Tiruvannamalai, Ramanashramam, Flora – 3

Continuing our exploration of Sri Ramanashramam flora, let us begin with prayers to Sri Dakshinamurthy, the silent preceptor. Here is a picture of Dakshinamurthy, who is seen in the outside of the south facing wall of the sanctum-sanctorum of Mathrubhutheshwara Mahasinnadhanam at Sri Ramanashramam.   

The idol is of Lord Siva, as a youth, who is sitting in silence, his right hand in chindmudra pose.  He sits under a banyan tree…

Trees are a key part of Indian spiritual tradition. Siva and the Banyan tree, Vinayaka and the Peepal and Neem trees, Siva and the Bilwa tree… Buddha and the Peepal tree…Every temple has a sthala vriksha – a holy tree specific to the place.

Lets come to Ashoka Vatika, the beautiful garden in Lanka, where Sita, the consort of Rama, was held captive by the mighty King Ravana. The garden Ashoka Vatika got its name from the Ashoka trees that it abounded in. Ashoka Tree (literally ‘sorrowless’) is considered a very holy tree, and references to it abound in Indian spiritual literature. City folks that I have known have often mistaken the identity of the Ashoka tree. A tall, cone shaped, green tree , looking quite ornamental, is often pointed out as the Ashoka tree. I don’t know what that tree is, but it is not the Ashoka tree.

The real Ashoka tree (also known as Sita-Ashoka) is not so tall. Known for its beautiful flowers, it is considered sacred for Kamadeva (the God of love). Old Indian poetic imagery has it that the tree flowers only when it hears the footfall of a chaste woman.    

Here is a picture of a real Ashoka tree. This tree in the South-Eastern side of the Ashram grounds.

Gautama Buddha is said to have been born under the Ashoka tree. The Ashoka tree has a connection with Mahavira as well.

Here are a few more pictures of the Ramanashramam Ashoka – the tree, and close up of the bough with flowers…




May we all be ‘Ashoka’!

                                      …To be contd…


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5 Responses to “Tiruvannamalai, Ramanashramam, Flora – 3”

  1. shival Says:

    Thank you for very useful information on real Ashoka tree. Well, like many, I was under the impression that long, cone shaped tree was Ashoka tree (In northern part, this not-real-ashoka tree is popularly known as ‘Aasopaalav’ tree). But I know now what is real ‘Ashoka’ :).

  2. gkamesh Says:

    Thanks for the info on Asopalav tree Shivalji… checked on that, and yes, that is the ‘other’ tree…. It is known also as `nettilingams’, or the Mast tree and in botanical parlance as Polyalthia longifolia…

    One can find a lil newspaper piece on the real and the other at :



  3. Akshaya Shivkumar Says:

    Very informative and interesting as well..
    I look forward to the sequels. 🙂

  4. Srinivasa Says:

    One of the main sorows of expat life you can never identify with the local vegetation. While I do know the names of most of the trees in my walking route, they have no resonances for me – mythic,religious etc.

    Even today, in a lush urban forest like the Theo Soc of Madras, I would not know 90% of the vegetation. But if identified for me, it would be easy enough to make associations based on the stories one’s heard. This seems to matter as one gets older 🙂

  5. Natarajan Balachander Says:

    I am one of those that thought the tall skinny tree usually called the asokha tree was the one. Nice pictures.

    During my recent India visit went to the temple within the Dayanada Saraswathi ashram in Anaikatti near Coimbatore. beautiful calm, peaceful temple and sat thorugh the evening prayers and pooja for the Dakshinamurthi temple. Wonderful experience. Came to know from the website that the swamini who led the prayers had a doctorare in Physics and teaches vedanta courses at the ashram..

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