The grand old peepul (Arayal) tree that stood magnificently at the entrance of the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple in Tripunithura is no more. In a ritual befitting an enlightened human soul, the temple authorities bid farewell to the more than 150-year-old tree that had begun to fall apart.

The temple authorities decided to lay the tree to rest following an inspection conducted by forest officials a week ago, and taking into account the devaprasnam (ritual seeking solutions to religious queries).

The last rites that began on Wednesday with the topmost branches of the tree going into a cremation pyre that was set up at the south end of the temple compound.

The ceremony will last for a week as the tree is being cremated part by part.

The forest officials had said the peepul tree (Ficus religiosa) had almost dried up. The touch of greenery on the tree was actually that of another tree that had got entwined with the old tree.

The roots of the peepul tree would also go into the pyre as part of the ritual and this would require flattening the althara (cemented block around the base of the peepul tree) to take out the extensive roots.

Not new

“Such rituals for cremating a tree are not alien to temples in the State,” said Thottekkat Krishnan, the odikkan of the temple. Though the tree stood outside the main door of the temple, it was an integral part of the temple. The idol of Dandan Swami (considered one of Siva’s boothas) sat on the althara. The idol has now been temporarily shifted to a makeshift shelter called Balalayam inside the temple main door.

Usually such cremation rituals were conducted when a kodimaram (flagpost) disintegrated. Using kodimarams made of concrete was a recent practice, said the odikkan.

Special rituals led by tantri Sasi Namboodiripad of Puliyannoor Mana were conducted for the Peepul tree, which is considered to be a religious tree in Indian culture. Jayan Mangayil, president of the Sewa Sangham, a volunteer group active in all temple activities, said the tantri had suggested that a sapling of the Peepul and the Neem (Azadirachtu indica or Veppu) be planted on the temple premises.

“This will be a ritualistic affair to grant the saplings a high religious status. The idol of Dandan Swami would be reinstalled in a ceremony.”

Over the past two years, the Peepul tree had shown signs of disintegration. Some of its branches had started falling off, endangering human lives.

“The temple authorities will rebuild the althara in two to three month’ time after taking into account the onset of the monsoon,” said Mr. Jayan.

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