CELEBRATING 2017

Sharing Celebrations from The Shores of The River Ganges during Dev Diwali.

supermoon-and-firecrackers
THE SUPERMOON & FIRECRACKERS

The Grand Dusshera Festival in the Mysore Palace in Karnataka near the River Kaveri.( the Ganges of Southern India) 

jumbo-palace
JUMBO CELEBRATIONS

Of course you will get to read more on Enchanting Celebrations as the World Welcomes 2017.

Happy New Year 2017.

AUSPICIOUS MARIGOLDS

These gorgeous Golden Orbs occupy  a Special place in India. They are used to decorate Temples and Homes across the country especially during  Festivals like Diwali.

The Genda is a divine flower and the Haldi colour or the colour of Turmeric is considered extremely auspicious. They are considered to be the bearers of good tidings.

The collective aroma of these Golden Blooms is refreshing and invokes positivity.

It is today difficult to imagine any Hindu festival or Wedding without these gorgeous Haldi coloured Flowers called Genda.

Garden Marigolds ( English), Genda ( Hindi, Tagetes erecta (Scientific Name) is naturalized to India and belongs to the Sunflower family, Asteraceae.

There are some sources that say the Origins of the flower exist in modern Day Mexico in the American Continent.

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Golden Marigolds and White Chrysanthemums

A unique feature of the Sunflower family is that the flowers are actually composite flowers, meaning many small flowers make up one of the Orbs we perceive as a single flower.

They thus exhibit a unique quality of collective action.

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Marigolds in Full Bloom

They get the English name  Marigold  from  another similar looking flower they resemble Callendula officinalis which was called Mary’s Gold.

As I am travelling as I write this blog I  cannot post better pictures.

In due course I promise to make amends.Till then soak in the aroma of the Divine Genda Phools. ( Phool means flowers in Hindi).

A Bollywood movie titled Delhi 6 has a very popular song called Genda Phool. Do check it out on You tube.

Can anyone but not be influenced by these Enchanting flowers ?

 

SNOW SHRUB

These beautiful and abundant flowers form the carpet flora of the Shrub Jungles of the Thar Deserts of Rajasthan.

grass all over
Patharphod forms the Carpet Flora 

Aerva Javanica or Aerva Tomentosa  ( Scientific name) , Kapok Bush or Desert Cotton ( English) grows wild in the Shrub Jungles of NorthWestern India.

snow with kejria
Two is company on a Sand Dune

The manifold off- white flowers resembling cotton has earned this soil binder the name DESERT COTTON .

A fellow blogger John  (https://lifeandtraveljohn.wordpress.com)  commented on a blog titled WATER IS LIFE which I had  posted yesterday .

He commented ” I wonder what the landscape looked like before the introduction of Water” in the Deserts of Ranesar and Kichan near Jodhpur.

The picture below with the snowy KAPOK Bush in the foreground and a MILKWEED ( do check the blog THE DESERT BLOOMS) in the background is the answer to his query.

snow in the desert
Clumps of White on the Sand Dunes

The picture below shows the stark sandy desert soil and a solitary bush with Cotton like flowers.

The cotton like  flowers are used to stuff pillows and saddle cushions .

They are native to vast lands extending from the deserts of Africa, Arabia and Rajasthan.

The Hindi name  Patharphod is very descriptive as literally translated it means Stone Breaker.

a clump of snow
Source of medicines as well

The featured image reminds me of Ear Buds. I am informed however that ear buds are extremely harmful and should not be utilized unless you are keen to infect your ears.

The roots, bark and leaves of this Enchanting Shrub are also used as a cure in Traditional systems of medicine for Rheumatism, Diarrhea and Anorexia.

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.

FLOWERLESS FRONDS

Ferns are a unique species of Plants which have No Flowers or Seeds.

The  moist Himalayan mountainside provides Ferns the perfect environment where they flourish and exhibit a vast and diverse range of species.

ferns on the mountainside
Spot the Ferns on this glorious Mountainside

These lovely Ferns sport bicoloured fronds, brown and green.

They spread their wings through Spores and not seeds like Flowering plants with which we are more familiar.

Look at the underside of the leaves  and you may see Red dots, these are clusters of sporangia called SORI.

I was so taken up by the beauty of these lovely ferns that I forgot to take any pictures of the SORI.

bicoloured leaves ( fronds)
Glorious ferns adorn the Himalayan undergrowth

Looking deceptively like coriander leaves  , this is another species of Ferns that grows along with Mushrooms ( Funghi) and Moss.

However unlike Moss, Ferns are classified as Vascular plants. They have cells which transfer water from the roots to the leaflets and vice versa.

coriander fern close up
Fronds resembling the leaves of Coriander

A Fern with rounded  Pinnule ( leaflets) highlights the diversity of these amazing and largely ignored Pterophyta.

