Chenarestan... In the shade of plane trees

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Are Chenars of Iran Invisible …!?

If in European sources, the history of art, architecture or philosophy starts with Greece or Rome, it is their choice….. We are used to it!

But if it comes to animals and plants, how can one limit the search within the cultural or political borders? Particularly on a subject like oriental plane tree, Chenar. Which is so big in size, … that is hard to miss!

It has probably become a habit in Europe, not to look at Asia or Middle East, even when it comes to plants. Otherwise, at least in case of Chenar, there is no need for a team of scientists to look for it all around the world. Chenar is visible in many pictures of many cities on TV everyday. We are supposed to believe that we are living in a global village in terms of communication.

But it is sad for our era, to see in many well known websites and sources some experts close their eyes. The reason I say that, is my search in a few German websites, where I didn’t see any mention of Chenar in countries like Turkey and Iran.

Anyway, I am going to present the interesting facts about Chenar in the German sources too. --Siamak D. Ahi

The piece below is from and I liked it because of some old medical use of different parts of Chenar:

The botanic names of Chenar literally indicate the “oriental” and “occidental”; Platanus orientalis and Platanus occidentalis.

The usual plane tree grows with us (i.e. Germany) as road-side tree, in gardens and parks.

The plane tree is not used in the medicine anymore. But it in the past it was used in different ways, such as:
the fruits of the plane trees, soaked in wine was used for snake bites and scorpion passes;
the leafs and the crust for inflammations,
the leafs for eye diseases,
the crust also for toothache.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Chinar in Kashmir

In search for Oriental Plane Tree, I couldn't find Kashmir as a home of Chenar, or as Kashmiri call it Chinar.
Thanks to Internet, I found a valuable friend across the globe in Kashmir. Our dear Virendra Qazi, once described his memories and feelings about chenar tree in the past..... Memories that many Tehranians share the same way. The picture above is from "The Chenar Bagh, Sringar, Kashmir".
I will post more on Chinar and Kashmir in the future. This is just an introduction to Chinar and Kashmir. --Siamak D. Ahi

This is how Kashmiris describe Chinar as one of their local plants:
Called Booune in the Kashmiri language, the Chinar tree is an integral part of Kashmiri culture. Almost every village in the valley has a Chinar tree. You can experience a cool breeze under the shadow of this majestic tree which is very conducive to health.

It is unfortunate that in recent years the number of Chinar trees is decreasing. It is no wonder that if the present trend continues, the day is not far-off when the tree will see its extinction from the land of Kashmir. However, it is heartening to note the government is making its honest best to stop the illegal felling of this great tree of Kashmir.

Chinar is a gigantic sized tree, found growing throughout valley. Its scientific name is platanus orientalis. Its family is plataneae. A deciduous tree, Chinar traces its origin to Greece. Its incredible beauty has to be seen to be believed. The tree is at its most elegance and exuberance during autumn. Though its majesty can be seen all through the year. Iqbal, the poet of the East, traces the warmth of the Kashmir soil to the "blaze of Chinars it nurses in its bosom".

Chinar grows up to a height of 25 meters and a girth exceeding 50 feet in certain cases. This tree with the largest circumference of 60 feet is located at a village named Chattergam in central Kashmir.

These days conscious efforts are being made to undertake plantation of this tree to other states. The tree has been successfully planted in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Dehradun and Meerut. But the size and girth attained in these places are no parallel to those of the tree in Kashmir valley.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Home of Oriental Plane Tree Part III
Siamak D. Ahi

Veneration of Old Trees

Della Valle’s remarks on relation of Persians and large and old trees is quite interesting;

Persians have “a custom of venerate all large and old trees, Believing that these are the retreat of happy souls whom … they call Pir, Sheikh or Imam…”.

Also J. Chardin states that:
“The Mohammedans devoutly revere trees which seem to have existed for several centuries.”

Veneration of old trees seem to have an ancient tradition in Persia. Xerxes is said to have decorated a beautiful plane tree with golden ornaments during his expedition against Greece. (Herodotus, Polo)

In fact many recorded old planes (Chenars) are located near the shrine of an Emam-zadeh, at or near a masque, a Takieh, an old cemetery, or similar “sacred” places.

For instance the 220 years old (20m high) plane at Emamzadeh Abbas and 140 years old (20m high) plane at Pir Takieh in Sari, northern province of Mazandaran. In Kaagak, a county of Gonaabaad, the 420 years old plane (21m high) is located in front of Masjed-e Baalaa. In Rostam-Kalaaateh, in Gorgan, the 205 years old (30m high) is at old cemetery.

Some of the more venerable of old planes are popularly believed or expected to work miracles, such as curing an illness, finding a good husband for an unwed girl, or ridding a married woman of her cowife.

In order to have their wishes grated, superstitious people (usually women) tie a dakheel (mostly a shred from their chador, scarf, dress and the like) to a nail which they drive well into plate trunk. They may use a nail left by someone whose wish has been granted and untied her dakhil. If there are accessible shoots or twigs on the trunk, the dakhil may be tied on them.

Votive candles may also be lit somewhere on the trunk or, if the trunk base has been hollowed out by age, inside the grotto.

In Tehran, two of the oldest planes still extant at old sanctuary of Emamzadeh Yahya, bear the vestiges of old and recent dakheels.

One plane is now standing outside the premises of Emamzadeh. Known as Chenar-e Sookhteh (burnt plane), for the huge hollow in the trunk base has been charred by the smoke and flame of votary candles and lamps. The entrance to tree grotto was barred later bay a door.

Another miracle-working plane in Tehran, known as Haft Chenar (The seven planes), is located near a small masque in a southwestern district of the city. Tis plane loks like seven independent planes having grown to each other, but tha seven massive trunks have developed from a single enormous base, which is now almost totally buried in ground. The seven-bole plane, signalized by the “sacredness” of the number seven, bears also dakhils, and the small grotto in one of the boles is charred.

The popular veneration for old planes and similar longevous trees like cypresses, may in some cases have created fictitious patron saints for them.

For instance, in connection with the plane of Emamzadeh Saleh, is popularly believed to be the nephew of eight imam, Imam Reza. Hedaaayat has recorded a folktale about origin of that plane.

Within the Arg precinct in Tehran there were a number of old chenars, known as Chenar-e abbasi and popularly but erroneously ascribed to Abbas. According to E’temad-al-saltaneh, they had been planted by the order of Shah Abbas

Will Continue

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Chenar, Plane Tree in Palace

Versailles Palace
in France

Saadabad Palace
in Tehran

Za'faranieh Ave.

Many thanks to Golemaryam
for sending Za'faranieh Ave. picture