The famous poet Ras Khan, a great devotee of Krishna, mentioned in one of his verses kalindi kool kadamb ki daran, where he prays to the Lord to bless him with a fortune of being reborn as a bird in his next life, living in a kadamb tree situated on the banks of river Yamuna.
The kadamb is one of the most sacred trees in Braj, which blossoms during the monsoon season producing small round yellow flowers that fills the air with its sweet intoxicating smell. It’s botanical name is Anthocephalus indicus or Anthocephalus cadamba and some of its common names are Kadamb (Hindi), Vellaikadambu (Tamil) and Kadamba (Sanskrit).
Vrindavan is the transcendental land of Kadamb groves where Krishna courted his beloved Radha and played pranks on the Gopis, a land immortalised by stories of His sweet love plays. No wonder why Ras Khan and many other poets have deep reverence for the tree which was very dear to Krishna right from his childhood days. From stealing the gopis clothes and hiding them on its branches to playing hide and seek with his cowherd friends among its dense leaves. From crying in separation under it to the joyful union with Radha.
It was under the kadamba tree that Krishna played his flute to signal the Gopis to perform with him the eternal dance of love and devotion, the maharaas.
Such is the glory and fortune of kadamb, which has witnessed the Lord’s magnificent and eternal pastimes. The scriptures, folk literature and songs from Braj are full of sagas of this divine tree.
kalindī-puline kadamba-viṭapi –cchāyā-maṇi-maṇḍape
śrī-rādhā-muralīdharau priya-sakhī-vṛndair vahan-narmabhiḥ
srak-tambula-vilepanādibhir aho divyaiḥ sada sevitau
rūpaudārya-vayo-vilāsa-madhurau dhyāyāmi vṛndāvane
In the forest near the bank of the Yamuna there are many jeweled altars under the kadamba trees where the gopis joyfully serve the most enchanting Sri Sri Radha Krishna by offering them attractive flower garlands, betel nuts, and sandalwood pulp. I meditate on these pastimes. (Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, Verse 83).
The kadamba tree has not only served the Lord but is a nature’s gift to mankind as well. It has myriad uses, one of the most important ones being to help in soil reclamation. Its dense growth of leaves makes it ideal for providing shade to human and animals as well as giving shelter to many birds.
The fresh leaves can be used as fodder for cattle. Its flowers attract bees, butterflies, and birds, and is also used in making perfumes. This marvelous tree is also known for its medicinal value, being used in Ayurveda for problems such as ulcer, digestive ailments, diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, diabetes, etc.
Its wood can be used for making paper, boxes, crates, furniture components, decorative items and various art works. This is now unfortunately leading to illegal cutting down and smuggling of the trees.
The extensive felling of trees, disappearing green cover and drying up of rivers have resulted in scanty rainfall and therefore kadamba trees are not flourishing in Braj since they need moist soil to thrive.
Alas! Those splendid forests of beautiful kadamba trees are nowhere to be seen now. The unbearable pain of Krishna’s separation is such that the dark grey rain laden clouds who frequently flew to Vrindavan just to get a glimpse of the charming divine couple, and pour water down in ecstasy, do not visit anymore.
Those Brajwasis whose tears were enough to moisten the land when they cried for their beloved Nandlaal have all gone. The peacocks whose delightful dance gave immense joy to the Lord have abandoned the place in search of solitude where they can lament their fate of not being able to serve him anymore.
Never ending human desires have resulted in the destruction of Mother Nature. Not only Braj, but the entire planet is reeling under pollution and population, massive devastation of forests and rivers and exploitation of natural resources.
The trees that were once a pride and beauty of Braj are on the verge of extinction. The kadamb is also facing the same fate now. The so called “development” in this region has disturbed the purity and spirituality of the land. Vrindavan was once covered with 12 van (forests) and 24 upvan (sub forests), but is now covered with concrete structures.
Everybody is wondering if this was the same place where Krishna spent his days with his companions and his beloved Radha, a land that was once so magical and wonderful! Where are the trees that were once hugged by the Gopis lamenting in separation from Govind? The flowers that once adorned the neck of Braj Bihari, those branches on which the eternal couple used to swing? Under whose shade sat Gopal with his friends enjoying his afternoon meal?
Where are the leaves who danced with joy on hearing Mohan’s footsteps? Where are the kadamba trees that were once an immortal companion of the eternal consort ?
O forest of Vrndavna, why does not my heart break into million pieces on seeing the sorrowful state of the eternal land of beauty and pleasure where lived the King and Queen of unlimited reservoir of joy and happiness. What is the use of this disgraceful life if I cannot even serve a tiniest piece of this pious land whose one particle of dust is enough to liberate a soul. I pray to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Krishna to take me in his shelter and allow me to serve Them forever.
Even though we cannot perceive the immortal kadamb tree through our mortal eyes of this material world, but it is eternally present at the service of the ever youthfull and divine couple at their nectarean abode of Sri Goloka Vrindavan.