CANNON BALLS

All details in inverted commas and italics are subsequent additions.

Enchanted Forests

I had only heard of this remarkable tree and was overwhelmed when I saw these amazing Cannon Balls hanging from a tree in Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

Spotted at the entrance of the Sathya Sai Hospital in Whitefield, Bangalore.

“As promised am Updating with missing  details on the Fascinating CANNON BALL Tree which hails from the Amazonian rain forests of South America.”

balls-on-tree Innumerable Balls

I simply cannot digest this Enchantment alone and thus sharing the picture without the usual details and some interesting snippets. For that kindly wait for a week when I am back on my desk at Home.

The Cannon Ball tree ( English), Couroupita gueanensis ( Scientific name) bears large brown Cannon Ball like fruits which create a  thunderous sound like a cannon being fired when they crash to the ground.

These Large trees ironically  line the Footpath along the frontage of a Hospital in…

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GOLDEN EARS

 

Wheat ( English), Gehu ( Hindi), Triticum aestivum ( Scientific name) refers to to Cultivated grass known to man for over 10,000 years.

The Spikes of this grass give us our Daily bread , Pasta or Rotis across the world.

Modern Iran , or Persia as it was known as in former times, is supposedly the Origin of Bread Wheat.

The pictures that follow were taken across Northern India and stretch over 4 months.

Field of Wheat
Green Fields of Wheat Near Delhi

India is the second largest producer of Wheat in the World and by and large self sufficient in this extremely Important Winter Crop.

The Green Fields gradually change colour with rising temperatures and the advent of Spring.

field mid way
Green turning to Gold

Local languages are extremely Illustrative, Wheat is called Kanak in the region of Punjab in India and has its roots in Sanskrit. It is a Pun on the word Gold.

Evolution of Golden Ears of Wheat is evident from the picture that follows.

green turning gold
The  Ears of Wheat  are more Gold now

By the end of March and the advent of April , Yellow Fields of Mustard yield giving way to Golden Wheat Fields. A sight to behold and Savour.

The following picture was taken from a Train in Rajasthan.

golden field
Golden Fields of Wheat seen from a Train

Ladybirds ( friends can you spot the dots) cling to the Spikes formed by the Kernels as the Wheat Ears turn to Gold and thus called Kanak.

wheat and ladybirds
Golden Wheat attracts Ladybirds too

This  scene of Harvesting  will be replicated across North India welcoming the Onset of Summer and celebrated during a lovely festival called Baisakhi on the 13th of April.

This picture was taken in Late March through the Window of a Train.

harvested
Harvesting begins across Northern India

Do have a closer look at your Bread, Pasta or Chapati ( Roti)  and be Enchanted.

POWER PACK

14th of January  is celebrated as Makar Sakranti and is the day the Sun meets the Constellation of Capricorn ( Makar in Hindi) .

Makar Sakranti is the ONLY Hindu festival which is based on the Solar Calender and is celebrated across the country ,though assigned different names like  Pongal in Tamil Nadu ( South India) and Uttarayan in Gujarat. ( Western India)

The day marks the beginning of an auspicious period and is celebrated with the distribution of sweets made  of Jaggery ( Gud in hindi)  and Sesame ( Til in Hindi) .

This blog is about Sesame ( English), Til ( Hindi), Sesamum Indicum ( Scientific Name) and I can think of no better day than Makar Sakranti to introduce this ancient tiny seed to you.

The picture below shows the  arid farmlands of this traditionally attired farmer of Rajasthan who has recently harvested his crop of Sesame oilseeds.

His White Turban and manner of wearing it indicate he belongs to the Nature Worshiping community of Bishnois.(do read my blog on THE BLACK BUCKS)

the bishnoi farmer

The proud Bishnoi farmer and the Sesame fields

The Sesame plant is the oldest oilseed known to man and the species Sesamum Indicum is native to India.

