for construction, although not well suited to planing and polishing.

Sal resin of the sal tree, is known as ṛla in Sanskrit and is used as an astringent in Ayurvedic medicine.[5] It is also burned as incense in Hindu ceremonies, and sal seeds and fruit are a source of lamp oil and vegetable fat.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ Sacred trees
  2. ^ Ayurveda Shaal
  3. ^ Buddhistische Bilderwelt: Hans Wolfgang Schumann, Ein ikonographisches Handbuch des Mahayana- und Tantrayana-Buddhismus. Eugen Diederichs Verlag. Cologne. ISBN 3424008974, ISBN 978-3424008975
  4. ^ Eckard Schleberger, Die indische Götterwelt. Gestalt, Ausdruck und Sinnbild Eugen Diederich Verlag. Cologne. ISBN 3424008982, ISBN 978-3424008982
  5. ^ Sala, Asvakarna

External links

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