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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2609

Two huge Baobab trees - in Tamil Peruku Maram

By K.T.Rajasingham
Colombo, 01 April, (ASiantribune.com):

Two huge Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) , in Tamil Peruku Maram and Ali gas in Sinhalese are found in Neduntievu (Delft Island) and in Pallimunai, Mannar. These two are the oldest , largest and huge Baobab trees found in Sri Lanka.

This tree, amazingly found on the island of Delft stands isolated in its splendour. It is presumed to have been brought by seafaring Arab Traders to Sri Lanka (one on Delft and some in the Mannar District). Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam in his book Ancient Jaffna speculates that it was used as a tree¬totem by the early Arabs for their animist worship. Baobab trees are the longest-lived species on earth.

Baobab trees are native to the African continent, which are believed to have been brought to Sri Lanka by Arab traders around 700 AD. It is believed that these Arab traders, who brought camels, also brought Baobab trees — whose leaves were used to feed these animals.

These trees, also known as ‘Upside-down trees’ are so named because their sparse foliage and meagre crowns give the trees the appearance of bearing roots instead of branches. Baobab trees are tall (up to 30m) and have enormous, swollen trunks, in which they store water during the dry season. Each trunk can store up to 120,000 litres of water. The oldest and the largest individual Baobab tree in Sri Lanka is found at Pallimunai and is reported to be over 700 years old.

In Sri Lanka, these trees — called Ali gas in Sinhalese and Perukku maram in Tamil — are now found mainly on Mannar Island, although in the past, they also grew in Jaffna and Puttalam.

Baobab trees are the longest-lived species on earth. The Baobab Tree also called the 'Bottle Tree' because of its strange looking shape is a precious reservoir of hard to find water. It has a short stubby trunk of enormous girth and can be just as tall as wide. It is capped with a small crown of spindly root-like branches which are almost leafless. The fibres of the bark can be used to make rope and cloths and its fruit are edible, the leaves too can be eaten. Their trunks can be hollowed out without killing the trees.

There are about 30 trees in Mannar, and although they were introduced to the Island, these Baobab trees are now a conspicuous component of the coastal biological diversity of Mannar and attract both local and foreign tourists.

Although Baobab trees are protected by law in Sri Lanka for their rarity and antiquity, they are now being threatened by rapid development and a sudden increase in the human population, because refugees — from the civil unrest — are returning now to the Island. In the last few years, two trees have been destroyed by indiscriminate and irresponsible use.

It is, therefore, essential that these Baobab trees in Mannar are conserved for their intrinsic value as unique elements of Mannar’s biodiversity as well as for their historic value.

The Baobab Adansonia digitata is preserved as a historically important tree by the Archeological Department in Pallimunei, Mannar.

It was alleged that Christian dignitaries’ of that area has installed a statute of Mary inside the compound of the historical tree, without obtaining permission from the relevant authorities.

Though the intention of planting the statute was still not explained, but it is alleged that conversion to Christianity is clandestinely carried on and these activities are on the increase in Mannar. It is suspected that a group of Christians with the blessing of the Bishop of Mannar is installing Statute and Crosses in public places that are common to all religious communities.

Mannar is predominantly a Tamil administrative district, where Tamils and Muslims who lives in the district, are speakers of Tamil language. Majority of the Tamils are Catholics, rest Hindus and there is an equal amount of Muslim population too in Mannar.

- Asian Tribune -

Two huge Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) - in Pallimunai, Mannar & Neduntievu (Delft Island) .
 Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) - in Pallimunai, Mannar
Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) - in Pallimunai, Mannar
 Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) - in Neduntievu (Delft Island) .
Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) - in Neduntievu (Delft Island) .
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