The Sesame plant is extremely hardy and can survive in the arid and parched desert like climate of Rajasthan. ( see the sandy soil in the picture above)

The photograph below is  of a bushel of dried Sesame plants ,each carrying numerous tiny  seeds  carefully packed by Nature in fruits which resemble capsules.

bushel of sesame
Bushel of sesame

A closer look shows the Enchanting Power Packs of Sesame Oil seeds.The Sesame fruits ( in the picture)  consists of 4 Packs which burst open to release the seeds on maturity.

The seeds of the Sesame plant have the highest content of nutritious oil in any seed known to man.

Is it then a Wonder that  they are today included in almost every cuisine known to Man.

The little off white ( or black) seeds on Buns and the sides of Sushi are none other than Sesame Seeds.

sesame seeds dried
Unique Fruits 

The 4 power pack capsules of the Sesame Plant are ready to burst from the tip and are thus harvested before they can disperse their valuable oil seeds.

The tiny Sesame seeds are a SUPERFOOD and pack an array of Proteins,Vitamins Minerals , Oils and dietary fiber.

enclosed package
Unique packaging

The Ancient Indians knew the nutritional value of the Power Packed Sesame Seeds and thus intertwined them with religious festivals like Makar Sakranti to ensure  the population at large remain healthy.

Next time you eat a Hamburger , do look at the tiny white seeds that adorn the Crown of the Buns.

So friends, Wishing you  a Happy Makarsakranti  and remain healthy with Til ( Sesame)  Gud ( Jaggery) . Til for health and Gud for sweet words and deeds.

SUPERFOOD

These lovely golf ball sized fruits are called AMLA ( Hindi) or Indian Gooseberry ( English) .

These lemon-green coloured balls are the richest natural source of Vitamin C. They contain 4 times the Vitamin C as is found in  Citrus fruits like an Orange.

the amla tree.JPG
The tree bearing the fruit AMLA

Phyllanthus emblica or Emblica Officinalis are the scientific names of the tree of the Amla or Amlaki ( Sanskrit).

Used by the  traditional Indian school of medicine, Ayurveda for thousands of years, the Amla has numerous curative properties.

One of the tools of classification of Ayurveda, is Taste. All fruits/herbs are clubbed under 6 different tastes.

The Amla  amazingly falls under 5 of the 6 tastes  (Sour, Astringent, Sweet, Bitter and Pungent). The only taste left is Salty.

I will classify Amla under the heading SUPERFOOD.

branches laden with fruit

branches laden with fruits

The tree is extremely hardy and requires little water and care making it an ideal fruit bearing tree for the near desert like climate of Pushkar in Rajasthan.

The Amla is a miraculous fruit and has numerous curative properties as it revives and conserves the forces of Life.

The website

(  http://ayurveda-foryou.com/ayurveda_herb/amalaki.html) enlists all the  medicinal properties extensively.

bunches of fruit
abundance of Amla

 

You will find the Amla being sold on the streets in Pushkar , do have one daily for breakfast with a pinch of Rock salt or Kala Namak. Far better than popping pills.

amla in the market
Fascinating colours of the Amla  Street Vendors

Do try to find the Amla trees laden with this miraculous herb or better still stay at Resorts like the Pushkar Risala located in the the midst of an Amla Orchard.

BLACK EYED SUSAN

This single extraordinary flower stands out from a sea of green at the amazing HOTEL FATEGARH in Udaipur.( Rajasthan, India).
At first glance it is difficult to identify what belongs to which plant. It is a maze of leaves, branches, buds and flowers.

eye catcher
                                                                      Eye Catcher

It is indeed a lot of fun ( and sometimes frustrating ) to identify a flower or a plant. Try it.

My recent education makes me hone it down to the Malvaceae family ( A  diverse family including the flower Hibiscus,  the cash crop Cotton,  vegetable Okra  and the fruit Durian) .

