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Nyctanthes arbor-tristis (Night-flowering Jasmine) popularly known as Parijat in India, is a species of Nyctanthes, native to southern Asia, from northern Pakistan and Nepal south through northern India and southeast to Thailand.
It is a shrub or a small tree growing to 10 m tall, with flaky grey bark. The leaves are opposite, simple, 6-12 cm long and 2-6.5 cm broad, with an entire margin. The flowers are fragrant, with a five- to eight-lobed white corolla with an orange-red centre; they are produced in clusters of two to seven together, with individual flowers opening at dusk and finishing at dawn. The fruit is a flat brown heart-shaped to round capsule 2 cm diameter, with two sections each containing a single seed.
NAMES AND SYMBOLISM
Nyctanthes arbor-tristis (sometimes incorrectly cited as Nyctanthes arbortristis or Nyctanthes arbor tristis) is commonly known as:
- Night-flowering Jasmine
- Coral Jasmine
- Parijat (also spelled Paarijat or Paarijaata)
- Maramalli or Pavazha malli in Tamil (Also spelled pavaza malli or pavala malli)
The tree is sometimes called the "tree of sorrow", because the flowers lose their brightness during daytime; the scientific name arbor-tristis also means "sad tree". The flowers can be used as a source of yellow dye for clothing. The flower is the official flower of the state of West Bengal, India, and for Kanchanaburi1.
"Parijat" is also considered to be a divine tree. In the Poems of Rabindranath Tagore there are descriptions about Parijat Flowers.
Its branches are rectangular and its flowers are fragrant. The stem of the flower is saffron in color and the petals are white. The flowers blossom between August to October.
Inset: Krishna Uproots the Parijata Tree, Folio from Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of the Lord), 1525-1550 Painting. Click here to enlarge the image. Parijat appears in several Hindu myths. In one myth, Parijat appeared as the result of the Churning of the Milky Ocean. In another myth, Parijat was brought to earth by Krishna from Indra's garden.
In Hindu mythology, there is a story involving Lord Krishna about a parijat and Krishna's two wives, Satyabhama and Rukmini. Satyabhama wanted this "Parijat" tree from the Heaven to be planted in her garden. Rukmini too, took a fancy to the flower. Krishna, wanting to keep both his wives happy, planted this tree so that the flowers fell in Rukmini’s garden while the tree remained in Satyabhama’s garden.
The tree was planted in the garden of Indra, the Lord of Heavens. Even as Krishna stole a branch of the tree he was spotted by Indra. However, Indra desisted from placing a curse on Krishna since he was an incarnation of Vishnu. Still, Indra put forth a curse on the stolen branch that it will never bear fruit even though the flowers may bloom on the tree. Since the day the tree was planted at Barabanki (the wives' garden), it flowers but does not reproduce, because it has no seeds and the branch cannot take root.
The seeds, flowers and leaves possesses immunostimulant, hepatoprotective, antileishmanial, antiviral and antifungal activities.
The leaves have been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat sciatica, arthritis, fevers, various painful conditions and as laxative.
In India, they grow in the outer Himalayas at the height of about 1400 mtrs, and are found in tracts of Jammu & Kashmir, Nepal to East of Assam, Bengal, Tripura extended through the Central region upto Godavari in the South. Besides India, they are found in Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan.
Apart from contributing to the beauty of gardens, "Parijat" has also got medicinal properties. The juice of its leaves is bitter and saline in taste. Taking its juice is considered to be useful in the treatment of fever. Its bark, if taken as medicine is known to give relief in & swelling of lungs. The oil produced from its bark brings relief to pains the eyes and used for hair tonics. Fresh juice of its leaves mixed with honey provides effective relief in the treatment of chronic fever. The decoction of its leaves prepared over low fire gives relief in the treatment of chronic ‘Citica pain’. The juice of its leaves mixed with little sugar is used for treatment of stomach diseases of children. Application of six to seven of its tender leaves with little flesh gin- ger juice, churned in water, brings relief in case of high fever. Its flowers, though bitter in taste act as appetiser and soothe the stomach. Its seeds are used in the treatment of skin diseases and piles.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Nyctanthes arbor-tristis
- Flora of Pakistan: Nyctanthes arbor-tristis
- AgroForestry Tree Database: Nyctanthes arbor-tristis
- Our Tree Neighbours, by Chakravarti Venkatesh, 1976 
- Puri, A., Saxena, R., Saxena, R. P., Saxena, K. C., Srivastava, V., & Tandon, J. S. Immunostimulant activity of Nyctanthes arbor-tristis L. J. Ethnopharmacol. 42 (1): 31-37. Abstract
- Saxena, R. S., Gupta, B., & Lata, S. (2002). Tranquilizing, antihistaminic and purgative activity of Nyctanthes arbor tristis leaf extract. J. Ethnopharmacol. 81 (3): 321-325. Abstract