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A tree with motherly love

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By Shifa Ullah

Geography of Indus desert is surrounded by the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab Rivers. From Joharabad to Tharparkar, this area is very famous for its cultural heritage, linguistic beauty, folk tales, collective human psychology, approaches of love and beautiful biodiversity based on cultural collectivism.  The area consists of three deserts, Thall, Cholistan and Thar.

In this area, the mother tree is an emotional figure and has a friendly relationship with its neighbors.  This mother tree has different names in different languages indigenous languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, Pahari-Pothwari, and Jhangli, but in the Saraiki language it is called Kokairr Bari, it is considered an old tree of the Thall, Cholistan, and Thar desert-like other trees of its kind, and its old friends are Jhand or Jhandikarri is more famous.  All these trees have special respect in the Indus languages and culture.  Like other languages’ storytelling, In Saraiki storytelling, these trees have been used a lot in different contexts but more important is the tree of kokairr Bari, known as the tree of shade and protection.

In the history of the Indus desert, the mother tree has played different roles according to geo-cultural values, like in the start when the natives of the desert have no concept of houses, it was used as a house, and even till now it is widely used for shades for humans and animals and in Thall, Thar and Cholistani people are still using its branches as a wall against snakes and other dangerous animals for their and their animals’ protections. Because of the hardness of the weather, the mother tree has very hard wood, and branches with ear-splitting thorns. All these characteristics are very suitable for native’s daily use.

Shepherds use the mother tree as grass or shade protection against the hot weather, farmers used its wood for ploughing and its thorn branches are used as a sign of friendship and hostility between the native tribal customs.  Wild animals like desert foxes and jackals live under its iron wall and sparrows consider it as a heaven for themselves, the Titar are living in the mother tree-like place protected with an Iron dome.  The people of the Indus desert have some mythical concepts about the mother tree-like the concept of A sacred tree in the world, according to this concept a tree is considered to be sacred, or worthy of spiritual respect or reverence. Such trees appear throughout world history in various cultures including ancient GreekHindu mythologyCeltic and Germanic mythologies. They also continue to hold profound meaning in contemporary culture in places like Japan (shinboku), Korea (dangsan Namu), India (bodhi tree), and Jews have a concept of “The tree of life” and the Philippines, among others.

Tree worship is a core part of religions that include aspects of animism as core elements of their belief, which is the eco-friendly belief that trees, forests, rivers, and mountains, have a life force (‘anime’ i.e. alive) and need to be conserved and used sustainably.  According to the native people of the desert, they believe that if it is full of its fruits and some want some things it is a sign of goodness and prosperity.  Collectivism has always been at the base of Adivasi philosophy like the African philosophy of Ubantuism.

The mother tree is a beautiful example of collectivism and the concept of mother is deeply embedded in Indus valley civilization and later in different mythologies of the world.  Many Jewish and Hindu goddesses are female so the motherly tree is standing on Indus-Adivasi collective philosophy along with Judo-Indus’ old religious traditions. 

In this age of digital society and when everyone is trying to become a victim of individualistic philosophy at this time the mother tree is a symbol of nativity and a way of collective love, harmony, sacrificial behaviour, and patience, and is the Garden of Eden for Adivasi.  The motherly tree is the beauty of the Indus desert and a precious part of the native spirituality in the Saraiki region and its culture; it has a concept of sensuous love.

The Indus region has a long sense of storytelling and poetic traditions and the knowledge of indignity in the form of storytelling and poetry can help us a lot to understand the real culture and its history and help us to build up a native identity on the native principles like other indigenous nations of the world.  In the time of algorithmic society where a number is more important than human beings, the culture of Thall, Cholistan, and Tharr desert help to understand the true meaning of human being and we can rediscover many mothers tree (kokairr barian) in our society to build a mother-son relationship among the people that is the essence of humanity.

Shifa Ullah Cheena, born and raised in the ancient Khanpur village of Thall desert in district Bhakkar, is a student of English Language & Literature at Punjab University. He can be reached at [email protected]


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