Recent education was in a vegetable market in New Delhi, where I saw the  conical tell tale buds of Roselle ( Hibiscus Sabdariffa )  for the first time. ( a rushed picture from my mobile)

Thus the Genus Hibiscus  is clearly  established from the buds , now onto the tougher part of identifying the species.

Roselle
                                                           Roselle bunched with Raw Mangoes

I have a recent picture of  the Lady Finger ( Okra) plant which shows the similarity of the two family members in the typical cone-shaped buds, the whorl below the buds and the leaves.

This picture was taken at THE CORN VILLAGE near Mussoorie in the Himalayas.

( please check out the blog http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com)

Can you imagine the vegetable Okra ( Abelmoschus esculentus and the flower above belong to the same family?

Okra
                                                            Okra or Lady Finger

When I checked out from the  initial look and colour of  the flower ( yellow with black centre)  I came up with no less than seven options from the Genus Hibiscus.

Hibiscus calyphyllus, Hibiscus caesius ( five-fingered mallow) ,Hibiscus hispidissimus,

Hibiscus lampas ( Jangli Bhindi) ,Hibiscus manihot ( Jangli Bhindi).Hibiscus vitifolius, Hibiscus abelmoschu.

Do remember all I have are photographs taken from a digital camera close to two decades ago.

malvacae family
                                                        Malvacae or Hibiscus  family

The habitat where one locates flora ( or fauna)  is an extremely useful tool in identifying the species.

After a pain staking comparison of the buds ( they have no hair in the picture), the typical whorl below the buds and the leaves resembling the head of a coconut tree ,I think the flower is christened Hibiscus Caesius Garcke.

( Please  verify at  http://efloraindia.nic.in ) 

As i leave you to ponder and decipher the correct identify of Susan, I move onto identify the white flowers seen along with these eye catchers.

BLESSED ON TOP

Am leaving you only with images and Silence  through an Enchanting Forest In Mussoorie.

entry
entry
starting point
starting point
thick forest
thick enchanting  forest
steep climb
steep climb
camera trap
camera trap
green mountains
green mountains of deodars, oaks and rhododendrons
pine cones
pine cones and the doon valley
bear hill
bear hill
the flags at the peak of flaghill
Blessings  at the peak of flaghill

If you scream for inputs, will be happy to add details tomorrow.

THE DANDELION PUFFBALL

These gorgeous flowers are actually quite small and but for their attractive golden colour would have missed my eye.

Dandelion ( English), Dudhi ( Hindi) , Taraxacum officinale ( scientific)

Known down the centuries by both Indian and Western Herbal Medical practitioners, all parts of the plant are used for curing various ailments.

The Dandelion is particularly useful to cure ailments of the Liver and Kidneys.

The flower and leaves are also used to make wine and salads respectively. The leaves are a rich source for various vitamins and minerals .

Dandelion
             Dandelion growing as a weed in the gardens of JW Marriot,  Mussoorie

It was by chance that I photographed the Puffball in quite another location in the Himalayas. ( in the garden of the Brentwood sanctuary near Prateeks lovely home)

It was only upon writing this article that I realized the Puffball is none other than the ripe fruit of the gorgeous golden yellow dandelion flower.

The seeds are dispersed by the wind and have inspired famous poets like William Wordsworth.

It is however an invasive weed and infests the crops of farmers around the world.

Puffball
                                                             Puffball

Do keep reading for more interesting anecdotes about  Himalayan wildflowers.

ENCHANTED BY THE RAIKA

The ship of the desert or Camels are naturally adapted to the way of life in a desert.

North Western Rajasthan is  the natural home to these enchanting creatures of God.

Numerous folk tales recite the tales of how the camels came to inhabit Earth.

Goddess Parvati ( the consort of Lord Shiva) is fabled to have sculpted the Camels from clay and the Lord is supposed to have infused the breath of Life in them.

The story goes on to say they initially had 5 legs, but were then unable to walk, so Lord Shiva folds the fifth leg and pushes it into the chest, this then forms the hump  and leaves a mark as well.

