With the saffron government’s taking over in Haryana, an ancient sacred banyan tree at Jyotisar, believed to be the birthplace of the Bhagavad Gita in this holy city, now may get scientific restoration.
Located 10 kilometres from the district headquarters on the Pehowa road here, it is believed to be the spot where Lord Krishna delivered the sermon of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun in the Mahabharata period. It is the most visited site in the holy city.
Official communication from experts sitting at Dehradun’s Forest Research Institute (FRI) who have prepared the broad outlines of the restoration project suggests that they have approval from Kurukshetra Development Board (KDB) to pursue the work.
Led by the governor, the KDB looks after places of pilgrimage in the 48-km radius of Kurukshetra.
The board had commissioned the Dehradun institute to study the health of the sacred tree and suggest remedies. However, litigation over the pilgrimage site between the KDB and Jyotisar village panchayat, the restoration programme is on hold.
Sources in the KDB said caution would have to be employed so that no legal provision was breached in restoring the health of the ancient tree. FRI plant pathologist NSK Harsh told HT on phone from Dehradun on Wednesday that in a fortnight, he would visit the site with other scientists.
“Before starting with restoration, it is important to take all stakeholders, including the local villagers, into confidence. It is an issue of not just faith but also heritage. Since Kurkshetra is the well-accepted birthplace of the Gita, keeping the tree health becomes all the more important,” said the expert, who earlier restored the Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, which is associated with Lord Buddha.
Experts blame emphasis on superficial beautification and poor landscape planning for the deteriorating health of the holy banyan.
The marble platform around the tree is doing the most harm. “It has hampered the water-absorption capacity of the tree. Besides, prop roots, which grow from the branches to the ground and give the tree extra support, have no space to expand because of the marble structure,” said plant pathologist Harsh.
“The tree would get a new energy, if the marble platform is punctured scientifically to allow more air and water to its roots. Once the work begins, more options could be explored,” the scientist added.
Prop roots should be allowed to touch the ground for the natural growth of the banyan tree, for which deep holes may be dug with protection grills around.
“The tree is victim of unscientific maintenance and the religious practice of tying threads to the hanging roots and branches,” said the plant pathologist, adding: “I’m also against the KDB’s organising a light-and-sound show around it and putting a net across it.”
Electrical equipment are nailed into the tree, which are disturbing its natural rhythm. The net dropped over it prevent the shedding of leaves and the natural growth of branches. “Other modern options can be explored to continue with the show without putting even a single nail into the tree,” said Harsh.