Chinar trees (saycamore) are not only part of tradition of Kashmir but also they are a part of identity of Kashmir. It is said that Kashmir can suffer from serious identity crisis if all these century old Royal Chinar trees are snatched from it. The scientific name of this royal tree is Platanus Orientalis.
The patronage of Mughal emperors this long-living deciduous tree is widely known. A devastating fire broke-out at Kashmir in the year 1674 during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Many houses and properties turned into ashes. In history, Aurangzeb is famous for his fanaticism or bigotry. But when Aurungzeb was informed about the incident, surprisingly he first inquired about the Chinar trees not about mosques. “Are the Chinars safe”? asked the emperor and then in a prologue he said “If a mosque is brunt a new one can be built within sometime but if a old Chinar tree is brunt a new Chinar cannot replace it quickly”.
Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir (1569-1609) was also fond of Chinar trees. He not only mentioned this tree in Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri or Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri (his memoirs or autobiography ) – but also made a detailed plan of “Char-Chinar” (Four Chinars) which is an island in Dal Lake. He planted four Chinar trees at the four sides of the island in such a way that the island will always be under the shadow of these Chinar trees so that tired people can take rest here. Char Chinar is also known as Rupa Lank (Silver Island).
History says, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar brought this tree from Persia (modern Iran). The Iranian name of the Chinar tree is “Darakh-te-Fazal” or “Tree Of Boon”.
This tree has been mentioned in ancient literature also. According to Herodotus Chinar tree was also loved by Armenian kings.
Plini mentioned about this tree in his Natural History. This tree was brought into the island of Diomedia sailing across the Ionian sea. From there this tree travelled to Sicily and Italy. From there it was taken to France and Spain.
This was the main shed tree of ancient Rome. It is said that the Roman government used to collect tax from people who would have rested in the shed of the Chinar tree. Roman people used to pour alcohol in the root of this tree instead of water.
Now Chinar is seen at Fergana of Central Asia and at Kashmir. No one at Kashmir hurts a Chinar tree and they consider hurting a Chinar as a sin. Hurting a Chinar tree was also considered as a punishable offence during the reign of Pathan rulers of India.
Some scholars believe that Chinar is not a foreign tree in Kashmir and origin of Chinar tree is India. They argues that local name of Chinar at Kashmir is “Bouin” which is derived from the Sanskrit word “Bhabani” – the name of the mother Goddes. So these schorals says if the name of the tree is so Indian then its origin must be here.
There are many other useful trees at Kashmir. Like Willow (used for furniture), Deodar (used for house building), Pine, Fur, Birch, Oak, Assh, Poplar and many others. But there is no other Royal tree as Chinar. Chinar is comparable with the banyan or “Vata” tree of West Bengal. The leaf of Chinar tree is similar to that of Maple tree.
Shalimar Bagg, the famous Mughal Garden of Kashmir has Chinar tree-lined vistas. Some of the Chinar trees are 380 to 400 years old.