So I finally managed to make Iruvâkshî speak to me of the legends of the plants and trees and here is a really concise version of it –
She inhaled the perfume of the bunch of flowers that set the tree aflame upon which she was leaning. She heaved a sigh and moved a step further, attracted by a bushy growth of Jasmine. Its fragrance filled the air. Jasminum sambac var. 'Belle of India' - Arabian Jasmine 'Belle of India'
She breathed in its strong fragrance and sighed heavily. The thought of her lover afflicted her. Manmatha was agitating her mind with his flowery arrows. The cool blue blooms of the butterfly peas lighted up the early morning sky.Clitoria ternatea - Aparajita (Sanskrit) - Butterfly Pea
Aegle Marmelos - Bilva/Sivadruma (Sanskrit) - Bael
Rosa - Rose
Her eyes litup, as though the breeze had informed her of her lover’s arrival. But no! A small hunched figure walked towards her. His disfigured legs crunched the leaves beneath and his yellowing teeth and matted locks made him a terrible sight. Frightened at this sight, she stumbled backwards and leaned once again against the Sorrow-less tree. The touch of it and its fragrance removed her fears away letting her mind think.
She looked at the hunched dwarf in front of her, wearing a beautiful garland of forest flowers around him. She immediately recognized him as her lover, who’d come in disguise. She decided to play his game and looked at him innocently. She greeted him with respect; offered him water to wash his feet, water to quench his thirst, and a mixture of curd, honey, and clarified butter to energize him. The old dwarf looked into her deer-like eyes and said, ‘I’d like to marry you, O’ lady with plantain-like thighs!’
‘I am under my father’s control and hence you should ask him for me,’ replied the beauty shyly.
The dwarf too went to her father and asked for his daughter. Her father replied, ‘My daughter would choose her groom among the assembly of all men.’
Disappointed he came back to the woman who was still leaning against the tree dreamily and said, ‘You father wants you to choose your groom among capable princes. Why would you choose an ugly dwarf among handsome ones!’
Saraca indica - Asoka - Sorrowless tree
The touch of the nosegay, the fragrance of the flowers, and the promise filled his mind with indescribable delight and he spoke to the tree joyfully, ‘O’ Asoka! I’ve been chosen with your highly pure nosegay and hence you’d be freed from aging and become immortal. You can attain any form that you desire and will bloom flowers as you wish. You’ll be the bestower of desires and endowed with fruits and flowers for all forms of adornment, you’ll be very dear to me. When eaten, your fruits would taste like Amruta (nectar). All kinds of fragrances would emanate from you and would be very dear to the gods. The world would become fearless and happy because of you and this hermitage – highly regarded by Vedas would come to be known as Citrakûta. One who visits this auspicious place gets the fruitions equivalent to Asvamaedha yagnya (a kind of sacrifice) and one who gives up his life here would attain the world of Brahma after death. Since Devî (Pârvatî – wife of Siva) performed tapasya here, she would beget Mahâganapati (Lord Ganesha).
The divine woman described above is Pârvatî and the dwarf is Siva. It’s an incident before their marriage that made the Asoka tree so special and divine. When you say Ashoka, many think of only Polyalthia Longifolia which grows really tall like a narrow pyramid, but the actual Ashoka described in ancient Hindu legends is Saraca indica, which is actually an endangered species. It is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the forests. So anyone who has some space for a tree, get this beauty and help it survive for ages. Its flowers are beautiful and very fragrant and those who grow trees/plants to used its flowers for worship, this is your best choice.
I bought one myself and potted it up. I know, I know, it’s a tree, but someday when I buy a place it’ll go to mother earth directly and flower crazily. Of course it’d be a treat if it flowers in pot but the woman at the Horticultural Society – where I bought it from, looked at me crankily when I said I’m going to pot it up and as ked if it’d flower when small. She said, ‘No way! It needs space,’ (as if I don’t know that) but hoping against hope, I hope it does flower or at least grow some in the pot.
Note: For those interested in the legend's actual source, it's from Brahma Purâna. The description has been changed a bit to suit the post.