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Rounded Fronds or Leaves

The Shiny Blades of the Frond  of the Fern highlight a brown Axis.

Confusing sentence but technically correct highlights different parts of the Fern.

undergrowth and ferns
Large Feather like Fronds

Next time when you huff and puff up a mountain in the Himalayas do glance at the ground beneath you feet, you may see the bearer of millions of Spores.

If anyone can identify and give these species names,  all the readers and I will be Blessed Indeed.

 

BLACK BEAUTY

A friend and an avid Naturalist introduced me to an intriguing subject “History of Food”.

Captivated to the subject as it is closely intertwined with Nature I now look at my Food, in particular Vegetables and Herbs,  with more respect. Each vegetable  tells me a story of how they have integrated the World in more ways than we can imagine and the Continents they have traversed.

The Black Beauty , Aubergine , EggPlant or Brinjal is a prehistoric vegetable known to Indian civilization since the dawn of time.

egg plant.jpg
BLACK BEAUTY

The vegetable Baingan ,( Hindi), EggPlant ( English) ,Solanum melongena ( Scientific Name) belongs to the potato family Solanaceae.

If you see cuisines across the world  today it is hard to imagine there was once a time when THE BLACK BEAUTY was unknown to regions beyond the Indian Subcontinent.

Imagine no Moussakas? ( friends in Turkey and Greece please note)

The picture below is of a vegetable farm  near the village of Kichan ( do check my blogs WINTER GUEST and A FEAST) , Rajasthan.

brinjals till the horizon
Baingan and Maize grow together in a field near Jodhpur

The beautiful mauve flowers of the BLACK BEAUTY look like lamps as the sunlight filters through their petals.

They are however carriers of the poisonous alkaloid Solanine , which like modern drugs causes hallucinations as well.

The  EggPlant or Black Beauty was therefore also known as the “APPLE OF INSANITY” or MAD APPLE .

the flower
The Nightshade Family

Tomatoes & Potatoes both belong to the  NIGHT SHADE (Solanaceae)  family  of the Brinjals and also carry the same alkaloid Solanine.  

Hybrids of the Black Beauty or Aubergine can also be White and hence the name  EGGPLANT.

Consumption of the BLACK BEAUTY  however brings with it a plethora of health benefits like  Flawless Skin, Healthy Hair, Weight Reduction and a control on diabetes and high blood pressure.

Do look well at your vegetables, they may have come from a distant and exotic land.

 

 

THE TREE LOTUS

The Magnolia tree is a magnificent tall tree with bright shiny leaves and large blossoms with the most amazing of all fragrances.

Native to South Eastern USA, this tree can grow upto 30 meters or 90 feet.

Him Champa ( Hindi), Magnolia ( English) ,Oothambal ( Manipuri) . Magnolia grandiflora ( Scientific name) .

This gorgeous Evergreen tree was spotted in Brentwood Sanctuary in Mussoorie in the Himalayas. A  gorgeous place , the swimming pool was fed by  cool mountain springs.

numerous buds
The tree with many fruits and shiny leaves

The name“Oothambal”  from the Northwestern Indian state of Manipur when translated means LOTUS ON THE TREE.

It is truly a wonderful  and apt name to the sweet fragrant flowers of the Magnolias.

What you see in the picture is not the blossom.

the young leaf and bud
Pink blush

The species “grandiflora” gives due recognition to the large blossoms of the Magnolia.

The Hindi name is also descriptive as it calls it Him Champa, the Champa of the Mountains ( Him) . Champa is a Frangipani native to India and also called Temple Flower.

There is also a species of Magnolia native to the Indian Subcontinent called Magnolia Champaca. The fragrance of this flower is simply enchanting . Do seek it out whenever you travel to this part of the world.

Unfortunately the tree had no flowers blooming so cannot share pictures of the gorgeous blossoms.

in the shadow
Cone like Fruit

I had assumed at the time I took these pictures that these large cone like structures adorning the tree in hundreds were buds.

However was proved wrong as I realized these are the fruits and will soon bear lovely red seeds. I had to change to captions as well .

The featured image has the the first Rays of the Morning Sun light up the gorgeous  pink fruit of THE TREE LOTUS.

 

ROSES ARE RED

Roses need no introduction and have been known to man since the onset of civilization itself.

The pictures that follow are of hybrid roses from the Rose garden in the recreated Persian garden at Sunder Nursery , New Delhi.

Ancient Indian Scriptures dating to 2500 BC  refer to the flower Rose, ( English), Gulab ( Hindi) , Rosa ( Scientific Genus) centifolia ( there are many species in this Genus) .

The mixture of Yellow and Pink Roses gives rise to this cultivated hybrid called SEVENTEAR.

Ancient Indian scriptures have an apt and  wonderful name for the Rose “Satapari”  or an angel with a hundred wings.

seventear

SEVENTEAR

Roses are cultivated worldwide for their fragrance and ornamental flowers.

