Museum of Trees opens on Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav
A work in progress for the last 10 years, the Museum of Trees was finally inaugurated in Chandigarh on Monday by Punjab governor and UT administrator VP Singh Badnore. With a unique collection of 12 genetic copies of trees sacred to the Sikh religion planted here, its opening was timed with the 551st Prakash Utsav of Guru Nanak Dev.
Built over five acres on the Hallomajra-Panchkula route, the park’s development work began in 2010 by the Chandigarh Nature and Health Society (CNHS), an NGO that received a Rs 69 lakh grant for this purpose from the ministry of culture in 2009.
The park, however, will not open to public as yet as some staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.
The park is the brainchild of retired IAS officer DS Jaspal, chairman of the CNHS and author of Tryst With Trees – Punjab’s Sacred Heritage.
“During one of my postings I first got to know how some gurdwaras are named after trees. Gurudwara Amb Sahib in Mohali is a case in point,” he says.
The book features 59 Sikh shrines in India and Pakistan named after 19 species of trees. Unfortunately, however, some of the trees are now very old or not being cared for properly.
That is why these have been genetically preserved at the museum. The way it’s done is that first cuttings of the sacred trees are obtained. After taking root these are then transferred to a mist chamber and from there moved to a net house and planted, says Jaspal.
The process can take four to five months for a healthy tree and a couple of years d amount of time for old or dying trees.
Those taking a round of the museum will see a living sacred trees section with 12 cuttings brought from gurdwaras in Punjab, including the Dukh Bhanjani Ber tree of the Golden Temple and the ber tree of Babe di Ber from Sialkot, Pakistan.
The dead sacred tree section has details of the ones that have ceased to exist.
The museum also plans to add a cutting from the ber tree planted by Bhagat Singh at his village in Bangey, Pakistan, in defiance of British rule.
Jaspal is also attempting to get cuttings from Nagasaki, Japan, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, which have survived nuclear calamities.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has criticised the administration for promoting the museum as a “commercial venture.”
AAP member Chandrawati Shukla has said that the building in which the museum is housed will be used for weddings and corporate events according to the administration’s website, a practise which should not be encouraged.
When asked to comment, Amanbir Singh, CNHS joint secretary says, “The website was made sometime back and hasn’t been updated. We have never hosted or intend to use this place to host any weddings or engage in any commercial activity which goes against the policy of the UT administration.”
Due to Covid-19 safety concerns entry of visitors to the museum is likely to be restricted, adds Jaspal.