Tamarindus indica L. Main specimen
Fabaceae
{ Beliefs & Rituals }

Religious aspects

The tamarind tree is associated with Usha, who is the adopted daughter of Goddess Parvati.
According to another legend she is the daughter of Banasura of Tezpur, given in adoption to the goddess Parvati.
The fruit of this tree symbolizes the wife of Brahma the creator.
Fruits or flowers of the tamarind are never used for any auspicious ceremony owing to the sour taste.
A village deity named after this tree is called Puli-daivaliyamman.
Goddess Mariyamma also resides under this tree.
The great Vaishnava saint Nammalvar was born under this tree. (Sacred Trees of Tamilnadu, M. Amirthalingam, 1998)


Folklore and Mythology

According to a tribal myth, this tree had large and broad leaves. Rama, his brother Lakshmana and Sita built a hut under it. This tree had sheltered them from rain and sun and protected them from heat and cold. But they were supposed to lead a life of inconvenience and so Rama ordered Lakshmana to shoot the leaves and split them. Lakshmana did as he was told and shot at the leaves with his bow and arrow and since then the leaves are finely divided. (Myths of Middle India, V. Eiwin, 1992)

According to another myth, when god planted the tamarind tree and tended it, it bore long finger-like fruit. He liked the taste and decided to share it with mankind. But he did not tell the birds about it as there may not be enough for men. God called man and told him to guard the tree well and to plant it on the hills as it would be profitable to him. (The Garden of Life : An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, N. Patnaik, 1993)

The Vriksham of Tirukurungudi (now called Alwar Tirunagari) is a sacred tamarind tree situated between Tirunelveli and Tiruchendur. This tree stood at the northern prakara, with seven branches. One can find the flowers and young fruits, but the fruits never mature and the leaves never close and that is why the people call this tree as "Jranga puli" (the tamarind tree that never sleeps). This tree is supposed to be the oldest one, so the local people preserve and conserve it. (Sacred Trees of Tamilnadu, M. Amirthalingam, 1998)

According to a local legend, Adhisesha himself took the form of the tamarind tree and sheltered the Lord. (Sacred Trees of Tamilnadu, M. Amirthalingam,1998)

It is also said that Nammalwar meditated under it and sang hymns in praise of Vishnu. (Sacred Trees of Tamilnadu, M. Amirthalingam,1998)

There is a belief that the spirit of the dead resides in the tamarind and the tamarind groves are avoided by night. For this reason and because they are considered to exude unhealthy vapors, there is a prejudice against sleeping in the shade of the tamarind trees. Some do not eat food prepared on fire made from tamarind wood for the same reasons. (Our Trees, R.P.N. Sinha, 1968)