The Ancient  Persians are supposed to have mastered the art of creating Attar or Perfume from Rose petals.

An Ancient Indian Scripture recognizes this fragrant nature  of Roses and names it  “Saumyagandha” .( meaning that with a pleasing aroma).

Even  Honeybees are attracted to the fragrant and sweet smelling Roses called Pristine.

the bee
Can you see the Pollen on the wings of The Indian Honeybee

The beautiful flower of the family Rosaceae have been attributed in Hindu mythology to the God of Love , “Kamadeva”.

The Rose is also favoured by the Gods and is referred to asSivapriya ” ( translated it means that which is dear to Lord Siva).

As per Hindu mythology the abode of Lord Siva is the Himalayan Peak of Mount Kailash..

Is it a coincidence then that over 15 species of  Wild Roses are native to the Himalayas.( they grow wild in the region) .

The gorgeous cultivated hybrid species below is called BROADWAY.
The colour red seems seems to have seeped into the  veins and stems of the plant as well.

 

broadway
BROADWAY

Not only do Roses  smell good and look  Enchanting, they also have numerous medicinal properties which have been described at length in the CHARAKA SAMHITA . ( a medical treatise by Charaka,   follower of the Ancient Indian School of Medicine, AYURVEDA) .

I hope you enjoyed going back in time and discovering names and properties of this Magical flower which has captivated man since time Immemorial.

On this note I share with you the information that the name Rosa finds its origins in OLD PERSIAN.

Do think of the wonderful History of Roses when you gift your flowers next month on VALENTINES DAY.

DINOSAUR ?

Photographed in a Vegetable Farm ( do read my blog  A GREEN DESERT) in the village of Ranesar near the home of Demoiselle Cranes, Kichan ( do read my blogs A FEAST and the WINTER GUESTS)  in the deserts of Rajasthan.

The picture below is a heap of harvested cotton bushes in which lurks the  mysterious Dinosaur of the desert.

hidden in cotton
Perfectly Camouflaged in a Cotton Bush

A closer look  within the dried bushes shows up a Reptile resembling the Dinosaurs of the Jurassic Age.

Do observe the Gland below the eyes and the extremely long and curved claws used for climbing and gripping.

closer look
Sun Bathing

A top view shows up  the spectacled back and a distinctive dual colour, the head and upper limbs are clearly lighter and grey.

top view
Top View

The lovely colouration  and outstanding camouflage  make me struggle to discern the never ending tail of this modern day Dinosaur.

Can you spot where the tail ends?

the tale
Never Ending Tail ( tale) 

I am sure it is not the Spiny Tailed  Lizard  ( Sanda in Hindi) of the Deserts , the oil of which is sold as an aphrodisiac by road side quacks.

It does not resemble the Chameleon or the Oriental Garden Lizard either.

The blog is dynamic till we figure out the Scientific name  and therein lies the story of THE NEVER ENDING TALE.

WILDFLOWERS

I thought it appropriate to introduce this tiny Wild member of the Sunflower family, Asteraceae while you are getting familiar with the larger and more cultivated Dahlias ( do check out my blog SAY IT WITH FLOWERS) and Gazanias ( do read a recent blog titled TREASURE too) .

The Mountain daisy ( English) ,Daisy Fleabane or Hairy Fleabane ,Erigeron bellidioides ( Scientific Name)  is a Wildflower that grows freely forming a carpet like undergrowth as it mixes with grass in the Himalayas.

These flowers were once  considered to repel fleas and hence called FLEABANE.

growing wild
Chaotic Order

These lovely  Wildflowers scramble up rocky mountains and peer out from every crevice available.

While individually they are very small, they make up by flowering in abundance.

Unlike their cousins from Mexico ( the Dahlias)  and South Africa ( the Gazanias) these tiny Mountain Daisies are native to the   Himalyan Mountains of the Indian Subcontinent.

on a rocky mountain
A few scramble up the moss laden rocky mountains

These white daisies will all turn pink ( like the wall behind them) as they grow older.

This characteristic of turning white at an early stage of its life cycle  give them the Generic name  Erigeron, which in Greek means early old man.

Here you can clearly identify their distinctive lance like leaves as well.

on a ledge
Looking  down from the ledge

These flowers looked liked daisies and I photographed them in the Himalayas at Mussoorie, so I assumed they  are Himalayan Daisies, which however turned up looking almost like Sunflowers and did not match the photographs I had taken at all.

Learnt a lesson this New Year, never assume anything.

The featured image highlights this aspect, please see carefully, the flower in the foreground is a Mountain Daisy but not the buds and leaves in the background.

To top it all he Mountain daisy is a faux daisy, not a real daisy.

These little ones surely turned me wild as I spent a longtime figuring out their botanical name.