The Story of Indian Gooseberry Tree in Hinduism (Post No.11923)


Post No. 11,923

Date uploaded in London – –  21 APRIL 2023                  

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Phyllanthus emblica, also known as emblic,emblic myrobalan, myrobalan, Indian gooseberry, Malacca tree,or amla,from the Sanskrit आमलकी (āmalakī), is a deciduous tree of the family Phyllanthaceae. Its native range is tropical and southern Asia.

Hindus are great scientists and in particular, great botanists. That is evident from fixing ‘sthala vriksha’ (Temple tree) for hundreds of temples from Himalayas to Kanyakumari. Almost all ancient Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu have a particular tree as sacred tree. If you go to Alandi in Maharashtra they have Ajaana vrksham as a sacred tree. If you go to Kurukshetra we see Banyan tree (Akshaya Vrksha) under which Krishna addressed Arjuna. If you go to Pancha vati you see huge Vata (Banyan Tree) trees. To cut it short Hindus have incorporated all animals and herbal or medicinal trees in their day to day worship. The best examples are Tulsi and Bilva (Vilva). And they named three Ficus trees belonging to the same family Moraceae as Vishnu in the Sahasranama.

Coming to Amalaka (aamalaka) in Sanskrit, Avali (aavali) in Marathi, Phyllanthus emblica in Latin and Nellikkay in Tamil, we have an interesting story.

Hindus fast on two days at least every month and it is called 11th day, in Sanskrit Ekadasi (eekaadasi). Since Hindus divided a month into two halves, they get two Ekadasis every month. The Ekadasi that falls on 11th day of bright half (Sukla Paksha) of Kartika month is called Prabodhini Ekadasi,meaning Awaking 11th Day. Vishnu who was ‘sleeping’ for four months, is wide awake on that day. In fact, Vishnu did not go ‘to sleep’. Hindus made him “to sleep”, because it is rainy period for the people along Western Coast in India. For over 1000 miles from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala up to Mumbai in Maharashtr,a South West Monsoon brings very heavy rains.

Phyllanthus emblica is worshipped as Vishnu at the end of the sleeping period. Maharashtrians organise a picnic called Vana Bhojan or Avali Bhojan between tenth day to 15h day, that is Dasami to Poornima. One of these days, families go with their friends to an Aavali Tree (Aamalaka) or a grove and have a big feast under it. When they go there, they go playing music like Tamils do on Aadi 18 to River Kaveri or any river in Tamil Nadu.

But Marathi Hindus worship the tree, tie threads around it (equal to wearing a clothe) and sprinkle water in its roots. They salute the tree with all veneration and then only feast. They worship it with mantras and circumambulation. After children playing in the grove or under the tree for the whole day, they return home.

This is a popular festival among women and children. Those who have laid their Vishnu image to rest, restore it today to an upright position.  The image from some temples is carried to a tank or a river and invoked to awake. It is then carried back with rejoicings. This day marks the end of the rainy season, and the return to a more open-air life.

(Since Tamil Nadu and Andhra have a different rainy season under the influence of North East Monsoon, they celebrate Kartik Purnima in a different way)


Interesting Ekadasi Story

The story runs that there was a giant named Kumbh. He had a son named Mrdumanya, who performed severe austerities. Shiva can be easily pleased, and he becomes very happy when one worships him. He is called Aasutosh (becomes happy quickly) he appeared before Mrdumanya and gave him what he asked for. He asked for freedom from death at the hands of any men and women. Shiva granted it under one condition that he was subject to death at one woman that was NOT born out of a womb. He thought that it was impossible for anyone to have such a birth.

He conquered all devas in the heaven and Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvathi ran away and hid themselves in a hole of an Aavali Tree (Phyllanthus emblica).  Because they lived in a tightly packed space their inhalation produced a girl and she was named Ekadasi. She went and killed the demon Mrdumanya. And from that day all Ekadasis are celebrated as sacred Fasting Days. That is how the Aavali tree came under worship on Ekadasi day.


Science behind this story

Three people’s inhalation did not produce a girl. Their thought produced a girl with enormous power. Hindus respect all trees and tell uneducated people a story like this so that they would also respect the tree.

Another point is this Aamalaka/ Aaavali is eaten by Tamils also on the Dwadasi Day (12th Day). The scientific reason is there will be more acidity formed during the 24 hour fasting. To neutralize such acidity

people need Agathi Keerai or Sundaikkay or Aamalak to neutralize the acid. Tamils  consume these after fasting.

The last point is, all trees are protected and preserved in this way. Aamalaka is made popular by Chyavanprash Lehya and other medicinal products. 2000 year old Sangam literature praised it. Later Arnagirinathar and Alberuni praised it. (See my 2012 article in this blog).

When a Tamil Chieftain named Athiyaman, who is one of the Last Seven Tamil Philanthropists, given a rare elixir like Gooseberry, he presented to poetess Avvaiyar saying that her life is more precious than his life. Alberuni also wrote about rare type of black gooseberry.

Since Hindus are great botanists and medical experts they associated Aamalaka with Vishnu and Ekadasi.

Tamils who don’t know Avali Bhojan of Maharashtra also use Nellikkay (Avali, Amli) immediately after the Ekadasi fasting.

Long live Phyllanthus emblica!


Tags- Phyllanthus emblica, Myrobalan, Amalaka, Avali Bhojan, Nellikkai, Indian gooseberry, Ekdasi story, Vishnu

HINDU TREE WONDERS (Post No.6082) › 2019/02/16 › hindu-tree-…

16 Feb 2019 — The Avali tree is Embilica myrobalan and it is sacred to Vishnu. It is well known for its medicinal use (Amalaki in Sanskrit and Nelli in .

Hasthamalaka | Tamil and Vedas › tag › hasthamalaka

23 Feb 2013 — Posts about Hasthamalaka written by Tamil and Vedas. … you have explained what you are ‘like a goose berry in the hand’ (Hastha Amalaka).

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