Shami - Kalpavriksha of The Desert

Shami, the tree of wonder, is a deep-rooted, perennial, multipurpose tree renowned for its gorgeous bark, lovely purple blossoms and multiple benefits.

Shami, the tree of wonder, is a deep-rooted, perennial, multipurpose tree renowned for its gorgeous bark, lovely purple blossoms and multiple benefits. It is native to arid portions of Western Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It is the national tree of United Arab Emirates and the state tree of Rajasthan. The tree is known by different names across the western and northern regions of India, like Shami in Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra & Uttar Pradesh, Jammi in Telangana & Andhra Pradesh, Khejri or Saangri in Rajasthan, and Jand in the Punjab. Worldwide, Shami has 60 different varieties of trees.
A small tree, ranging in height from 3–5m. The leaves are, with seven to fourteen leaflets having branches thorned along the internodes. Flowers are small and creamy-yellow, pink bristled and followed by seeds in pods. The tree is found in extremely arid conditions, with rainfall as low as 15 cm  annually. It can survive extreme drought but is indicative of the presence of a deep water table with highly alkaline and saline environments. 
Krishna Janmashtami is a Hindu festival that is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. On this festival, the small stem or twigs of the Shami plant are worshipped in households of India. In Rajasthan, it is specially used to represent Lord Krishna. The people of Rajasthan worship and honour the tree as God as it is the major tree that can survive the hot temperature of Rajasthan.
Dussehra is a festival celebrated in all states of India to mark the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated to remember goddess Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon to restore the Hindu dharma. The Shami plant is used in high regard during the Dussehra festival.
On the tenth day of Dussehra, the Rajputs worship the Shami plant. Apart from this, the Marathas in middle India used to launch arrows into the Shami tree during the tenth day of Dussehra and collect the falling leaves of the tree in their turbans as a blessing from God.
Mahabharat is one of the two major epics of India. It tells the story of two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandava that teach the community how to follow the good path in life. People in Karnataka worship Shami plant as the tree where the Pandavas hid their weapons on its branches during their exile. After returning from exile, they found their weapons safe and protected. They thanked and worshiped the Shami tree before taking the weapons. The tree was also used in the Vedic period, to perform Yagyas .
The plant is planted in two ways. Either through seeds or cutting. 
For growing with seeds
•    Soak the seeds for a minimum of 12-24 hours before potting to ensure healthy sprouting.
•    After soaking, scrape the outer layer lightly, be sure not to hurt the embryo. 
•    Bury the seed in potting soil and mist it slowly. 
•    Keep the pot in direct sunlight to promote faster germination. 
For growing through cutting
•    Take cuttings from a healthy plant and cut the stems at a 45-degree angle. Cut at least 3-4 stems to ensure certain growth. 
•    Remove all the leaves from the stem’s sides. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone after they are ready. This will accelerate the rooting process. 
•    Create a potting mix consisting of loamy soil, compost and sand. Get a well-drained pot to avoid sand from draining out of the drain hole. Put some stones at the bottom of the pot and add the potting mix on top of it. 
•     Then poke a hole in the mixture. Dip or coat the Shami plant stem in a rooting hormone such that the bottom of the stem is covered in it. Place the cuttings into the soil and carefully fill the remaining spaces with the surrounding soil.
While in the germination phase, the Shami plant requires a lot of water but once it is mature enough, the plant does not require much water. Keep checking the plant, and water only if the upper layer of soil dries.
Shami plant needs a lot of sunlight during the germination phase as well as when the plants mature. The plant can require 6 to 7 hours of sunlight.
The soil must contain compost to let the plant absorb nutrients from the soil and grow in any condition.
The Shami plant can grow in temperatures ranging from 10 to 45 degree. It can tolerate dry, humid climates along with moist climates too. 
Tannin, a phytochemical present in root and bark of Shami tree is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties and cures inflammatory disorders such as neck pain, headache and joint pains.
Indolizidine, a phytochemical present in root and bark of Shami tree possesses anti-infective properties which then helps in wound healing. It is ground into a paste and applied externally to promote the healing of cuts, wounds and skin infections.
Studies have shown that its leaves and bark, possess antimicrobial properties. The extracts derived from these parts have demonstrated activity against a range of bacteria and fungi, suggesting their potential use in the treatment of infections.
Phenolic compounds present in the fruit  of Shami tree own anti hyperglycemic properties and therefore traditionally used to manage diabetes. Research has indicated that certain compounds found in Shami leaves and pods help regulate blood sugar levels by producing an insulinogenic effect.
Triterpenoids, Indolizidine, phytochemicals present in pods and aerial parts protect the body's cells from damage caused by free radicals thereby play a crucial role in the prevention of chronic diseases.
Phytochemicals present in the bark and leaves of Shami tree have been used to alleviate respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic cough. It is often prepared as a decoction or infusion and consumed orally.
From the root to the pod, every component of the tree is useful. The whole tree is of significant importance in terms of medicinal use, food value and worship purpose.
Other Ethnobotanical Uses
1. Soil fertility 
Shami is a nitrogen-fixing tree that improves soil fertility. When crops such as rice, wheat, and other whole grains are sown beneath and around the Shami, it supports them. It serves as a powerful wind barrier and shield for plants when it is planted at the edge of agricultural land or around the land.
When it sheds its foliage, the soil becomes a rich source of bio-matter or organic manure. With total lopping, leaving only the center leading stem, a fully-grown tree is predicted to generate roughly 60 kg of green foliage.
2. Fodder for Livestock
Shami leaves and pods are a valuable source of fodder for livestock, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. Cattle, goats, and camels graze on the leaves and pods, providing essential nutrients for them.
Bees build their hives on trees in addition to collecting flower nectar for food. Shami tree is a home for numerous species of ants and beetles.
3. Wood and Timber
Shami wood is dense and durable, making it suitable for various construction and carpentry purposes. 
4. Control of Soil Erosion 
 Shami is often planted in arid and desert regions to help prevent soil erosion. Its deep root system helps stabilize the soil, making it useful for afforestation and land reclamation projects.
5. Food Source
The green, unripe pods are referred to as “sangria” or “sangar” in Rajasthan area. The dried green beans are kept in storage and used in cooking all year long. It is one of the components of the well-known Panchkuta (kersangri), a regional Marwari dish meal made with five different vegetables of different plants.
The mature dried pods have a pulp that is quite pleasant and edible. Local kids particularly enjoy eating them. The tree gum harvested in May and June is palatable and nutritious, providing good health.
The pods are usually ground into flour to make various dishes, including bread and porridge. They are nutritious and can provide sustenance in times of Drought.
Astrological benefits
As per astrology, Shami tree is associated with planet Saturn or Shani. Therefore, to please Shani, Shami plant is worshipped, to get the blessings of the Saturn god. If Saturn is creating problem in life related with land then it is good to offer a mustard oil deepak under shami tree. Shami wood is used in Shani pooja. In Maharashtra, North Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, there is a tradition to give Shami leaves to the friends and  relatives for good luck, on the auspicious day of festivals. 
Worshipping Shami tree, makes  the life bright. Therefore, cultivation of this tree will not only add glory to the garden but also lifts up the fortune.
Associate Professor,
Department of Dravyaguna
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.