A couple of camels
                                                                     A couple ( pun intended) of camels

The story continues as the Camels create mayhem by going about their merry ways and eat up all the foliage. The Lord Shiva then creates the RAIKA (also called Chaamad) from his body( chamdi or skin )  to tend to camels and thus  restore order.

The Raika are a unique community of camel herders and breeders who survive to this day in the colourful state of Rajasthan in India.

The following picture shows three Raika men in traditional attire with their musical instruments at the extravagant annual musical festival  RIFF held at Jodhpur.

The backdrop is that of a hand painted Phad which tells the epic story of a local deity  Pabuji.

( more on this in a separate post)

raika in thought
                                           Three Raika men in traditional attire 

The Raika firmly believe they were born for only one purpose, that is to take care of Camels.

Their lifestyles and future are thus delicately bound to Camels.

With modernization and mechanization, the demand for Camels as a means of transport has sharply declined.

Spinning yarn from Camels hair and making Carpets and other textile products is one of several ways for the Raika to survive.

Do notice the leaves at the back of the gorgeous  turban of the elderly Raika.

the spinners
                                                                  the spinners

The extremely intricate relation between nature,  animals and man is highlighted by the lifestyles of this amazing and  enchanting community called THE RAIKA.

A closer look at the Bobbins shows how the Raika  use the twigs of the desert  trees and camel’s hair.

bobbins and textile
                                                               bobbins and  lovely textiles 

The gorgeous but large turban is made from 10 yards ( 9 metres) of cloth.
This large cloth acts as a protection against the scorching heat of the desert , as a tether for camels and also as protection against angry camels.

The elderly Raika has Camel’s milk in his hand in a practical and environment friendly container, the leaf of the Aak Shrub.

raika with camels milk
                                   Elderly Raika with camel’s milk in hand

The desert is an unusual forest and the preservation of water is a compulsory adaption for all forms of life.

The Aak   ( Hindi and Sanskrit ) bush  , Apple of Sodom  ( English) ,  Calotropis procera ( scientific name) ) is used extensively by the Raika .

The leaves of the Aak have been  used extensively by the Ayurvedic school of medicine  for centuries and are supposed to be a great antidote to snake bites and a cure for jaundice as well.

The Raika thus always keep the leaves  tucked away in their extensive headgear.

the leaves
                                                       The leaves of Aak

The leaves of the Aak  make ideal containers to drink Camel’s milk.  They are large , leathery and do not permit liquids to seep through them.

The flowers of the Aak are revered  and garlands are made from them and offered to Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva is also supposed to have absorbed the poison from the churning of the Ocean and saved all living beings from its effects.

The milky sap of the  Aak bush also contains some of the most vicious poisons  like Calotropin.

Much like Lord Shiva, the Raika have learnt how to transform the naturally occurring poison into a cure for numerous ailments.

the leaf container
                                         The beautiful container made from the Aak leaf 

The Raika are a living enigma and a wonderful  example of Mythology coming to life.

Their beliefs and way of life are a wonderful example of maintaining harmony with nature even under adverse and harsh circumstances.

raika with camel milk container
                                         Raika with an earthern camel milk container

The Raika are a truly amazing community but struggling to survive and preserve their ancient customs and way of life.

Have experienced only a small glimpse of the Raika at the RIFF at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

I believe there is a CAMEL FESTIVAL which celebrates this community in  early November in Pali district of Rajasthan.

Keep reading as more posts will follow.

BABY’S DAY OUT

I could hardly resist taking pictures of these lovely lavender coloured flowers within the Dhanraj Mansion at Mumbai.

The Dhanraj Mansion is a lovely heritage building located diagonally opposite the historical YACHT CLUB and THE TAJ MAHAL HOTEL  ( do check out my blog THE GATEWAY TO INDIA at http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com) .

The Laurel Clock Vine is a  vigorous climber and  had covered the Gulmohar tree and formed the hedge in the mansion as well.

A Vigorous climber in Dhanraj Mansion
                                                A Vigorous climber in Dhanraj Mansion

The heart ( or paan ) shaped leaves with their pointed tips adorn this creeper unique to South Asia. Unknown to me these attractive  leaves serve  as baby cradles as well.

the hedge
                                                                       The hedge of the Laurel Clock Vine

As I went closer to photograph the flowers of the Laurel Clock Vine ( Scientific name: Thunbergia laurifolia)  I was surprised as two eyes inquisitively looked back at me .

Nature springs a lovely surprise gift.

the flower and baby
                                                            the flower and baby

A baby  chameleon ( I guess a few days old only)  was  probably on his first day out and had stretched out on a heart-shaped leaf. Have a look at  the baby  sunbathing on his cradle.

Reminds me of the fairy tale of Thumbelina.

the chameleon baby
                                                                    the chameleon baby

How can I not share  a close up of the gorgeous flowers which had beckoned me into this lovely mansion. Do observe the vine winds up clockwise giving the creeper its name .

The guard of the mansion  was extremely unhappy with my photographic acrobatics.

Beating a hasty retreat I wonder if the inmates of the mansion  ever saw the baby ?

the laurel clock vine flower
                                                    The Laurel Clock vine flower

I had been enchanted in an Urban Forest in the midst of bustling Mumbai . Hope you discover the JOY OF NATURE in the cities you dwell in as well.

THE MUSHROOM TRAIL

Very often Nature casts a spell and leaves a message or a sign.

The featured image is of toadstool mushrooms in the  lush gardens of the JW Marriott Walnut Grove & Spa, Mussoorie.

It was probably the first picture I  took in this beautiful Resort  overlooking a stunning Himalayan Range.

It was also a sign by Mother Nature for what was to follow.

The following  picture is of  a signboard in the enchanting  Jabarkhet Nature Reserve, Mussoorie.

( though I took this picture I realized the significance only after I began writing this article)

mushroom trail
                                                             The Mushroom Trail

The J. Nature Reserve is part  of a privately owned  gorgeous enchanting forest .

The Nature trek  around FLAG HILL ( Jaburkhet Reserve is located on the Flag Hill)   was one of several  memorable trips organized by JW MARRIOTT under the umbrella WALNUT TRAIL .

( do check my previous post titled  THE SECRET TRAP)

This mushroom resembling a Garden Umbrella was discretely camouflaged under some dried leaves . Am positive that even our cheerful group leader  Aditya  ( hope you read this post)  missed this specimen of the Fungi family.

frilled mushroom
                                                             Frilled mushroom

As the J.Nature Reserve conscientiously guards the forests from intrusion the undergrowth in the forest has flourished.

 Deadwood is neither collected or  tampered with and therein lies the secret of the abundance of Fungi ( mushrooms) .

The lifeless  stump of a tree had given birth  to an unusual and attractive colony of mushrooms.

tree of mushrooms
                                                           Tree of  Mushrooms

The shaded mountainside preserves moisture which provides a perfect home for Moss.

Moss in turn holds the topsoil of the mountain and is a reservoir for water as well.

This unique and magnificent species of Fungi thrives in this delicately balanced ecosystem.

mushroom forest
                                            A Mushroom Forest

Such glorious  rare sights can be witnessed only in forests which are untouched by domesticated animals like cows and goats.

Bracket mushrooms adorn the mountainside . Homes for elves and  fairies?

two together
                                                 Two together

The largest and definitely  the God Father of mushrooms photographed by me in this enchanting forest of the Himalayas.

bracket mushroom
                                                             Bracket Mushroom

The tiny toadstools under the Walnut tree in the gardens of the JW Marriott Resort was my sign that I would shortly be on a Mushroom trail.

Is it not ironical  that I noticed the signboard read “Mushroom Trail”  only whilst writing this article.

I guess Nature has its ways? ( hope the nature loving and wonderful staff of  JW Marriot  would discover the toadstools in their garden after reading this post  )